|Derek Patterson introduces artwork to students|
On Thursday, November 16, I hosted visual artist, sculptor, and graduate student Derek Patterson in one of my African American literature courses. We expanded the space of the classroom by coordinating the exhibit of Patterson's artwork in Lovejoy Library, giving passersby opportunities to attend and view as well.
The event was primarily attended by my students - all first-year African American men -- enrolled in the course. After a brief introduction of his work, the students took some time to look over Patterson's artwork, which included four large art pieces and one sculpture. Then, we did a question and answer session with Patterson about his work.
Initially, the guys raised just a couple of questions about the artwork, and mostly asked Patterson about his experiences as a black man and his opinions on various news items involving black men. Patterson's artwork apparently served as a prompt for the wide-ranging conversations.
Toward the end, one of my students from a another class asked a question that usefully steered the discussion in another direction. That student is a visual artist, so she was particularly interested in Patterson's approaches to composition. "How did you make that?" she asked. "How did you get those pictures on the [canvas]?" she wanted to know.
Patterson began responding, explaining his approaches to the actual composition of the works. Those composition questions and his responses led to new, additional questions from the guys. I was intrigued by the turn toward composition questions at the end, but I was also reminded how important it was for the guys to interact with an artist about his views as a black man on a variety of issues in the world.
• Fall programming 2017