SKETCH MODEL: Olin College Creative Residency
Please note: our third resident has been chosen for 2020-21, and this will close out the current grant funds for this work.
Olin College of Engineering is seeking applicants for its creative residency program, an initiative that’s part of Sketch Model, supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to bring artists and other creative practitioners to Olin’s campus to awaken the political and cultural contexts for technology. We’re seeking individuals or collectives whose work is significantly housed in the arts and humanities and whose interests might intersect in provocative and convivial ways with a small undergraduate college where all students major in engineering. The residency is a one-year opportunity for creative practitioners to carry out independent projects, collaborative engagement with students and faculty, and campus-wide events. Practitioners can come from the fine arts, design and architecture, craft, music, theatrical or dance performance, film, writing, new media, and the many hybrid forms of socially engaged and durational practices in contemporary global culture. Women and historically underrepresented communities are especially encouraged to apply. We are now seeking applications for our 2020-21 academic year. Deadline for applications is November 15 at midnight.
Olin College was established to re-invent engineering education. We welcomed our first class of students in 2002. A small-scale “lab school” with a large impact, Olin is an innovative leader in transformative higher education, welcoming weekly visitors to its campus from all over the world—thus far, over 800 visits from 55 countries since the school was founded. Our curriculum emphasizes human-centered design, real-world collaborations, and co-constructed pedagogies that partner students with faculty for authentic learning. Our presence in the Boston area connects our work to likeminded leaders in higher education, including a formal and active partnership with Wellesley and Babson Colleges. Olin operates free of departments, tenure structure, and traditional disciplinary divisions, and our tiny scale allows for an unusual amount of freedom and genuine community for its 350 undergraduates.
While the majority of our faculty come from fields of engineering and the sciences, our faculty also include scholars with expertise in anthropology, history, psychology, the fine arts, musical performance, design, and more. All students at Olin major in engineering, and they all take a minimum of 28 credit hours in the Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences (AHS). Our AHS faculty create innovative, project-based, hands-on curricular experiences for our students that pose big questions; their courses are unlikely to be found in a course catalog anywhere else. But our community is hungry for additional and new engagements in the arts and humanities, and in summer 2017, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded Olin with a grant to fund three initiatives: hosting creative residents on campus, sending our students as summer interns to arts organizations nation-wide, and inviting arts and humanities scholars to campus to workshop their own STEM-arts curricula for their home institutions.
We call our residency program an opportunity for “Creatives-in-Reference”—a variation on the traditional residency model, one in which we imagine a resident with a more community-facing role. Where traditional residencies often emphasize individually driven, private practice, we’re interested in practitioners who can propose a project(s) that would be inherently social and collaborative: a figure who would be more available “in reference” than a lone creative. (See more information on the role in the Q & A below.)
Funding and Provisions:
The stipend for the year is $75,000. The creative will also have a $10,000 budget for events on campus. If desired, creatives will have access to all fabrication facilities: wood and metal shops, CNC machines, 3D printers, materials science labs, biology wet labs, sewing machines, screen printing tools, and more. Our campus was built in 2001 and is fully and meaningfully ADA compliant. Reach out with other questions you might have about access needs.
Requirements for application:
Submit your application, including links to work, CV, three references (contact info only, no letters), and answers to three essay questions we’ve provided (and listed below).
Using no more than 2000 words, divided as you like:
How might you use a residency year at Olin? Show us the topics, themes, and possible artifacts or events or performances in a project you could pursue. We know these experiences would need to be crafted and emergent in real time! But give us an idea for a proposal that would look like a successful engagement. What might it look like, a prototype that’s being hatched? We know you have to squint a little to see the promise of an idea, but give us the contours, the questions, the energy of the possible in drawings, 3D models, narrative, video, or something else that makes sense for you.
How do you imagine the “in-reference” aspect of the work in your proposed project? This experience would simultaneously be for your independent work and for collaborations in the community. “In-reference” could mean lots of things, depending on the actors involved. How might you shape the definition of the role, when you consider both your own work in the future and the possible futures for engineering education?
What does the experience of your residency look like for a student? You might consider the experiences that you either did or did not have as a creative person in training: what worked and what didn’t? How might you sculpt conditions so that students have a point of entry to your work, and so that students have a way to ask themselves what might be a new path for their future in engineering?
Q and A:
Who is eligible?
