VISA 375 Syllabus

“Artists in Society”

September 5 –  December 1st 2017
Monday’s from 10-12pm in Binnings Studio 102

Calendar Description
Exploring artistic practice through community-engaged partnerships and critical study.  Intended for 3rd year VISA and ARTH students.  Prerequisite:  At least 9 credits of 200-level VISA and/or ARTH courses.

Course Content
This course extends art history, critical theory and production knowledge into practice by involving students in the greater artistic community. This is both an opportunity for you to gain awareness of the many roles of the artist in contemporary society, and a chance to apply that knowledge.

Along with developing your artistic, writing and exhibition practice, you will also be expanding your understanding of how artistic practice influences – and is influenced by – the structures of professionalization and institutionalization. In turn, this will inform how you articulate your personal position within that framework – or chosen lack thereof. Community engagement projects will be paired with rigorous academic study, ensuring this hands-on experience is framed by research. This allows you to investigate the influence of art and culture when conveyed through a specific context, and the ways in which context can alter agency. This will allow discussion and debate surrounding issues inherent with artistic creation, execution and exhibition – and the role/responsibility of the artist and/or art and culture producer. You will apply this knowledge in real-world situations, and bring these situations back to the classroom as the whole class reflects upon their experiences of the artists’ role in society.

Course Outcomes
Upon successfully completing the course, students will have gained the following.

  • Applied and contextualized theoretical knowledge previously gained in VISA and ARTH study into practical experiences.
  • Experienced an artistic community in Vancouver. Obtain life-long learning habits on how to participate in such a community and an understanding of how such communities function.
  • Evaluate and activate the purpose of contemporary artist-run centres and other cultural institutions/initiatives.
  • Hone individual assessments and perspectives on the role of an artist within a wider societal context, and illustrate those contributions to their peers.
  • Become knowledgeable in the variety of institution types in the professional art world by their organizational structure, (public, private, grassroots) with an appreciation for the position and function of each, and how structure can inform artistic agency.
  • Gain insight about art, the artist, and the contemporary art world and assess the mechanisms and practices of art’s role in society regarding political, sociological, and philosophical theories of art, culture, class distinction and cultural capital.
  • Envision themselves as active members of cultural industry, and prepared to enter the professional world of contemporary art practice in a variety of capacities.
  • Establish professional conduct and communication skills of an art practitioner.
  • Manage a specific project as determined and guided by the partner, and advanced through initiative and application of inventive problem-solving skills and practiced organization.
  • Be able to dissect the structure of their artistic practice and its consequence in dialogue with the art world.
  • Inform personal art practice by bringing awareness to its surroundings within institutional space, extended to a community, a region, a nation, and globally.
  • Develop a transformative understanding of the relationship of the artist to both a local community as well as to the society at large.
  • Engage and cultivate habits of critical self-reflection upon their practical experiences in the visual arts sector, informing their agency, influence, and civic responsibilities.

Community Partners
This course centers around a Community Based Engaged Learning component (CBEL). We will be working with local galleries, diverse art centres, artists and alternative collectives as a way to transform learned theory into praxis. This experience aims to extend awareness of the impact culture and artistic practice has on society, the role of the artist, and how it is influenced and delivered within the community.

This course serves to give insight on applying degree skills learned to this point to real world practice, witnessing the type of impact and role of the arts in society first hand.  This class works with a wide range of partnership institutions in the Vancouver contemporary art community to facilitate this engagement. You will be connected to one of our partners and involved in a specialized project(s) at that specific institution.

We are very lucky to live in a city with an active art community, where openings, events, talks and exhibitions are happening all the time – and, while it is conveniently local, Vancouver-based art is recognized on an international scale. I encourage you to not only become a part of the institution you are partnering with, but also open up to what your colleagues are doing within their institutions and events.

Our partnerships for 2017 are:




Online Course Components
A course blog is activated for this class, for you to access information and contribute.  It is located here:  You will find assignment descriptions, announcements and events, community based experiential learning project information, a schedule with due dates, readings knowledge sharing of community experiences with the class, links and extended resources. Please check at least once a week.  Grades, CWL accessible readings, journals and other private material for the course will be available on Connect.  Please use your CWL to sign in to 

Reading text will be available in pdf form or as a link online through Connect, or through UBC Library Reserves. You must use your CWL to get access to them.

Grade Breakdown
Coursework is broken down in two sections, the first being in-class academic reading, writing, activities and projects, the second being the CBEL component and related activities and assignments.

CBEL Component
The CBEL component will consist not only of the hours towards the project that you will accomplish with your institutional partner, but projects, journals and in-class presentations that will accompany the experience.  You will set a plan towards how to approach the first meeting with your partner, followed by a plan as to how you will approach the project.  This will be accompanied by academic, professional and personal goal-setting, pre and post reflection journals, and in-class conversations.  You will be expected deliver a presentation on your institution in class at various stages, sometimes in more formal settings, other times as group work.  You will engage in peer/self and supervisor reviews, and examine critically, your growth process and engagement.  The CBEL component will also include a final project summary detailing your experience, and a creative response to present on the final class get-together.  Throughout the course and throughout your experience we will be revisiting, on many occasions, ways to define the artists’ role in society.

