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Tauren Barker ’06 (Whitehall, Pa.) turned a service-learning project into a creative endeavor to help others understand course philosophies by creating artistic collages.

Students in the Values and Science/Technology seminar were required to complete 12 hours of service learning. Most committed to helping the working poor complete tax returns at community help centers. Barker, however, chose to create his own service-learning project to see first-hand how principles taught in the Property and Theft course exist in the community.

“I am an art major and I came up with the idea that I would do something different related to the course,” he says. “I took some of the theories that we learned in class and decided that art would be a good medium to talk about property and theft.”

Since one of the goals of his project was to work with children, Barker recruited two middle school students who were interested in art and wanted to help. He then set out to make two collages – one that illustrated theft and one that demonstrated property.

Barker and the students used digital technology available at Lafayette’s Williams Visual Arts Building to find new and not-so-new pieces of surrealist, realist, impressionist, and abstract art to create the collages.

“This was an exciting project that was completely conceived and executed by Tauren,” says Chawne Kimber, course instructor and assistant professor of mathematics. “I was quite impressed with his energy and creativity.”

The collage illustrating theft is comprised of clearly identifiable images from other artists’ works.

“If you look at a piece of any art, each piece has its own integrity – certain unique qualities like the Mona Lisa’s eyes that are going to be recognizable to anyone who looks at it,” Barker says. “If you take something that made the painting what it is and put it into another image and call it your own, you have in effect stolen the painting.”

He explains that it is not theft if an unidentifiable piece of a work, such as one of the squiggly lines from The Scream by Edvard Munch, is included in a work and claimed by someone as their own. Accordingly, his collage demonstrating property is comprised of random, unidentifiable images from a number of different famous and obscure pieces.

“Theft depends on how well someone notices the part you’ve taken,” he says. “A lot of identifying copyright infringement is noticing that someone has taken something. It has to be noticeable enough to catch.”

As a result of the project, Barker developed a genuine sense of the course material and gained satisfaction from giving young children in the community a chance to examine another world.

“I know first-hand that if you’re not given the chance as a young person to explore various artistic fields, you might never later in life, so this is good chance to pull these kids into a different world,” he explains. “There are so many possibilities in the artistic fields and it’s not clear that everyone knows the possibilities.

“It also gave these boys, who are well-behaved and interested in art, the chance to use the high-tech equipment on campus.”

Through the experience Barker discovered in himself a knack for something he never thought possible.

“Before this, I had not thought about teaching at any length,” he explains. “After finding that the students listened to me, were learning, and that I might have some say in what they do in the future, it really gave me something to think about. I constantly worried that they didn’t want to be there on Friday or didn’t want to go over the stuff we went over, but their parents said they talked about it all week. They couldn’t wait for Friday to come and that was exciting for me. It put the idea in my head that I might want to teach on top of making a career as a graphic design artist.”

Ed Kerns, Eugene H. Clapp II ’36 Professor of Art and director of the Williams Visual Arts Building, says he rarely sees students with as much motivation and energy as Barker.

“He’s got a solid work ethic; he’s going to be fine in life,” Kerns says. “Taking on a project like this is a little unusual at his level. Certainly I see students at the graduate level complete projects like this, but he is unusual in that he doesn’t look for an easy way out, rather he pushes toward those things. It’s the same approach he uses in his own art. He pushes it and tries to do unusual things, not to be unusual — it’s just for the sake of creativity.”

Kerns noticed from watching Barker with his students that he has a natural ability to teach.

“Clearly these kids, in just the way they acted with him, were getting a lot out of it and that’s pretty significant,” Kerns says. “From my point of view, real learning is about hidden messages in students modeling their teacher – the subject matter almost becomes secondary.”

Barker is a former member of Lafayette’s football team.

Categorized in: Academic News