- Creativity in the Community
- Fall Photography Contest
- Forest Band
- Workshop Highlights
- Adobe Premiere Pro
- Character Design
- Visual Storytelling
- Student Interviews
- Zan Huang
- Lauryn Leuenberger
- Eli Richards
- Bonnie Jiang
End of the Fall 2020 Semester
As we wrap up this challenging and unconventional semester, we'd like to take a moment to say how proud we are of our program members for all the hard work they've put in. It takes a tremendous amount of effort and courage to keep looking for solutions in a difficult situation, which is something the Living ArtsEngine program has normally sought to teach students through creative projects and challenges. This year, however, our students and leaders have proven this on a level our program has never seen before.
Looking ahead, we are grateful to continue to have the opportunity to provide programming and community events for our students in the winter semester. Just as we've been working on this semester, Living ArtsEngine will continue to explore new ways to bring our community closer together and help students develop their creative skills.
Creativity in the Community
Fall Photography Contest
One way to stay creative while at home is to explore the world around you and look for inspiration. That's why in early October, we held a fall photography contest, to encourage students to get outside and exercise their creative skills. Congratulations again to our contest winners, whose works are featured below!
First Place: Kian McDonough
Second Place (Tied): Lili Omilian
Second Place (Tied): Lucy Kaffenbarger
This semester, several students came together to create a "Forest Band", where they could play their instruments together safely outside. For part of the semester, we were also able to make space available indoors for students to safely play their instruments together, but their origins stuck around in the form of a pretty cool band name.
The band attracted students of a wide variety of musical backgrounds, ranging from students majoring in music and performing arts to students with little to no prior experience in a formal music-making setting. During practice, band members will either practice existing songs they know and enjoy or play their instruments together free-style.
"The Forest Band is really great because normally, when you’re playing you're trying to create some sort of art, or you’re trying to strive towards a goal. It's a lot of work, work for a noble purpose and definitely work that inspires you, but still work. And I think the nice thing about Forest Band is that you play for the pure love of just being able to play with other people. You just jam. There's something different about that, it's a very organic form of music-making that you don't find very often anymore."
- Zan Huang, first-year student member, SMTD
Check out a video of one of their practice sessions here:
Adobe Premiere Pro Workshop
In early November we were joined by Ryan Wilcox, Producer of Instructional Content for the Duderstadt Centers, who lead a workshop on the basics of editing in Adobe Premiere Pro.
Character Design Workshop
Zia Zhao, a peer mentor and a sophomore in the STAMPS School of Art and Design, lead a workshop on character design on November 14th. Students participating in the workshop learned not only how to draw characters, but how to create original designs for characters they could use in creative projects.
Earlier in the year, returning Living ArtsEngine graduate Eli Richards lead a workshop on playing the recorder. Students got to join together on a zoom call and learn the basics of recorder playing, as well as how to play instruments together remotely.
Visual Storytelling Workshops
Our December workshops feature Ryan Wilcox as a returning instructor. Ryan lead a project on the basics of storytelling through the mediums of comic book paneling, photography and videography. Students learned how to apply these concepts to their own life experiences. We look forward to following up with the participants to view their creations!
Community Member Interviews
Student Interview: Zan Huang
Q: So I’ve heard you're studying music at the university, do you play any instruments?
Zan: Yeah, I play the violin, I think I've been playing for at least 12 years. It's an instrument that I grew up with and I always wanted to play, and it's something that I just stuck with. I'm not a violin major here, I'm actually doing music composition, but it’s just that one instrument I
“think” with. Every composition major needs to have an instrument concentration, so I play the violin for that, and I play chamber music through the university.
Q: Are there any other creative disciplines you're into or want to explore?
Zan: I do also program for fun, I actually got together with some other students here and we built something pretty cool. There was a makeathon recently, and I knew that Living ArtsEngine had such cool people, I had gotten to know a lot of them from our events and classes, so I asked if they wanted to be a part of that. So we got together and built a multidisciplinary music visual generation program.
