Brown Arts Institute

ARTS Courses

Interdisciplinary courses taught by faculty and visiting artists.

Each semester Brown Arts Institute supports academic courses that otherwise may not happen. By working with faculty in the Arts Departments and beyond, as well as Professors of the Practice, BAI offers a wide range of academic opportunities. Courses can be identified by the ARTS designation in the course catalog. 

Spring 2022

Since COVID-19, enforcement of “social distancing” has become a state mandate. The resultant choreographies of “social distancing” have catalyzed a confluence of gestures, disciplining technologies, discriminatory health practices, and state power; a braid of urgent concern for scholars and artists, and the subject of this interdisciplinary arts workshop. Offered by Brown Arts Initiative, the workshop is open to graduate students, undergraduate students, and faculty by application. Full course credit is available for those interested. Participants will consider their respective creative practices in light of COVID-19 and emerging systems of computational recognition, broader trends with technologies of the body, and surveillance. Taught by Sydney Skybetter.

In this course we will develop our critical skills and find our unique voice for multimedia arts criticism and storytelling rooted in a collective pursuit of liberation. We will study both contemporary arts journalism and cultural theory to assess the urgent needs and issues in the arts and society at large, and address them accordingly. We will be doing a good deal of reading, watching, listening, interviewing, writing, recording, and collaborating. This is where all your skills come in: photography, graphic design, web building, podcasting, playlisting, filming, interviewing, and of course writing. We will create a multimedia project documenting our work, and that of the artists we engage with. Through this process we will reimagine an inclusive, radical practice in culture, one that bridges the classroom and the world. Taught by Shirine Saad.

In this course, we will make space for constructive, community-led conversations about art -- and responses through thoughtful writing. How do we map out the conditions of art making? Who gets to impact culture, how, and why? How do we craft responses to art that move culture forward? And how does this writing benefit our lives, and communities? We will hone our cultural criticism skills in a series of workshops that will result in the making of a multimedia zine. This safe, collaborative space will help us reimagine the ways in which art connects us to those around us - and ignite new dynamics of care. This class is open to community members, for whom readings are not mandatory, and who can participate in producing the zine in any capacity. Taught by Shirine Saad.

Arts Leadership is an undergraduate course introducing students to the building blocks of effective arts leadership, management, and succession planning with a focus on building practical skills while reflecting on the future of arts leadership. This course is intended for students currently acting in a leadership role for a student organization and encourages students to use upcoming group events and programs as the basis for assignments and final projects. Students planning to step into student group leadership roles may participate in the course with a current leader to develop succession plans. Instructor permission required. Taught by Thalia Field.

This class will examine the many ways that movies come together as well as the myriad ways in which they can be pulled apart and put back together by different audiences. Movie-making requires desire, collaboration, improvisation, money, time, and imagination. Sometimes, all it requires is “being there” and a cell phone. Much of what filmmaking demands is hidden in what is seen on screen, but the more we understand about the languages of cinema, the more it's possible to see. Using cinematic history, personal history, and political history as lenses, the class will think together in expansive ways about ethics, process, notions of self, and terms. The class will watch and discuss the films of makers from around the world and across time. Taught by Kirsten Johnson.

The course will be an experimental studio, mixing theory and practice, to formulate a position beyond what’s known in Europe as “post-dramatic theater.” We will oscillate between discussion, assignments and practical studio work, learning from others and making our own work. The foundation will be addressing artists, writers and pop phenomena internationally with an emphasis on Europe and Israel. Building on these, the practical aspect will comprise of physical group work and home assignments. In learning to compose entanglements between image, sound, word, and space, we will sharpen our tools for reimagining the contemporary performative condition. In the final stage of the course, students will create their own performative études. Instructor permission required. Taught by Ariel Ashbel.

This course examines Native American Theatre from origins of traditional storytelling to politics of race involved in Native theatre today. First, we will examine traditional storytelling from creation stories in literature and theatre. Second, we will study interactions with Europeans with the Doctrine of Discovery, Native American boarding schools systems, outlawing of traditional culture and how Native culture survived in these systems. These topics will be explored through Native literature and Native plays. Next, the course considers how the public, and the media, support the distortions of Native images. Finally, the course concludes by examining the modern era of Native Theatre and the Declaration of the Rights on Indigenous Peoples. Instructor permission required. Taught by Muriel Borst.

