As the department chairperson of the VCU photo and film department phrased it, four photo and film workshops available to non-majors this spring is a way to open the fortress doors of the art school and reach out to the community.
The workshops will include “Antique Cameras” from March 1-2, “Image, Dialogue, and Community Engagement” from March 22-23, “My City Sings: Musique Concrete” from April 12-13 and “The Intimate Portrait” from April 26-27. Only the latter requires prior photo experience or owning any equipment.
Sasha Freyer, the chairperson of VCU’s photo and film department, said due to space within the department, it is often difficult for non-majors or students outside the art school to take a photo or film course.
“One thing we always wish we could do within context of curriculum is open up classes more to people who want to take a class outside the School of the Arts,” Freyer said. “This is an opportunity for the department to engage with the community.”
Freyer said the department did research on the other classes being offered throughout the community while choosing which workshops to include.
Interested students can register for workshops online, and the class caps at 16 students. Two of the courses are taught by photo and film instructors at VCU, one by a recent graduate and one by an emerging photographer from Chicago.
“Everyone brings such a rich context … with different backgrounds and their individuality,” said Dana Ollestad, the instructor for “My City Sings” in April. “With this workshop you have 12 different people bringing 12 different things to the table.”
Ollestad’s workshop uses handmade mics, as well as professional sound recording gear from the School of the Arts to teach students editing, spatialization and compositing techniques. Other workshops emphasize working with antique and vintage cameras, producing social and aesthetically engaging imagery and creating intimate portraits.
“When you free someone to play with different things it’s so enriching, and it brings out a really vibrant part of their identity,” Ollestad said.
The workshops are $175, although current VCU students, VCU School of the Arts alumni and members of the Commonwealth or Pollak Society receive a $25 discount. All of the workshops are hosted in the Pollak building on North Harrison Street. The price of the workshop compensates for the amount of time the students spend with the instructor and the facility costs.
“I really hope it’s more random than just art students,” Ollestad said. “I’m always down with the art kids, but one of my best experiences was teaching an (alternative) photo practice class to non-photo majors and these kids just tripped out and they were so out of the box because they’d never encountered something like that before.”
Freyer said the department’s plan is to have three or four workshops each semester and to develop them more as they progress. In the future, she said she would also like to see more outside artists work and meet with art students.
Registration forms are available at arts.vcu.edu/photofilm.com