Q: What was that process like?
Zan: We had 48 hours, it was definitely really interesting because we had a video game music specialist, he’s a very good audio engineer and he does a lot of aleatoric music things and I was doing programming and also understood the music and we had an architect who designed the interface for how we would input the shapes and work with the music, and she was the person who finally demonstrated the program by actually drawing something with it.
Q: That's really cool, so it sounds like you guys have really embraced the interdisciplinary aspect of the community then?
Zan: Interdisciplinary is sort of the way to go in my opinion, life is too rich and complicated for someone to just drive into one thing. I think about it this way, if you have petals on a flower, there’s always gonna be petals that overlap, suppose you had a flower without overlapping petals, it would look very sparse, you know?
Q: Yeah, absolutely. Last question, what's been your favorite part of Living
ArtsEngine so far?
Just the amazing people, people who genuinely care and want to be here, who want to do something. It’s definitely a very specific type of person who ends up here, people who care about knowledge, who don't just have an urge to make, but they have this specific element of being curious about the world and caring about the world a little more than normal. That’s ultimately what draws me to this program, is that people care.
Peer Mentor Interview: Lauryn Leuenberger
Q: What is your creative discipline?
Lauryn: I am a sophomore at the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. I'd like to one day focus my discipline on primarily historical architecture!
Q: What kinds of creative projects
have you worked on before?
Lauryn: I once drew a graphite picture of my dog that was displayed in an art museum for a while! And I did a number of fun projects in my high school physics class that required me to work alongside my classmates and think collaboratively!
Q: How have you been staying connected with the community virtually?
Lauryn: Myself and a couple of other peer mentors have been trying to set up a Minecraft server that we can all play on for a couple of months now. Hopefully, it will be up and running by this coming January. I wanted to create something really cool and special for the mentees, and have been working tirelessly on something that will really "wow" them. I think Minecraft is a really good way to bring everyone together, most students have gotten familiar with it through UARTS and it's one of those
"low skill" games that almost everyone can play and no one has to worry about being "bad" at it.
Q: What advice would you give to someone considering becoming a peer mentor?
Lauryn: This year has obviously been tough because it's restricted us from meeting together in person and made it harder for us to get to know each other as peers, but don't take this year as a precedent for being a peer mentor. Last year, all my mentors were beyond phenomenal and about a month or two into the program I knew I wanted to be a mentor too; there are amazing and super fun
things in this community. If you enjoy helping, teaching, and guiding people then being a peer mentor is right for you.
Graduate Interview: Eli Richards
Q: So, what year are you in, and what are you studying currently?
Eli: I'm a junior studying civil and environmental engineering, I'm getting a minor in Spanish too.
Q: How has engineering been going for you?
Eli: I like engineering, I specifically enjoy my actual major. When I took Engineering 100 and Engineering 101, I remember questioning whether or not engineering was really a good fit for me. But then once I started taking civil and environmental engineering classes, it really felt a lot better and I felt a lot more comfortable with who I was working with, I was actually excited about what I was learning in my classes.
Q: What are some other things you like to do outside of class, especially now that you've fully graduated from Living ArtsEngine?
Eli: Yes. So, I'm in living at Escher, one of the co-op houses in Ann Arbor, and I am pretty involved in the structural leadership of the cooperative organization that it's a part of. So that's something I work a lot with, the large organization of all the co-ops in Ann Arbor, but then also I participate in lots of house level things. So that's the community that I'm grounded in, that's sort of become my new bedrock. It's been nice because there's a lot of
current and former Living ArtsEngine members living in Escher, so it's nice to sort of have those people that I'm familiar with, but then also be able to branch out and talk to some new people. It's also nice because there's a big population of graduate students, so I get to talk to lots of other students about stuff that's pertinent to me since I'm winding down my undergraduate education.
Q: What has it been like, adjusting to a virtual environment? What kinds of things have you been doing to maintain social connections outside the house?
