University at Buffalo
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Art & Design

Art History

Visual Studies

Millie Chen: Pilot Exchange in Visual Studies with Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing

January 14, 2011  by: Dom

The following article appears in the Fall 2010 edition of UB International, the newsletter of the UB Office of International Education.

A pilot exchange program between the UB Department of Visual Studies (VS) and the School of Fine Art at the Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) in Beijing took place during Spring 2010. CAFA is one of two of the most respected academic art institutions in China (in 2008, it was identified as “China’s top art school” by The New York Times). Among its alumni are internationally renowned artists such as Xu Bing and Zhang Huan.

The academy comprises six schools: School of Fine Art, School of Chinese Painting, School of Design, School of Architecture, School of Humanities, School of City Design.

During April 2010, three senior CAFA faculty members, Professors Wang Huaxiang, Li Xiaolin and Gao Rongsheng, came to UB for a one-week residency in the Dept. of Visual Studies.

From late May to mid-June, four Visual Studies faculty members and eight UB students (from Visual Studies, Architecture, Anthropology and Media Study) participated in the exchange residency at CAFA.

The CAFA residency consisted of a study abroad course—Crossing Paths – Redrawing the City Street—taught by VS faculty Stephanie Rothenberg and Joan Linder; public lectures delivered by VS faculty Millie Chen, Joan Linder and Stephanie Rothenberg on individual research and VS programs; critique sessions with graduate and upper level undergraduate students of both UB and CAFA; studio visits and guided tours with Beijing based curators and gallery directors; participation in area cultural events (e,g, attendance at numerous exhibition openings; visits to relevant cultural sites, attendance at multi-media performances); and attendance at area academic events (including the New Media Conference at Tsinghua University, co-presented by Academy of Arts and Design Tsinghua University and Parsons The New School for Design).

The Beijing residency culminated in a UB/CAFA student exhibition at CAFA, attended by both UB and CAFA faculty and students.

Since Spring 2009, formal discussions to develop the exchange have taken place between the Chair of the Dept. of Visual Studies, Millie Chen, the Dean of the School of Fine Art of CAFA, Prof. Su Xinping, and the Deputy Director of the Printmaking Dept., Prof. Li Fan. VS Prof. Bingyi Huang made important contributions to the ongoing discussions between VS and CAFA.

This endeavor is demonstrably sustainable. The VS faculty who had the opportunity to participate in this year’s CAFA residency are very impressed by the aesthetic and intellectual quality of student work at CAFA (only 10% of applicants are accepted into the academy every year) and by the progressive attitude and enthusiasm for academic collaboration on the part of respective CAFA faculty.

Likewise, the participating CAFA faculty are impressed and excited by the results of the pilot exchange in terms of the discourse generated, the resulting student work, and in what CAFA faculty observed from their visit to the Dept. of Visual Studies at UB.

Talks have begun in earnest with relevant CAFA faculty for further refining and intensifying the exchange to maximize the pedagogical benefits and professional opportunities to both UB and CAFA students and faculty.

The second exchange will occur in 2010/11 or 2011/12 with the following goals: develop an intensified academic exchange and research/creative collaboration between select VS and CAFA students by creating a specialized curriculum that will span a full year; develop a more thorough collaboration between the faculty of both institutions in writing the curriculum; realize a cross-institutional student exhibition of professional caliber, based on work generated by the exchange, for possible presentation at a contemporary art museum in Beijing, and a related publication of student research and production.

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