Early, mid-, and late-career practitioners and/or scholars in the arts or humanities who have an interest in a significant collaborative project that will engage some aspect of engineering and/or engineering education. Collectives are also eligible to apply. International applicants are welcome. You do not have to be full time on this project, but the engagement on campus would need to be significant (see next question).
Do I have to move to Boston?
You don’t. We’re committed to making the residency accessible and attainable for people who have other life and work commitments. We imagine this to be a full-time position with some time on campus and some time off campus. The exact arrangement can be customized to a resident’s project and life situation. Please note that housing is not provided.
Would I have space to work?
Yes. We’ll work with you to create the kind of space(s) you need to get the work done. You would also have access to a desk and printer, etc., for office needs.
What’s the timeline for the process?
The Call for Applications closes at midnight on November 15. We’ll conduct phone interviews with finalists in November and December, and we’ll have a decision near the end of January, 2020. The official start date for the residency would be August 15, 2020—roughly two weeks before the first day of classes.
Who are we looking for?
We’re looking for individuals or collectives who have a point of view about the work of technology in culture: where technology lives in the world, how its meanings are defined, who its goods are for, etc. We want to see ideas for lively engagement with engineering students in classrooms, whether those engagements intersect with hardware (mechanical or electrical engineering), software (computer science), bioengineering, other applied sciences, design at all scales, or related ideas. Olin has engineering specialties in robotics, sustainable systems, adaptive and assistive technologies, UI/UX design, and much more. And we’re interested in learning new paths for integrating technical education with artistic/humanistic practices. Even if you’re at the beginning stages of a new idea that would mix engineering and the arts or humanities, we’d love to hear from you! Women and underrepresented groups are especially encouraged to apply.
Is this just another arts-plus-sciences experience?
We want this residency to be different. We’ve seen plenty of interdisciplinary collaborations between artists and scientists that are complementary models for learning—experimental and aesthetic collaborations that produce beautiful artifacts but, in the end, perhaps little else. We’re hoping to see the residency engage engineers as whole people: as makers of technical and cultural objects or systems; as civic actors with many stakeholders in their work; as developing individuals who seek professional pathways they’ve not yet imagined. Bring us your ideas for projects that include events, encounters, immersive experiences, invited guests, and more.
Why not “Artist in Residence”? What would the experience look like as a “Creative- in-Reference”?
As a Creative-in-Reference, you would have two homes. Inside the curriculum, your home would be in course collaboration: one in the fall semester and one in the spring, one project within a class that will be taught by Olin faculty. (See our course catalog here, but also note that we offer many experimental “special topics” courses every semester!) Experienced practitioner-educators may also propose their own special-offering courses, if they wish to.
Inside the broader institution, your home would be in our unusual Library. The Olin Library is partly designed as a quiet space for contemplative work, but predominantly as an open space for fabrication and collaborative work. We house the weekly “Stay Late And Create” (SLAC) student organization that sponsors late-night creative activity. Our Library is a hub for our community, and we want you at the heart of it. Based in the Library, Creatives-in-Reference would maintain a porous practice, pursuing personal projects in a fashion that welcomes community engagement and exchange. The Library would be a place where faculty, staff, and students may seek you out, while others may serendipitously find you for the first time.
In the Library, we would create a studio for you: a space for you to work, solo if desired, but also to work with others. In your time at Olin, we hope the Library may become a space that reflects you as a whole person. Your willingness to share habits of mind, your side projects, your triumphs and doubts, and your perspectives will be as meaningful as the technicalities of your practice.
Do I have to “speak engineering”?
You don’t! The “in-Reference” nature of our residency is framed as a social role that assumes residents will be interested in actively learning from the community if they’re new to the disciplines. A beginner’s mindset is very welcome here. We learn by doing, together. Our community openly operates with these values.
Would I have a say in which courses I would participate in?
Mellon PI Sara Hendren, Co-PI Benjamin Linder, and Senior Personnel Debbie Chachra and Jonathan Adler will facilitate introductions among the future resident(s) and Olin faculty in spring 2020, to align interests and scope for the work. You’ll certainly have a say in your placement; we imagine this as an all-parties matchmaking process.
What if I have more questions?
We’re sure you have them! Please, don’t hesitate to write to us at email@example.com. We’d be happy to help you determine if pursuing a full application makes sense based on your specific circumstances and aspirations.