Calligraphy class with incarcerated scholars

Week One:

I just got back from teaching my first calligraphy class at the prison, and since so many colleagues have expressed interest in hearing how it goes, I wanted to put down a few quick thoughts:

-Applications: There are a lot of useful applications for teaching calligraphy in a college-level class (either within a prison or not). The main one for me in today’s discussions was using it as an additional way to help the men contextualize and find relevancy in historical documents and time periods. By gaining skills to understand how the letters were made, they are able to think about the process of sharing and creating information, and in so doing think about the impact that has on society.

-Tools: We used an affordable starter set of items, including graph paper pads for practice, plastic rulers, no. 2 pencils, and chisel-edged markers (much easier to bring in than a pile of nibs and pens. Cheaper, too). The men get to keep their supplies so that they can practice. For next week, we’ll be using slightly heavier-weight paper (we’re using sketch paper) to do projects.
N.B.: bring your calligraphy inks to class in plastic jars, not glass, if you do want to do a demo with nibs and ink. I’ll be doing a demo with ink next week…

-I structured today’s class to focus on learning the basics of calligraphy (pen angle/pen width, using ductus, etc.) so the men could focus on getting started with practicing right away and have lots of time to experiment and ask me questions. This seemed like a good approach, since everyone wanted to try all three hands I hoped to teach them, and having so many questions and answers helped everyone learn and improve more quickly than they may have if I just talked at them. You can find the materials I’m using for these classes in the ‘art instruction’ folder, which has the handouts and three ductus sheets I made.

-The handouts I made cover two main areas: the history of calligraphy, and how to do calligraphy. Next week, we’ll be discussing the history stuff while we work on creative projects using the letterforms we’ve learned, which will be helpful for contextualizing what they’ve been practicing.

-Today’s class reiterated some critical points about this kind of instructional work, which I mentioned in an earlier blog post: namely, keep the format loose (I bring in the ‘bones’ of the class and we build on those bones together based on students’ needs and interests), be flexible, have a sense of humor, and leave a lot of space for informal discussion and brainstorming.

-One thing I’ll add is to be encouraging (without being overwhelming) as well as encouraging experimentation and making mistakes. Calligraphy is a skill that no one learns overnight, and all our first attempts at new letterforms look sloppy. That can be defeating if you’re on your own, but in a supportive and curiosity-focused classroom space, that can be a fun challenge (at least for a lot of folks!)

-For designing these classes, one of my focal points is simple basic techniques and low-cost materials. That makes the class scaleable for me if I decide to do more such classes later, keeps it fun and engaging (and challenging, but not defeating) for students, and offers ideas for creative skill sets that are accessible. Calligraphy is great because the tools can be flexible (markers instead of nibs, etc) and once you have the skill down for making letterforms, there is a lot you can do with it. We’re brainstorming about future classes next time, but my suggestion will be something to do with zine making and collage.

Week Two:

-I had an amazing second week working with the guys–they practiced the letterforms quite a bit and came back with fantastic examples and great questions. We spend the second session as another work session, where we talked more in depth about materials and where I helped them troubleshoot their letterform construction. I brought them each a piece of Arches hot press paper (which is the standard in a lot of my calligraphy classes for either final projects or for solid draft pieces) so they could use it for an art project, if they so desired, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what they come up with.

-One of my big goals for the second session was to incorporate a brainstorming session where we would decide what to cover in our next session(s) together. I had the idea for a zine making and collage session, as I mentioned above, but prior to doing that they wanted some grounding in composition and design. So our next class together will probably be a design fundamentals + composition course, which will be great both for them as artists and to give them a good head start on a marketable skill to bring to employers when they are released.

Thanks as always to Common Good for bringing me in to teach–it is consistently a joy and an honor. And thanks to my mentor and friend Cheryl Jacobsen for endless hours of calligraphy instruction, as well as support and advice as I designed this class. To close, I’ll point you to this Instagram post, which may be one of my favorite teaching moments ever.


Funding: Week Of October 2nd

Another installment in this series of funding opportunities! I’ve organized them by field and tacked miscellaneous ones at the end. There are a lot of great funding opportunities I’ve found this week and, as always, if you know of one I didn’t include make sure to add it!

Library & Information Science/Museum Studies:
National Museum of the American Indian: 10 week internships.
Volunteer Internships and Research Assistantships (unpaid): National Gallery of Art
Gerd Muehsam Award: For graduate student papers/projects on art librarianship
YALSA/Frances Henne/VOYA ¬†Grant: For small scale projects that promote research that responds to YALSA’s research agenda.

Art and Art History:
Wolfsonian Fellowships: For those with a Master’s or PhD who wish to study visual art & material culture, particularly from the Netherlands.
Yaddo Fellowships: For artists’ residency in Yaddo community. Deadline January 1st.
Infuse: For building collaborations in the arts in Australia.
Visiting Scholars: at the Yale Center for British Art; predoctoral and postdoc opportunities available

Twentieth Century Japan Research Award: For those researching recent Japanese history.
John W. Hartman Center: Travel grants for using the collection of sales, marketing, and advertising history items.
Center for Jewish History: Fellowships
University of Kansas Medical Center: Fellowship for study of medical history.
Predoctoral Residencies: For those in Byzantine, pre-Columbian, or Garden and Landscape Studies
International Committee for the History of Technology: prize for a book or dissertation. Also have an article prize.
Marshall Foundation: Awards for 20th century military and diplomatic history.
Research Society for Victorian Periodicals: Curran Fellowship for research; also a book prize
American Antiquarian Society: short-term fellowships
Humanities and Social Sciences:
Newberry Library Short-Term Fellowships in the Humanities: Mostly for PhD candidates and post-doctoral scholars.
John Carter Brown Library Short-Term Fellowships: For a variety of research topics that utilize the library’s collections.
American Research Institute in Turkey: For those wishing to conduct Humanities and Social Science research in Turkey.
Summer Institute for Israel Studies: For faculty designing courses on Israel studies.
Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Program: Fellowships for humanities and social sciences–this year’s theme is “Media: Cuneiform to Digital and Beyond”
Associate Fellowship (non-stipendiary): University of Victoria Centre for Studies in Religion and Society
Artz Summer Program: For use of Oberlin’s special collections

Women’s/Gender Studies:
Centre for Women’s and Gender Studies: Visiting faculty opportunities

Publication Awards and Miscellaneous Other Awards:
Working Class Studies Association: Awards for publications and dissertations.
Hagley Prize: For a book on business history.
Samsung Ho-Am Prize: For achievement in science, engineering, medicine, arts, and community service; for people of Korean descent.
Hispanic Scholarship Fund: For graduate and undergraduate students
Five Colleges Fellowship: For students from underrepresented groups who are working on their dissertations.
American Association of University Women: Career development grants

Teaching Awards:
Bernath Lecture Prize: For exceptional teaching of foreign relations.
Jose Vasconcelos Award: For educators.