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Russian Studies to Spearhead New "Studio R" Made Possible by New Innovation Grant

by Davidson College

Follow Us in Russia

Nine Davidson faculty are traveling to Russia May 19-June 2. We hope you will follow along with us on the Studio R Blog as we each reflect on the experience as it unfolds.

In spring 2014 the President's Office awarded the Studio R project, spearheaded by Russian Studies, with a New Innovation Grant. The Studio R project developed from lively conversations among Davidson’s Faculty Russia discussion group, with nine faculty members from a broad range of departments: Art, Dance, Theatre, English, Political Science, Psychology, and Russian Studies.

On May 19 we set off on a two-week adventure to Moscow and St. Petersburg! The Studio R trip will serve as a catalyst for new courses, new units within existing courses, new directions in faculty research, and plans for a campus-wide transdisciplinary 2017-2018 initiative on revolution to mark the 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution.

The name Studio R pays homage to Davidson’s new spaces for interactive pedagogy at the Center for Teaching and Learning: Studio D, dedicated to experimental technology in the classroom, and Studio M, a “maker space” inspired by our new Digital Studies program. As Studio R, our group turns to Russia itself as a creative laboratory of immersive transdisciplinary intellectual exchange with colleagues, alumni, and Russian peers . We will experience Russian culture through live performance, historical sites, and major collections of art and material culture. Just as importantly, we are initiating new professional connections with Russian directors, choreographers, and researchers, while simultaneously strengthening existing ties with Moscow-based Davidson alumni, colleagues at our host institute (Moscow State Institute for International Relations/MGIMO), peers at Bard-Smolny/St. Petersburg State University, former Davidson IIE/Fulbright teaching assistants, and Davidson students currently studying abroad in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Studio R represents a laboratory for the arts, humanities, and social sciences. Studios, by their nature, are for hands-on exploration. In this increasingly virtual world, we should not forget the irreplaceable importance of being on site. We cannot understand the scale of buildings and monuments without walking around them. To get a glimpse of a culture we must be surrounded by the language, smells, and sounds of people living their everyday lives. The archaeologist has her dig; the art historian his museums and galleries; the architectural historians have their urban spaces. All of these serve as a place for experimentation, comparison, and assessment. In order to teach and explain with integrity about scale, impression, proximity, relationships, geography, climate, light, and the logic for cultural practices different from our own, these objects and sites simply must be experienced in person. To see and to hear directly and empirically empowers us to engage students within the context of lived human experience. We hope to excite our students’ imaginations and intellects. Moreover, we will to lead by example in encouraging them to explore the world as a means to understanding across disciplines and across cultures.

Studio R—our two-week stay in Russia—truly marks the beginning rather than the end of our project. The relatively brief trip abroad will bear fruit over the course of the next four years, as we open new areas of research and develop new coursework and projects related to “revolution.” Our collaborative effort will culminate in a transdisciplinary campus-wide initiative in 2017-2018 with courses, lectures, exhibits, panels, and performances on “revolution,” both as it pertains to Russia, but also more broadly conceived: revolution in the arts and sciences, political revolutions, and perhaps an art exhibit with objects that quite literarily “revolve.” Studio R and the 2017 initiative it inspires offer a unique opportunity to model core liberal arts values of transdisciplinary intellectual inquiry at Davidson. We seek to inspire colleagues and students alike to consider the fundamental questions of what, when, where, why, and how of  “revolution” through multiple disciplinary lenses.