Building an art exchange model between students in Richmond, Va., and Guatemala
Building an art exchange model between students in Richmond, Va., and Guatemala

The project involved creating a model to build multicultural connections between a local art center in Richmond and an elementary school in the rural highlands of Guatemala through the crafting of identical art projects.

Student researcher: Ginnie Driggers (B.F.A. ’12/A)

Faculty mentor: Jan Johnston, eLASTIC project manager and instructor, VCU Department of Art Education

Driggers: After talking to others who hosted international art exchanges, I created my own and planned lessons using materials sustainable to both areas. Students in a school in Guatemala and in an after-school program here in Richmond, Va., created artworks and sent them to each other. I hoped that the making and sharing of the resulting artworks would let students in different cultures understand each other a bit better. Since finishing the project, I have actually published the paper with the Colonial Academic Alliance Undergraduate Research Journal.

I now feel more comfortable applying for other grants. I was awarded the VCUArts undergraduate research study abroad grant to bring students from Henrico High School down to Guatemala. Now I’m applying for a School of the Arts Undergraduate Research Grant to develop another interest of mine.

Before this project, I did not really consider myself a researcher. While our professors in the art education program incorporate research into their classes, this was a chance for me to apply that knowledge on my own.

Johnston: Here’s a student who wants to maximize her time at VCU and create opportunities for herself. It is exciting to see someone who has a galvanizing encounter her freshman year continue to build upon that experience while in our program. When she graduates, not only will she have her degree and license, she’s going to have all these other wonderful experiences.

Research is incredibly important and especially important in the arts. People often don’t think of the arts and studio practice as a vehicle, a tool for research. I really appreciate the way the university is promoting research and creative scholarship, making it accessible for undergraduates and framing it as a rigorous, planned and mentored exploration of a particular topic or problem.