During the summer of 2015, UF School of Art + Art History Associate Professor Dr. Craig Smith taught abroad in China for the second time. While there, he taught three courses focusing on the relationship between design and creativity in an arts and engineering program. The 2015 University Immersion Program at Sichuan University (SCU) in the city of Chengdu is a two-week summer program that brings professors and students from around the world together for academic study and research.
Smith is a multimedia artist using image, sound and text to explore the production of contemporary culture. At UF, he teaches graduate seminars on relational art and the social impact of art as global, distributed media. He also teaches undergraduate courses in visual literacy and photography. Through the University Immersion Program he taught approximately 21 honors-level students who were, for the most part, engineers, software engineers or were involved in computation or computing.
Smith says the experience was interesting on a personal and professional level. “It’s a challenge to work in different cultural contexts, but the way I teach didn’t change drastically from how I would teach at UF,” says Smith.
Smith discovered students either showed tremendous enthusiasm and a desire to get involved in his research, or appeared to be alienated from the idea of the creativity being an everyday function of life—one of the courses’ premises.
“While I would hope that there would be fewer alienated students than those being proactive, that’s the reality, and it helps you balance how you deliver ideas because not all students are going to take things on at full capacity,” says Smith. “The challenges are interesting, but I think it all comes out very productive and positive in the end.”
Smith also taught at a program in Beijing. “I was the first international lecturer brought in to do something other than teach English,” says Smith. “That was quite fascinating in that the assumptions of the use or allocations of what international lecturers do within the university was very specific to prepping students to go to an English speaking country to do graduate work or to work professionally.”
“I’m not sure if they knew exactly what we might be able to accomplish with the class. There was an interesting way of using this kind of art seminar as a way of prepping students for diversity and what they might experience in graduate school, even though that is not what I was there to do.”
Smith plans to return to China in 2016. In January, he has a new video art DVD project coming out with work created in China with students from Minzu University and a new sound recording he created while on research leave in the spring of 2015 entitled The Performing Machine, published by Lunasongs Music and CEPA Gallery.