The inaugural Living Arts Summer Residential Lab (LASRL) took place July 20th – August 1st, 2015 at the University of Michigan. The two-week program, sponsored by ArtsEngine and Living Arts, supports various approaches to creative process in collaborative interdisciplinary environments and is tailored to rising high school students. LASRL students from Ann Arbor, Detroit, and other parts of Michigan, participated in the program with international students and those from other states. “We wanted to support the community in meaningful ways while providing a mini-experience of what it’s like to live on a college campus. Students really enjoyed the opportunity to connect, create, and collaborate as they immersed themselves in the arts in Ann Arbor and Detroit,” says Mark Jones, Program Director for Living Arts.
Week one of LASRL was hosted by The Carr Center in Detroit, where students were exposed to different modes of making from a variety of disciplines. Photography, videography, painting, and other forms of visual and performing arts were just a few of the exercises used to promote creative expression. University of Michigan instructors supported LASRL students as they worked towards integrating a variety of making methods into their process for the purpose of expanding potential outcomes.
Many of the students reported that they would not have considered these approaches if they hadn’t been introduced to them; a sentiment they shared with instructors and cohorts. Russell Estill, a student from West Bloomfield High School, reflected on a personal shift in thinking with regard to how outcomes in creative process can be shaped, “It has made me think of creativity in different ways. It expands my thinking of how you can take one idea into making it something bigger and better.”
The LASRL experience also broadened the perspective of students in relationship to Detroit and the arts. Chandler Crenshaw, a student at Cass Technical High School, noted how attending LASRL helped her see Detroit in a different light, even though she’s a native Detroiter, “One of my favorite projects was actually the Polaroid project because we got to see different settings of Detroit that some of us have never been to…I live here [Detroit] and I’ve never been to The Heidelberg Project.”
The second week of LASRL took place at Bursley Hall, which provides co-housing for undergraduates from the North Campus academic units at the University of Michigan and is the home of Living Arts. Week two of the program expanded learning with the inclusion of additional creative approaches and mediums. Electronics such as Arduino, as well as music and video editing programs like GarageBand, iMovie, and Logic Pro were also included. These elements enhanced projects that were started the previous week, acting as a catalyst for additional creative expression.
In addition to classroom instruction, the residential experience exposed students to life on a university campus while providing the opportunity for a greater sense of connection within their group as they worked, played, and shared meals together. This immersive experience allowed them to cultivate relationships that could potentially serve them in the future. Students were also given the opportunity to explore North and Central Campus. Residential advisors provided tours of key buildings and maker spaces on campus, as well as downtown Ann Arbor.
The success of LASRL was evidenced by the high level of projects presented by students at the closing ceremony, and the close relationships they formed within their student community. Each of them gained an understanding of the various disciplines they were exposed to and how these disciplines can come together to create interesting and unique works. “The key was teamwork,” says ArtsEngine director Laurie Baefsky, “and each of these students were active agents in creative collaboration that is required when disciplines meet at the edges. We’re looking forward to repeating the program next summer with added depth and breath.”