Learning Community Bonds Art, Literature, and Students at LSC-Montgomery

Students can enrich their sensibilities and stir up their creative and literary gifts through a unique art and literature learning community offered this fall at Lone Star College-Montgomery. Building on the same interdisciplinary class that took place last fall, award-winning professors Ron Heckelman and Denise Lorenz are partnering once again to offer students a distinct opportunity to discover how deeply literature and art are culturally connected.

Heckelman, professor of English, and Lorenz, professor of art, have combined English 2332 (World Literature) and Arts 1301 (Art Appreciation) into a learning community, a set of courses focused on a common theme that allows students to gain a deeper understanding of each discipline and how they are connected. Students earn the usual amount of credits for each course, which are offered back to back with the same students in each class.

“This learning community was very successful last fall,” said Lorenz. “It was an exciting class to teach.”

“Art history and literature classes have been combined before, but including hands-on art projects makes this particular learning community special,” said Heckelman. “Linking the studio projects with the traditional art history and literature represents what interdisciplinary education is all about.”

In this learning community, students work on personal art projects that relate to the historical and cultural background of the literature they read. More than 20 students participated last fall, and it proved to be an informative, inspirational, and rewarding experience.

Former LSC-Montgomery student Kayleigh Overman has studied literature before, but felt the class provided her a more well rounded look into the subject of art.

“As an English major, I tend to understand the written word better than art, but this class showed me a deep correlation between the two and put art into a new context,” said Overman. “It was fun and engaging, and I would definitely recommend it to other students.”

Hands-on activities, group discussions, writing and reading assignments, and a class field trip to the Houston Museum of Fine Arts provide students a chance to work together and realize the harmonious relationship between the two subjects. In the class, students learn to view poetry and other literature as works of art and in turn, see artwork as having a deep connection to history and culture.

“The class discussions were utterly fulfilling and engaging and often created a desire for more study outside of class,” said student Candace Carter, who registered for the courses not knowing what to expect. “The course intertwined art and literature beautifully¬–from the areas of concentration, right down to the instructors themselves.”

Although the course involves many hands-on art projects like painting or clay formation, having a background in art is not a prerequisite for the class.

“During the fall, students were reluctant at first with their art projects,” said Lorenz, “but once they understood they were not being graded as artists, they were freed and seemed to excel in all their works. We had some students with non-artist backgrounds create some beautiful works.”

Heckelman and Lorenz work to vary the class topics and daily structure. Last fall, during a discussion on Greek myth and drama, students etched patterns in scratchboard to mimic what they saw on ancient Greek vases. During another class, after studying the role of masks in African poetry, religion, and art, students created their own individual, cross-cultural masks.

“Creating the masks led into an unexpected, self-reflective discussion on identity and role-playing, not only in literature, but in our daily lives,” said Heckelman.

The course also includes special group projects in which students present something from the course they want to study more deeply. Heckelman and Lorenz recalled a particular group’s project on African art and culture, which stemmed from the mask-making project.

“At the end of their presentation, the group taught the class some rudimentary steps in African ceremonial dance. We didn’t know it, but one student was a dance instructor. It was great to see her apply the principles of the class, as she was shining in her forte,” said Lorenz.

Overman’s project, which revolved around the idea of the heroic in Homer’s Odyssey and Joyce’s Ulysses, won first-place during the campus-wide Honors Program presentations, as well as first-place at the LSC-Montgomery annual Communicating Across the Curriculum conference.

“It has been my favorite project completed so far,” said Overman.

“Students may do honors projects within the learning community, like Overman did, but the two classes are not listed as honors courses,” explained Heckelman. “All students are eligible to register for the courses and join the learning community.”

For the upcoming fall semester, the instructors have planned to further integrate the two courses into as seamless of a community as possible.

The art and literature learning community will meet on Tuesday and Thursdays from 11:30 a.m. to 2:20 p.m. Spaces are limited for these classes, so prospective students should register as soon as possible to guarantee a spot.

For more information about the art and literature learning community offered this fall, please contact Ron Heckelman at ronh@LoneStar.edu or Denise Lorenz at denise.a.lorenz@LoneStar.edu.

LSC-Montgomery is located at 3200 College Park Drive, one-half mile west of Interstate 45, between Conroe and The Woodlands. For more information about the college, call (936) 273-7000, or visit Montgomery.LoneStar.edu.

Lone Star College System consists of five colleges, including CyFair, Kingwood, Montgomery, North Harris, and Tomball, six centers and Lone Star College-University Center. With over 51,000 students, it is the largest college system in the Houston area and the third largest community college district in Texas. To learn more, visit www.LoneStar.edu.