CBEL Component Breakdown:
P/F          Orientation Meeting with Partner   (this is Pass/Fail of the entire component)
6%           Project Organization/Plan (in pairs if working on same project)
7%           Poster Presentation of Institute Partner (in pairs) and blog post
4%           Pre-Reflection (goal setting)
8%           In-class Activities
10%         Post-Reflection
22%         Engaged Learning, sum of 50-hour placement & Peer/Self Evaluation through synopsis/blog posts, reflection, and other materials/reflection gathered of experience
 8%           Creative Response
65%        Total Weight of Final Mark

Course Work
The other half of the course will accompany your CBEL experience with topic-based discussions on the many facets of the role of the artist in society. This will include readings, writing, reflection activities, a screening, studio and other artist visits.  Your experience will not solely illustrate the readings and terms learned in class, but act as an extension to how they are complicated by your interests, strategies of representation, process, medium, and situation. You will also contribute to the community with writing projects, such as an exhibition review and/or artist interview, and you will also extend this to place yourself by researching and writing a personal artist statement.  The “Overall Artistic Growth” category contributes to recognizing the many obstacles you may face and overcome through the duration of the course, that are essential to your growth as an artist.  What this can also mean is that what is commonly referred to as a ‘blunder’ – which are in fact necessary learning opportunities. I (as the Instructor) see these moments as an integral challenge that you can choose to pursue and overcome. Participation, reading discussion activity, studio visits, and other independent contributions by attending artist talks, openings, and other events, will be acknowledged for class credit as they are integral to your personal growth and experience of your space as an artist, resulting in success in this course.

The Total Course Breakdown is as follows:
65%          CBEL Project (please see previous page)
20%          Reading Discussions & Topic Work (4% x 5)
10%          Studio Visits & Art Events Report
5%            Overall Growth
100%       TOTAL

You are to participate during and outside of class time; it is an expectation of the class. Participation considers the activity of the student during reflection, presentation and conversations, reading discussions, respectful attitude towards other’s in the class, active engagement in the class work, individual progress and response to challenges put forth by the instructor.

Late Assignments
All assignments are due within the first ten minutes of start of class or it will be considered late.  Certain assignments will be accepted up to four business days after the due date with a letter grade deduction for each day, unless I have granted an extension. This means that an A+ work handed in 3 days late will be downgraded to a B+.   You may also hand work in my mailbox in Lasserre 403, but be sure to have an official date stamped on it or it will be dated the date it is picked up.  Furthermore, not participating is detrimental to your grade, as well as your own personal growth and education.  As this class is quite dependent on community partners, please consult with me if you need an extension for whatever reason if your partnership is off-schedule in any way, I am here to help!

If you must miss a class, I suggest you speak with your instructor in advance, or ask someone in the class what you have missed. It is your responsibility to keep up to date with what happens in class if you are not there.  Students with more than 3 unexcused absences are subject to a 3% deduction of their final grade per absence thereafter.  Being more than an hour late is considered an absence.  In general, this class is intensive and it is not wise to miss it at all.  There is not an on-line replacement for the lectures or discussions or the whole experience.  If you do not have work completed or miss a critique class, you will not get a class critique.  If there are emergency or extenuating circumstances, please go to student services with a doctor’s note to officially document the situation, please go to Academic Advising with this, it is a useful place the University has set up to deal with special circumstances.  Do not be afraid to use it at any capacity, from stress management, to special medical cases etc.

Academic Freedom
Art making is a complex and often controversial practice that covers a range of topics from various perspectives. The classroom is a place for the open discussion of ideas and issues. The points of view expressed by the instructor represent a professional perspective on art historical or contemporary issues. If at any time you wish to discuss an issue, please feel free to contact me.

Academic Honesty & Conduct
All UBC students are expected to behave as honest and responsible members of an academic community. Breach of those expectations or failure to follow the appropriate policies, principles, rules, and guidelines of the University with respect to academic honesty may result in disciplinary action.  It is the student’s obligation to inform himself or herself of the applicable standards for academic honesty, and information can be found in the Academic Calendar under “Academic Honesty and Standards” and “Academic Misconduct” as well as the “Student Code of Conduct”

Class Preparedness
For every class you are expected to have required reading or projects completed, and are ready to participate in discussions.  If you require additional audio/visual equipment for a presentation or project in class, please notify me through email at least 3 business days before the class so that I can reserve the equipment.

Talks + Events Announcements
There are many wonderful talks and events set up for your extended education at University of British Columbia and in the community that are a part of this class as well.  I will be listing weekly events on the Announcements board section of the blog as recommendations of what you can attend.

Campus and Safety
If you have any questions or issues in your studio, on campus, in facilities or the classroom, please contact Nick at Please practice UBC’s Working Alone Policy and Procedures, information: and use Safewalk 604-822-5355 if you are walking alone at night.  If there is an emergency, please contact campus security at 604-822-2222, or for Fire, Ambulance, Police and Hazardous Materials Response, call 911.