Fall 2021

Combining art making with the close reading of scholarly texts and media objects, this course engages with the categories of ‘reproduction’ and ‘reproductive labor’ as complex and contradictory sites of activist and aesthetic involvement. We explore 20th and early 21st century traditions of feminist, queer and anti-colonial activism and aesthetics for what they teach us about the uneasy status of the ‘social’ and its reproduction as a semi-autonomous realm. How might we represent the realm of reproduction and reproductive labor when it is at once culturally devalued and obscured even as its representatives are idealized (or vilified) in highly classed, raced and gendered terms—as selfless mothers, prostitutes, mammies, 'essential workers,' etc.? Such questions demand a variety of approaches and students may choose to engage the course primarily through written assignments, artistic projects or a combination of both. Taught by Arlen Austen

In this course, we will divide our time equally between studying the works/styles of contemporary performance artists and practicing performance art techniques and various modes of physically engaging in this art form. (Note: Performance art is not to be confused with the term performing arts. This class is not a theater or poetry presentation course, but can be applied to the ways in which both are presented.) This course will focus on the genre of performance art which lies between most other art disciplines and includes raw feelings (not acted emotions), political views and above all else, the embodiment of physical actions as art. Taught by PoP Ayana Evans.

This course challenges artists, practitioners, and scholars to push the hermeneutic limits of archives. The course presents a series of critical essays, case studies, and workshops to support students as they develop theoretical expertise, creative thinking patterns, and practicable skills. Students will develop finding aids that support enhanced accessibility, and analyze systematic research practices that build toward equity. Ultimately they will develop acquisition plans in alignment with the Brown Libraries new acquisition plan.

Beginning with an overview of what constitutes an archive, this syllabus attempts to guide learners through the acquisitioning process. It foregrounds the ways that anti-racist activists and artists work in and against archives, exploring how collecting professionals and amateurs alike can use the acquisition process to challenge dominant white supremacist narratives and hierarchies of knowledge in the service of more equitable and just institutional development. Taught by Micah Salkind, Jazzmen Lee-Johnson and Tiffini Bowers.

Spring 2021

ARTS 1310 Making the 21st Century Musical
Erin McKeown, BAI Professor of the Practice, Department of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies

Songs are a powerful dramatic storytelling tool - we see them used all the time in media, alongside scripted dialogue and visual elements. In this class we will explore contemporary musicals, in all forms, and we will create songs that tell stories. Together we will investigate how dramatic songs are made, what they can be about, and who are our audiences. We will pay special attention to perspectives that have been left out of past musical storytelling, and we will discover ways that our songs can advocate for justice in the 21st century and beyond. Application required (email artsinitiative@brown.edu after Dec 1 for a link to the google application form).

ARTS 1010 Script to Screen
Laura Colella, Literary Arts

Script to Screen is an intensive production course designed for students with some proficiency in screenwriting and little to no directing or filmmaking experience. The course aims to serve as a two-way bridge, opening writing students up to possibilities for production, while also investigating how production experiences can inform future writing. Activities include shooting and editing video exercises, working with actors, and filming practice scenes. A local casting director will conduct a workshop and bring in actors for scene work. A highly acclaimed guest director will work with students over three classes, conducting an acting workshop and critiquing scene work.

Fall 2020

ARTS1000 The Arts Workshop: I'm So Alone- Art of Surveilled Bodies Amidst a Global Epidemiological Cluster#@%$
Sydney Skybetter, Department of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies

Since COVID-19, enforcement of “social distancing” has become a state mandate. The resultant choreographies of “social distancing” have catalyzed a confluence of gestures, disciplining technologies, discriminatory health practices, and state power; a braid of urgent concern for scholars and artists, and the subject of this interdisciplinary arts workshop. Offered by Brown Arts Initiative, the workshop is open to graduate students, undergraduate students, and faculty by application. Full course credit is available for those interested. Participants will consider their respective creative practices in light of COVID-19 and emerging systems of computational recognition, broader trends with technologies of the body, and surveillance.

ARTS1620 Tell the Story: The Afro-Diasporic Experience Through Documentary Film
Yoruba Richen, Professor of the Practice with BAI and the Department of Africana Studies

Documentary films have grown into an influential art form that has influenced politics, culture, social movements and how we see the world. They are relied on to sort out fact from fiction in an increasingly complex world where the lines continue to blur. Through film screenings, lectures, readings, critical analysis and group discussions, the course examines the changing nature of the documentary as it relates to how films documenting the Black Experience are conceived, told and distributed in different mediums. We will also look at how these films have been influenced as much by technology and ethical, social, cultural and political movements, as it has by the individual choices of the filmmakers.

ARTS 1700 Introduction to iPhone/iPad Moviemaking Using 3-D and 360 VR Comparisons
Ted Bogosian, Cogut Center for the Humanities

Mobile Devices are democratizing movie-making by lowering barriers to entry, enabling students to become full-fledged members of the film industry virtually overnight. This pioneering course provides the basic tools for students to create and distribute no- and low-budget live-action motion pictures with professional production values utilizing only their personal smartphones. Students will acquire the skills to plan, capture and edit short motion pictures through hands-on instruction and experimentation with low-cost accessories, including selfie-sticks, lens adapters, directional microphones and iPhone apps like Filmic Pro, Vizzywig and iMovie. Limited to junior, senior and graduate students.