Eli: Yeah, it's definitely difficult, but in some
ways, it's been nice that everybody on the planet seems way more prolific with Zoom, so I've had some fun sort of reunions with friends who all live pretty far away now. So like, I made a bunch of friends when I was studying abroad in Ireland, and about once a month we've been having Zoom get-togethers, so that's been really fun. Recently, I had sort of like a Zoom reunion with all of my friends from my class in July where I was an exchange student, which was also super fun.
Q: What advice would you give to some of the Living ArtsEngine students this year as they try to navigate those things themselves?
Eli: I would say, despite all the barriers and all the ways that things are different, just keep on putting yourself out there, and keep on looking for activities to do, like don't succumb to the temptation to withdraw and isolate. Obviously you've got to take time to rest and take care of yourself, but keep actively looking for ways to engage and make things feel “normal”. It's too soon to say, but hopefully next year we’ll be able to do lots more things in person. I feel like this is some scary pressure maybe, but the seeds that you're planting now, they're going to flourish next year. And I think that it's important to think about it with that perspective, that it's not just that you're attending Zoom meetings to feel included now, you're attending Zoom meetings to build those relationships that are going to flourish next
Q: Back when you were a peer mentor in the program, what was your philosophy or goal as a mentor?
Eli: There was a mentor in my year, Juliet, who really gave me permission to be myself and express myself. And when I was going in to be a mentor, that's really all I wanted; I want everyone to feel this like at least once, you know? And I want everyone to feel like they are free to be themselves, to uncover new things about themselves and grow. So I think that it was really important to me that I not be restrictive in that way. To me, that was one of the most important
things as a mentor, was just to not try and dictate how things are going to be. So if any mentors are reading, that's my advice.
Q: What was your favorite thing you did while you were in the Living ArtsEngine program?
Eli: I think it's got to be Just Dance. For those who don't know, it's a game where you basically follow dance moves that you see on the screen, and usually, you hold a controller that tells you if you do the dance moves well or not. But the way that we do it, we just put it up on the projector and do the dances without worrying about the accuracy of the hand motions or whatever,
which I think makes it a lot more fun. And yeah, I remember my freshman year that was sort of introduced to us, and we would do it just about like every Saturday. It was just a really great time and I really got into it, and so the next year I sort of kept that tradition going, and every Saturday we would have Just Dance. And I just really loved it. It was a great exercise, you sweat a lot and it's tiring, and I also just really enjoyed getting to see people on the weekends. Especially in the winter. It was just very cozy to be inside and playing this game. And also it was just fun to have all the different traditions, like everybody had favorite dances and sometimes we would use props in our dances. So I just think that that was a really great, happy memory.
Q: Do you have any other final thoughts about the year?
Eli: Yeah, I guess I'll just say that I was really happy when I was a mentor and I was getting to know all the mentees, and I loved seeing all of these fresh faces. And I'm enjoying now hearing my friends who are mentors now talking about the mentees this year. One of my favorite things about Living ArtsEngine is this very generational feeling that it has. And there haven't been a lot of alumni events this year, but I think in the future, it'll be really fun for everybody in the program now to sort of explore that going forward. I was worried going into this year because things are so different and so many people are not here
in person, but I'm really happy to see that the program is still going and that there's going to be mentors next year. You know, I think it's all going to be okay.
Q: What have you been up to since you left Living ArtsEngine?
Bonnie: Well Living ArtsEngine was a long time ago I finished my undergraduate degree in Art and Design, and I also took some engineering courses during my undergrad. After that, I made a pivot in my studies. So I am now a graduate student with dual degrees in design science and also
the School of Information. I focus on user experience research and a lot of my work right now focuses on researching co-design theories and methods in the engineering field, but also as well as the information system.
Q: Why did you decide to join Living ArtsEngine?
