Evening of Impressionism sparks interdisciplinary teaching collaborations

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The impressionistic movement inspired a shift away from the norm, much like some professors at Dixie State University are doing to teach about the very same subject.

“An Evening of Impressionism” ushered a semester-long series of events hosted by DSU’s music department. Professors from across several disciplines were invited to speak at the event Feb. 17, and students performed musical numbers that accompanied the professors’ mini lectures.

Glenn Webb, chair of the music department, said he’s loosely referring to the events as a “festival” of sorts.

“Hopefully students pick up some ideas and see the beauty of impressionism,” Webb said.

Although impressionism signifies something a little bit different in each discipline, the movement as a whole is regarded as a symbol of huge change during the turn of the century, said Nancy Ross, an assistant professor of art.

Ross said art movements are always defining themselves, at least partly, as what their relation is to the movements that came before them; however, impressionism broke tradition in a completely different way.

“It’s easy to look at impressionist painting now and think, ‘That looks nice,’  but it was actually very challenging [for] the people who first saw it,” Ross said. “It challenged a lot of ideas about what art should be.”

Impressionist art is known for its intense, almost academic, focus on light and color. While popular art at the time depicted valiant war heroes and battles, impressionistic artists like Claude Monet, Camille Pissaro and Mary Cassatt were more focused on contemporary subjects, Ross said.

Art’s business model in Paris at the time was a single institution that decided what art was good or bad. Impressionists’ work was often rejected, so they would start their own galleries, and Ross said this was a radical thing to do during that time.

Randy Jasmine, chair of the English department, said literary impressionism is about coming to grips with the abstract, non-sensory medium it’s presented in.

“Language is going to be obscure,” Jasmine said. “It’s not going to be representational in a literal sense. Therefore, lots of artists will play around and experiment with language just like you see with art.”

Giving students an opportunity to learn outside of the classroom is unique and valuable, Ross said.

“I think that at bigger, more established universities, they have lots of events going on that are involved with teaching students things that aren’t tied so very directly to the classroom,” she said. 

Similarly, Jasmine said he’s intrigued by the idea of having multiple disciplines across campus come together and teach on the same topic.

“It’s a great way to get introduced to [ideas] that you might not even come across otherwise,” Jasmine said.