Collaborative project brings CCU students to Germany and art exhibit to Myrtle Beach Art Museum
An international collaboration between a group of students at Coastal Carolina University and a group at Hochschule Mainz in Mainz, Germany, has resulted in an intercontinental multimedia exhibit, student travel to Germany, and an upcoming exhibit at the Myrtle Beach Art Museum.
Fifteen CCU students from a variety of disciplines took an eight-week Fall II class in Fall 2022 in virtual collaboration with a class of 17 German students at Hochschule Mainz. Each week, the 32 students would meet each other on Zoom (9:20 a.m. EST and 3:20 p.m. Central European Time) to work on an interdisciplinary project with the theme “What If?”
What if humans could live without air? Or if everyone was the same color? What if we could watch the movie of our lives after we died? What would the world look like if religion did not exist? What if animals could talk, or if humans could stop time?
Over the course of the eight weeks, the students, divided into nine groups of 3-4 participants with each assigned two speculative questions, held brainstorming discussions; completed scientific, sociological and political research in their respective countries; and came together to compare their findings and determine how to display them visually and textually. The combined work of the groups, reflecting disciplines including digital humanities, English, graphic design, and filmmaking, ultimately resulted in a poster exhibit as well as a printed book. In May 2023, six CCU students traveled to Germany to create an exhibit held at the annual International Days 2023 at the University of Applied Sciences at Hochschule Mainz. In fall 2023, that same exhibit – titled Multiversum, or Multiverse in English – will be on display at the Myrtle Beach Art Museum.
For nearly a year, Scott Mann, associate chair and professor of graphic design in the Department of Visual Arts and affiliated faculty with CCU’s student-driven publishing lab, the Athenaeum Press; and Alli Crandell, director of the Athenaeum Press, have been involved working on this project with Sylvie Page, filmmaker and professor in the Department of Communications Design at Hochschule Mainz, through the Hochschule Mainz’s Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) framework. In June 2022, Mann traveled to Germany to meet with Page, make a presentation to her students, and discuss the potential of a collaborative project. Page traveled to CCU in September 2022 to continue the mutual exploration of universities, student bodies, and facilities. There she met with Crandell and Mann to develop a schedule for the project and held a preliminary workshop with students registered for HFA 391.
“We decided to work together because we have a small mission,” said Page. “We want to make sure the students have another point of view, another life perspective. And through that collaboration, through that exchange, we want to eliminate mutual cliches and prejudices about Germany and America. With such big countries like America and Germany, it’s very easy to work among stereotypes, cliches, and prejudices. And those very things bring us very often to war.”
Page has done COIL projects with universities across the world, and in fact has worked with CCU faculty before, both in online collaborative contexts and in inviting CCU faculty to teach at Hochschule Mainz. However, Multiversum is the first project between creative departments and the first to expand beyond the digital platform to include student travel, a full exhibit experience in Mainz, and a corresponding exhibit in the Conway/Myrtle Beach area.
“We wanted an opportunity to be able to showcase this project domestically for those who aren’t able to travel to Germany and to offer students here an opportunity to present on their work within the [Myrtle Beach Art] museum,” said Crandell. “But the project also represents a launching off point for the Press as an international collaborator, to think about short-term projects and collaborations and refining the press as a sandbox in an experimental space where we can try out particular programs.”
Mann noted that as he observed German/American student interaction week after week as the project developed, he was pleased with the amount of time the students spent discussing a wide range of cultural topics outside the project.
“The cohesion that happened with some of the groups was fantastic to watch,” said Mann. “They would meet outside of class to talk about life in general – how is it to live in their country versus our country? And I would hear these stories from my students. One said, ‘The first time we met, we talked for hours about everything but this project.’”
Jay Orcutt ’23, who was recently part of the first CCU cohort to graduate with a B.F.A. in visual communication design, said the experience was fun, hard work, and illuminating.
“It was really great, and the German students were wonderful to work with,” said Orcutt. “They were so welcoming, and we had an amazing time. We really connected and shared stories of the United States and Germany, and we came to the conclusion that we’re not that different.”