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Faculty Receive Support to Create Innovative Curriculum

Courses to draw connections, insights between historical and modern traditions in music, art

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March 2, 2016 | by Hilary Hurd Anyaso

Mary Weismantel

Mary Weismantel

Ryan Donohey

Ryan Dohoney

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Northwestern University professors Mary Weismantel and Ryan Dohoney have received The Alumnae of Northwestern University Award for Curriculum Development. They will spend the summer developing two new undergraduate courses designed to draw connections and insights between historical and modern traditions in music and art. 

The awards are administered by the Office of the Provost and provide funds in the amount of $12,500 to support the development of innovative course materials and new modes of teaching over the summer in preparation for the upcoming academic year.

Weismantel, professor of anthropology in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, will develop a course to learn about art and architecture through the context of Native American educational and cultural traditions, environmental sustainability and issues of diversity, inequality and politics.

Dohoney, assistant professor of musicology in the Bienen School of Music, will develop a course to better understand rare, novel and experimental musical scores through performance and research in the university’s archives.

Drawing connections between past and present art and music, each of these courses will encourage students to consider important historical and cultural contributions to their disciplines.

The two courses embody the innovation that is paramount for recipients of The Alumnae Award for Curriculum Development. Through the interdisciplinary nature of Weismantel’s approach to ancient cultural ties to modern art, and Dohoney’s connective incorporation of historical and contemporary experimental music traditions, these classes will help to grow and strengthen the undergraduate curriculum at Northwestern in creative ways.

Art of the Ancient Americas

Weismantel’s course will replace Art History 228: Pre-Columbian Art. With an expanded and updated syllabus, this course will allow students to enroll for credit in art history as well as anthropology and Latin American studies. 

The class will introduce students to the deep cultural heritage of the Americas through their connection to modern art and architecture. Additionally, the class will allow students to connect with an image-based syllabus rather than relying mainly on text.

“This course fills a lacuna in American education, in which we do not learn the deep history of our own continent” Weismantel said. “Students recognize this and value it.”

Weismantel is eager to respond to student requests for Native American/indigenous studies courses. She also is hopeful that her class will “validate the cultural heritage of many of our students of color, and (give) students from European, Asian and other backgrounds a basic familiarity with Latino, Latin American and Native American culture and history.” 

Experimental Music in Theory and Practice 

In his course, Dohoney will help students discover U.S. and European experimental traditions in music as both scholars and performers, allowing them to learn from Chicago’s contemporary musical community and from archived works in Northwestern’s Deering Library.

Dohoney has noticed a shift in the current musical landscape. He hopes that his new course will help build a sustainable curriculum that supports the vision of the Bienen Institute for New Music, in addition to helping build a foundation for students’ future musical ventures.

“Over the past three years, I’ve become more involved in the city’s new music scene as a performer and concertgoer,” Dohoney said. “It’s clear that something amazing is happening right now in Chicago. I want (my students) to learn both the history of experimental practice and its living presence in our city.”

Dohoney would like to help students devise career strategies and develop practical skills that will empower them to thrive in the contemporary musical climate by connecting them with historical experimental music traditions and members of Chicago’s experimental music community.

Topics: University News