Trip to Belize results in art exchange - exhibit in Fayette; May term art class in Belize
This spring, Upper Iowa University will offer an environmental art class in Belize during May term - a concept that has been in development since art professor John Siblik's FIG-funded trip to Belize in 2011.
"The environmental art class in Belize creates the opportunity for collaboration and cultural exchange, weaving together the creative process, art practice, and cultural study which further serves as an affirmation of our commitment to global learning and the relationships that are fostered as a result," explained Siblik, associate professor of art and chair of the Liberal Arts Division.
"In many ways, development of this class mirrors the rise of Upper Iowa as a destination for providing exceptional global learning experiences," he added. "Beginning in 2007, the 150th anniversary of Upper Iowa University, the UIU Art Department has made a point of celebrating our relationships at both the local and global level with students, alumni, faculty, regional artists, art educators, and artists from across the globe in conjunction with the then newly approved Strategic Plan, which made the centerpiece of UIU academics the education of our students in the context of a global environment."
Siblik first traveled to Belize in 2011 while traveling courtesy of the inaugural Faculty Internationalization Grant program, which he noted has been an extremely important element towards fostering a community of global learning.
While in Belize, Siblik had the opportunity to meet Yasser Musa, director of the Image Factory, the Contemporary Art Center for Belize and the two discussed an arts exchange between Upper Iowa University and Belize. "That discussion came to fruition on the UIU campus in fall 2012, with an art exchange coming to the UIU campus, including an exhibit of 30 Belizean artists in the Bing Davis Memorial Gallery as well as very compelling lecture by Musa on the responsibilities of contemporary art within a global context and how contemporary and traditional art in Belize fits within that context," Siblik recalled.
Siblik returned to Belize in 2012 through the UIU summer faculty scholarship stipend to conduct a site study of Poustinia Art Park, which will be the location of the second part of the art exchange. Siblik heads back to Belize in May 2013 along with Upper Iowa students, to create an environmental work of art at the art park as part of UIU's May Term Environmental Art class. Poustinia is a sculpture park on 260 acres of rain forest in western Belize that highlights the work of Belizean and international artists. The Sculpture Park features unexcavated Maya sites and is within a short distance of Xunantunich, the site of one the 130-foot-tall funerary temple known as El Castillo.
According to Siblik, the park was established by Luis and David Ruiz established to restore the acreage as rain forest from deforested pasture used to graze cattle. Luis is an architect, and city planner interested in environmentally sound practices and sustainable land use. David is a published poet and writer who serves as principal at the nearby school at Benque.
The UIU course will not only find students working collaboratively to create environmental art at Poustinia, but will have them examine Mayan culture and history at various sites and experience contemporary Belizean culture through a community based service project, said Siblik. Students from both the Fayette campus and UIU-Des Moines Center have registered for the course, which includes, a week of in class activities prior to departure to include readings on environmental art and Mayan art. In Belize, the class will stay at the park in environmentally sustainable cabins, designed by Louis Ruiz. The course includes side trips to the Belize Museum and Image Factory Contemporary Art Center, and Mayan sites such as Xunantunich and Tikal in Guatemala, as well as a visit to the coral reef at Cay Caulker.
"This course provides an experiential learning environment to investigate the creative process through participation in contemporary art practice and the examination of ancient art through its placement within culture and the environment," Siblik adds. "It will be an exceptional experience."