Exploring Jamaican Arts and Culture
Co-Directors: Drs. Karen Hutzel and Joni Acuff
This study abroad course, for graduate and undergraduate students across the university, focused on arts and cultural practices in schools, colleges, museums, and cultural institutions in Jamaica. The program is in partnership with the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts in Kingston, Jamaica and took place June 2015 and June 2017. Students stayed in dorms on the college campus of Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, met cultural ambassadors and leaders, arts educators, and government officials, and visited cultural sites in and around the capital, Kingston, such as the Institute of Jamaica and Music Museum, Trench Town Studios, Seville Great House, the historic Dunn's River Falls, The Little Theatre for a National Pantomime performance, Bob Marley Museum, and local high schools.
Students were able to explore and analyze policies, practices, content and pedagogies of the arts in Jamaica in comparison and contrast with our understandings of such in the United States. Additionally, students worked on their visual literacy skills by reading and critiquing visual and contextual representations of Caribbean arts and culture. Such an analysis was meant to broaden our understanding of arts and culture in general and specific to Jamaica, particularly cultural practices we have often come to accept within our national and local experiences. Students were lead through investigations about race relations, culture, and language in Jamaica. Students were asked to reflect on their learning through writing and visual creation. These products of learning were assessed based on students’ reflections of cultural similarities and differences and their impact on the practices we observed and experienced in the settings described above. Students were asked to reflect on personal experiences in the arts as a point of reference and as a space through which to critically analyze cultural norms and accepted practices.