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Commencement ’05–Collaboration thrives in Renee Crown University Honors Program
Commencement ’05–Collaboration thrives in Renee Crown University Honors ProgramApril 28, 2005Edward Byrnesedbyrnes@syr.edu
Kristina Foley and Laura Williams, both seniors in the College of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA) at Syracuse University, can pinpoint the turning point in their undergraduate careers. Their studio art course, titled “Collaboration Across Differences” and taught by VPA assistant professors Anne Beffel and Yvonne Buchanan, made an enormous impact on the young, aspiring artists.
“That was huge for us. It was a class on how to communicate with people, which sounds basic, but it taught us how to communicate with people who, it would seem, we have nothing in common with. Students were randomly paired, and we had to find ways to overcome differences and come up with different methods of collaboration,” explains Williams.
This type of collaborative spirit is reflected in the Renee Crown University Honors Program’s new Wise and Marcus 50-Year Friendship Fund, which has helped support Foley and Williams’ work and upcoming “On Earth” exhibit at the Spark Gallery. An opening reception will be held at the gallery, located at 1005 East Fayette St., Saturday, April 30, from 7-11 p.m.
The Wise and Marcus 50-Year Friendship Fund was established in 2004 by Harry H. Wise and William M. Marcus to celebrate their 50 years of friendship with Samuel Gorovitz, the founding director of the Honors Program. Income from the fund supports the direct costs of student participation in undergraduate research projects undertaken in accordance with the program’s requirement of achievement of depth in a focused area of study. The fund description states, “The founders hope that some of the friendships forged in the Honors Program will themselves endure for at least 50 years.”
The fulfillment of that hope appears to be assured with Foley and Williams, who met at a campus poster sale during the first week of their freshman year.
“We met while looking at some posters we both liked, then we had a few lecture classes together, we had the same drawing teacher, then we started brainstorming on projects together. Now we’ve lived together since our sophomore year,” says Foley.
Foley, a native of Leslie, Ark., came to SU with thoughts about the communications design program, but switched to fiber arts. “I felt it was a natural environment for me. There was a lot of [study regarding] textiles here. It’s a small community, but very supportive,” she says.
Foley says she was home-schooled until age 12 under the mantra “Creativity is integral to everything,” and feels her artistic talents have grown from what she describes as “a very tactile childhood.”
Ann Clarke, an associate professor and coordinator of the fibers program in VPA, says, “Kristina is diligent, articulate and extremely bright- She has acquired a broad range of knowledge in fiber arts-materials and techniques, media arts and poetry,” adding that Foley has even pursued opportunities outside of SU to facilitate her own research. Foley’s efforts earned her a summer studio assistant job at Peter’s Valley Craft Center, where she worked with several national and international artists who came through Peter’s Valley Studios. She was subsequently honored with an internship scholarship to pursue studies on historic textile practices.
Williams, who spent the first 10 years of her life in Ellensburg, Wash., before moving to Winnetka, Ill., says she has been writing poetry since she was eight years old. “I wrote about the usual things that girls think about at that age: the ocean, ponies, that kind of thing,” she says with a laugh.
But Williams also liked to draw, and eventually took up photography in high school, where she enrolled in a film studies course. By the time she entered her senior year, she knew what she wanted to do.
“Our senior project involved shadowing someone in a field that interested us, and I hooked up with freelance videographer Mindy Faber, who heads Video Machete and who ran a studio in her basement. It was an incredible experience. I felt that now was the time to take my photography into the realm of moving pictures and audio,” says Williams.
Williams, now on the cusp of graduating from the Art Video program, says she came to SU because she felt she needed structure and a strong academic background in order to succeed. “Academics can help inspire art,” she says.
Of Williams, Joanna Spitzner, assistant professor in the Department of Art Foundation, says, “Laura’s motivation for her work always came from a desire to grow as an artist.- [She] was deeply engaged in the issues presented in class.” Spitzner also notes the obvious synergy between Williams and Foley that became apparent when the two were undergraduate teaching assistants for Time Arts.
“There’s a strong artistic connection between them- They’re committed to their work. They are leaders in the School of Art and Design, and the work they are creating for their honors thesis will be of significant worth,” says Spitzner. “Those who are advancing the field of art are engaged in similar activities as Laura and Kristina: a collaborative process, a blurring of boundaries between traditionally distinct media and the creation of experience through environment. They truly embody the ideals of the Honors Program: depth of knowledge, breadth of research, intellectual inquiry and articulation of complex and important ideas.”