Bonnie: I was visiting campus when I was in high school and Stamps had small information sessions where the Living Arts students were talking to us. I also knew about Living Arts before I came because I got an email encouraging me to join, and they had an 80 member community focused on all the stuff that I'm interested in. So I asked other students that were actually in the program, and they said if you really like a bubble, you know, people with engineering background architecture and music and arts, you should really try to
be part of it. And then that's what I did.
Q: What would you say are some of your big takeaways from your time spent in the program?
Bonnie: I would say, definitely academically. I got to talk to some students with a different background because at the time, I was thinking about whether I should take some courses that are out of my comfort zone, I would say more quantitative like engineering classes. My mentor, Spencer, who used to be in chemical engineering also pivoted to Theatre. A lot of our alumni actually
make pivots in their disciplines.
So being in Living ArtsEngine with a lot of people that have multiple backgrounds and multiple disciplines can make you more comfortable when making those types of changes. So you're not scared of wasting three years of studying something you’re not going to be doing, but later on, you realized, oh, this is something that you will be doing, but in a different way. So I got to know more classes, that as an art student, I wouldn’t necessarily be familiar with.
Also, I think socially, it is a space where you don't get judged. Before Living Arts, I went to a place that was
not very diverse. So it was a little bit of a struggle for me to be there. However, In the dorm, life was just nice for first-year students because you have a lot of people who have the same interests but also different personalities. You realize that a lot of things back at home that people would call weird are not weird. In Living ArtsEngine, people see that as a great strength or a special, unique part of you. So that's really nice too, and then I made a lot of friends out of that program; I'm actually living with one of them right now.
Q: What was one particular moment that really sticks out in your mind that was a special moment or experience from the program?
Bonnie: Oh yeah, there are a lot. there's always a lot of events. Like the haunted house and I think something that I remember most was the project that we were trying to do, the CCP. My mentor, Spencer took us on a field trip so it's less like a project, but more of an exploration, so I really liked the direction that he took with that.
And I like some of the other events that we did, like cake decorating. And one time we made instruments out of random materials. So those are some of the experiences that I talked to people about in the future.
From time to time, you'll run into a Living Arts alumni and you didn't realize they are, and then by the time you talk, you have so much in common and then you realize, oh, you are a Living Arts alumni as well. So that's fun too.
Q: What would you say to a high school student if they are considering Living ArtsEngine?
Bonnie: Well, I would say, the first selling point of Living ArtsEngine that was attractive to me was that it has so many disciplines and then always offering
courses and activities to help you merge those together, so you don't treat them individually or separately. And another thing is the social aspect. So you're not just finding friends to hang out with but finding friends to do what you're interested in.
It also helps you build on the curricular tools. We don't just, you know, hang out and watch animated films in the lounge but there's also research opportunities and I liked to do my work in the lounge when I was there. And in fact, sophomores would come back, so I could hang out with some of those people. It’s always nice to have that space where you can work on your stuff and get critique right when you're making it. So, if you want to explore different disciplines that are relevant to your field
and also make friends it's really a nice supportive network.
Q: What your plans are for the future?
Bonnie: I think I'm at the point where I am still deciding. Initially, of course, I wanted to do something like design work. But I think recently, after seeing what happened, In the country, you know, and internationally, I think I'm wanting to get a Ph.D. right after graduate school. Maybe I'd like to take a year off and do something else, depending on what opportunities I have, but I think I'm like 70% or 80% sure I will pursue a Ph.D. program.
And after that, I want to keep doing research. My research focuses on social impact. I don't want to settle for a big corporation, so there's something like the Society of Design. The designer society that's doing code is doing workshops across the campus and across the nation and then somewhere in Africa. So I'm excited for those opportunities and to see where those lead.
My methods right now are mixed methods. I do qualitative research that's from my art background, but also because of the engineering background, I also do some of the statistical analysis. That's really cool. I don't think it's rare. A lot of people definitely do that in the industry, but it's nice to be part of them. Through undergrad I
always liked both sides of things. I think that echoes with what Living Arts believes in as well.