The most common way to explore an issue is to read as much about the topic as we are able. That always has been the heart of the annual Discussion Book, a vehicle for introducing difficult dialogues and learning outcomes while uniting undergraduates, faculty and staff.
This is the sixth year for a campus Discussion Book and the fifth year the Birmingham Museum of Art has been a community partner. However, for the first time, there will be a heightened emphasis on exploring the way in which artists develop projects that will help us better understand issues central to the Discussion Book.
Marilyn Kurata, Ph.D., director for Core Curriculum Enhancement, says Warren St. John’s Outcasts United provides a perfect opportunity to integrate art with dialogue about often-controversial issues and prepare UAB students to participate in a global society.
“Sometimes students are so profession-driven that they neglect to develop the whole person,” Kurata says. “We want them to be aware of the multiple disciplines that can contribute to their academic knowledge, well-being and competency as future citizens of our society. We’re focusing on art this year because that’s not been an area we’ve highlighted in the past.
“It’s very easy for students to connect the Discussion Book with important social, scientific or health-care issues and sometimes even with issues of literary merit,” Kurata says. “But often they don’t make the broader connection to other less obvious disciplines.”
Birmingham Museum of Art Curator Ron Platt showed students a photo of an installation piece by artist José Bedia before St. John’s presentation to new students on Aug. 16. The piece is an excellent opportunity to learn more about how the artist explores the same themes of cultural identity and assimilation that are the focus of Outcasts United, Kurata says.
All UAB students, faculty, and staff are invited to see this large work in person from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 24 during the annual UAB Discussion Book College Night at the Birmingham Museum of Art. A free bus shuttle will run from Blazer Hall to the Birmingham Museum of Art and back beginning at 5:15 p.m. Everyone can enjoy free food, entertainment, a scavenger hunt with prizes and docent-led or independent tours of the museum’s world-class collections.
College Night at the Birmingham Museum of Art provides students with a fun introduction to a valuable cultural and research resource for their future use. This year, three of the Discussion Book Dialogues, a monthly series that complements the annual Discussion Book, will feature presentations on artists or artwork related to issues relevant to Outcasts United.
Samantha Kelly, curator of education at the Birmingham Museum of Art, will present Sept. 16, and Emily Hanna, curator of the Arts of Africa and the Americas at the museum will present in January. UAB Art and Art History Professor Jessica Dallow, Ph.D., will present Nov. 18.
“These presentations will remind the whole campus of the Birmingham Museum of Art as a local cultural gem, as well as of our own wholly accessible Visual Arts Gallery on campus,” Kurata says. “The gallery, which is located on the first floor of the Humanities Building, features exhibitions of famous artists and, hopefully, soon-to-be-famous artists. There are student and faculty exhibitions, and this year there will be an exhibition of work by alumni.”
The Discussion Book is selected each year on literary merit and relevance to learning outcomes central to UAB’s goals for undergraduate education. It raises complex ethical questions, is relevant to contemporary social issues and broadens the reader’s understanding of diversity in a meaningful way. The Discussion Book was developed as part of the Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP). Copies of Outcasts United can be purchased at the Barnes & Noble UAB Bookstore.
Open to campus and community, the UAB Discussion Book Dialogues series meets once monthly from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in Heritage Hall Room 549 unless otherwise noted.
This academic year’s schedule:
• Thursday, Sept. 16, Samantha Kelly, Curator of Education, Birmingham Museum of Art, “The Power of the Creative Act: How Museums Transform and Unite Community”
• Thursday, Oct. 21, Kristi Menear, Ph.D., associate professor in Human Studies, “Outcomes of Physical Activity in All Children”
• Thursday, Nov. 18, Jessica Dallow, Ph.D., associate professor of Art and Art History, “Contemporary Artists and Exile”
• Thursday, Dec. 16, Josh Carter, director, Study Away, “An Interactive Simulation of Cross-Cultural Communication”
• Thursday, Jan. 20, Emily Hanna, Curator of the Arts of Africa and the Americas, Birmingham Museum of Art, “Unity and Diversity: African Art and the Creation of Community”
• Thursday, Feb. 17, Study Away Student Panel, “Lessons Learned by UAB Students Abroad” (Note: This event will be in the HUC Alumni Auditorium).
• Thursday, March 24, UAB Soccer representative
• Thursday, April 21, Scotty Colsom, Office of Economic Development, Mayor’s Office, “Birmingham’s Sister City and Other International Programs.”