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Chair and Professor of Visual Arts
4200 54th Avenue South
St. Petersburg, FL 33711
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What is Interdisciplinary Arts?
Look in any arts or cultural history text and you'll not likely find an entry for Interdisciplinary Arts, yet interdisciplinarity in the arts is hardly new. One need only think of the artist-scientist Leonardo, or the poet-printmaker-mystic William Blake, or the poet-painter-designer-socialist William Morris to find examples of venerated artists of the past whose interests spanned various modes of thought and expression.
More recent examples of artists whose work is interdisciplinary in nature would be (to name but a few) performance artist Marina Abramovic, social sculptor Joseph Beuys, artist-scientist-inventor Theo Jansen, musician-poet-filmmaker-graphic artist Yoko Ono, composer-choreographer-director Meredith Monk, writer-filmmaker Luis Bunuel, performance/film & installation artist Matthew Barney, light-and-space installation artist James Turrell, performance artist-musician Laurie Anderson, environmental artist Mierle Laderman Ukeles, and video artists Nam June Paik, Gary Hill and Bill Viola. The essence of IA is also realized collaboratively, as in the performance group STOMP, the artist collective Superflex, and the Critical Art Ensemble.
So why have a major in Interdisciplinary Arts? It's simply an exciting new way of focusing and directing an arts education here at Eckerd. Some schools refer to it as "integrated arts" or "cross-disciplinary arts." We like "interdisciplinary arts" because Eckerd College claims a long history of encouraging interdisciplinary approaches to teaching and learning. It should be noted that increasingly, graduate programs across the country are giving new emphasis to interdisciplinary studies and majors in their curricula.
The Interdisciplinary Arts (or IA) major at Eckerd honors traditional means of integrating the arts (for example the illustration of original text). But with the advent of new materials and new media, such as video, performance art, multi-media installation, book arts and digital arts, the many possibilities for integrating the arts have been greatly expanded. The major is especially suited to those with an interest in video and film production (experimental, narrative or documentary), which are by their very nature interdisciplinary, typically utilizing the full spectrum of the arts: visual arts, theatre, music and creative writing.
Among Eckerd faculty, Professor Brian Ransom is the epitome of the interdisciplinary artist. A gifted musician and composer whose works in ceramic sculpture function as musical instruments and sound resonators, each informed by the physics of acoustics, the chemistry of glaze calculation, and the cultural anthropology of pre-Columbian civilization.
A word of advice: there is absolutely nothing lacking in the traditional majors of Creative Writing, Music, Theatre, and Visual Arts! Perhaps you can best thrive within any one of these disciplines, and if you have multiple interests among the arts, you can simply explore them separately.
The IA major is only designed for highly motivated students who have a clear purpose in building and crossing bridges among the arts (and possibly to disciplines outside the arts), and who wish to explore and integrate different modes of creativity.
If you have questions about IA, please direct them to Arthur Skinner.