March 31, 2020
Fiber Faculty and Staff Weave Plans for Remote Learning Success
When Fiber faculty members and staff received the unprecedented news on Thursday, March 12th that the college was closing to protect the campus community from COVID-19, they knew they had to act quickly.
“Our discipline is so process-oriented, material-based and technique-driven that we knew that if the students didn’t have access to the tools and supplies they were currently using, we would have to change our curriculum so drastically that it would no longer meet our mission,” said Fiber Professor and Chair Pauline Verbeek-Cowart.
They jumped into action to determine what each student needed to continue their studio practice. With the help of Studio Technician Natalie Spicker (‘17 Fiber), they matched students with tools, developed a loan document to check out equipment, and then stayed up all night Thursday to put together supplies. Assistant Professor Marie McInerney washed wool and prepared bags for felting while Associate Professor Kim Eichler-Messmer put together natural dye kits that included dyes, fabric, and stainless-steel pots.
The next day, students loaded their supplies and picked-up hand-looms or very large floor looms, if they have space at home. Students who live close by took home industrial sewing machines and others flew home with portable items. Based on the list of tools each student took with them, the faculty are able to tailor individual learning plans. There will be many one-on-one sessions for the rest of the semester, something the students always look forward to.
Verbeek-Cowart was inspired to see how the students worked together and helped each other. “It was amazing to me that in a time of chaos, our students were able to stay calm and look at what is best for everyone. They stepped up to the plate and rallied together to load up trucks. We are truly a community and it showed,” she said.
According to Verbeek-Cowart, this time working remotely is important for students to not only hone their craft but also to learn important life lessons. “Let’s figure out the tools not just for making, but for healing, coping and changing our thought patterns. Look outside yourself, and ask what we can do to help others? This is a time to not only focus on the discipline of fiber but to also mentor each other and for all human beings to find ways to enhance this new world,” she said.
She added, “Students need to know that they are not alone, and we are all in this together. Don’t lose hope, we’ll figure it out. We’ll all come out of this changed – in a good way.”
KCAI utterly condemns the ongoing racist treatment of Black Americans that has resulted in the recent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, and in the continued murders, harassment, and prejudice that our Black community members face on a daily basis.
Two beloved faculty members, with over 76 years of combined service to KCAI, are retiring at the end of the 2020 academic year. They’ve inspired generations of students with their relentless passion for teaching and leave an immeasurable impact on the college. Thank you Steve Whitacre and Karen McCoy for your years of service, dedication to our students, and active engagement on campus. Congratulations on your retirement. You will be missed. Fellow faculty share tributes to their accomplishments. Steve Whitacre Professor and Sosland Family Chair of Foundation Joined KCAI in 1969 For over half a century, Steve Whitacre’s remarkable and distinguished career and long-standing leadership of the Foundation program at KCAI has earned national and international recognition. Before coming to KCAI in 1969, Steve studied at the Columbus College of Art and Design and earned both a BFA and MFA from Ohio University. According to the artist and educator, his studio practice continues to explore the estuary between art and architecture in relationship to sculpture and personal, poetic language. Steve’s works are held in many private collections and have been widely exhibited in this country, England, Scotland, and Italy. He has taught and led projects at the Cranbrook Academy of Art read more…
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