Photography by Adam Atkinson; story by Stephen Wilson

With the summerlike weather lasting deep into autumn months and the comfort of being outside during COVID’s delta variant, taking class outdoors is a common sight on campus. Doing so for lecture or discussion can be easier than a course that is material laden.

But that didn’t stop drawing faculty and students from taking their easels outside to put pencil and charcoal to paper.

“The Ahart Plaza as part of the Williams Arts Campus is a completely flexible space that can be converted for a multitude of purposes,” says Jim Toia, director of community-based teaching at Lafayette and executive director of the Karl Stirner Arts Trail. “We are lucky that we have such a space during a time when being indoors can make us feel uncomfortable. Ahart Plaza offers us great potential. Being outside affords us fresh air, beautiful weather, and an opportunity to relax and concentrate on the task at hand, in our case, drawing from life.”

“The plaza is a wonderful place to draw because it offers nature, architecture, and the stir of traffic. I love the noise from the cars and the city; it keeps everyone alert and aware of their environment,” says Pedro Barbeito, assistant professor of art and director of Lafayette’s Experimental Printmaking Institute. “This semester, I initially wanted to teach outdoors for everyone’s safety. Now, after doing this for a few weeks, I want to stay outside. I’ve explained to the students, some of whom initially complained about the elements changing and so changing what they were drawing, that this is exactly what landscape artists like—to be out all day so they can document that special, magical moment that happens when the light, clouds, and wind are just right, and you see nature at its most beautiful and bewitching.

“A studio environment doesn’t change; it’s good for learning how to carefully translate something to a sheet of paper, but it doesn’t offer you the changes in light that can alter a landscape or objects from looking approachable and sunny to dark and ominous in a matter of minutes. Drawing outdoors, the landscape is alive with transformation, everchanging, forcing you to really look and think about your visual interpretation, offering you a choice to decide what is the mood, the scene that you want to capture, and how it reflects who you are and what you want to represent.” 

Here are a few images from the drawing classes.

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The Department of Art provides students with historical and critical understanding of art coupled with the experience of interdisciplinary artistic practice. Our students examine art globally and across time, and work with new media along with established studio traditions.

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1 Comment

  1. Joe Biondo says:

    The design intent for that plaza has always been for outdoor teaching and performance. It is so gratifying to see it activated!

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