Pre-College Programs

September 6, 2017

Instructor Snapshot: Phoenix Savage

Artist Phoenix Savage, Ambient Void, Eggshells

Ambient Void, eggshells; Phoenix Savage

Course instructors are a vital part of the Summer@Brown experience. Many are on the faculty at Brown University and all come to Summer@Brown with a diverse range of backgrounds, experience and knowledge that they are eager to impart on Summer@Brown students. In this Snapshot series, we’ll check in with an instructor to find out more about how they approach teaching at Summer@Brown and what students can expect to take away from their class.

We spoke with Phoenix Savage, an assistant professor of art at Tougaloo College, a historically black college in Jackson, Mississippi, and 53-year University partner of Brown. This summer, Professor Savage taught “When Old Artists Were You: Gaining Your Edge through Critical/Creative Making” for Summer@Brown.

She shared some thoughts on teaching at Summer@Brown and what she hopes students take away from her class.

I am a sculptor, I work in cast metal and installation art. I am one of very few African American female artists who works in cast iron as a fine art medium. I currently teach at Tougaloo College and that is my connection to Summer@Brown. The two schools have a long-standing partnership that supports student/faculty exchange. This year was my second opportunity to teach an experimental sculpture course with Summer@Brown.

This summer we narrowed our focus to using paper. We began with making the actual paper. The paper-making process took the full first week. Once each student had at least 20 sheets of handmade paper they constructed sculptures from the paper. Students were free to express their sculpture in any direction, the only true restriction was size so that students would be able to transport the sculpture home.

Artist Phoenix Savage, Ambient Void

Ambient Void, Phoenix; Phoenix Savage

The subject matter I teach is important not because it is Art, or Art is great - it is - but the true reason to engage the courses I teach is for the opportunity to allow the mind time to explore itself. Our lives are extremely busy, filled with mundane and extraordinary events on a revolving basis. Taking my Summer@Brown art class is gifting the brain a chance to slow down, go deeply inward and manifest a three-dimensional version of the student's inner thoughts. It's a joy.

Student work from Savage's class

Top left: "Yifan made a boat like object that had sets of stairs that lead no where, with the inclusion of beautiful white spirals." Top right: Paper making. Bottom left: “Alexia selected to make a series of geometric shapes known as a dodecagon, a 12 sided form. She then organize them into an abstract concave form that offered a sense of depth based on its inner shadow.” Bottom right: “Abby, also using hand made paper, had the idea to rip strips from her hand made paper and create rolls that were inserted into styrofoam to create a Sun burst.”

It takes students a minute to adjust to the pace, and adjust to the idea that it is ok not to have had art skills prior to taking the class. We are all creative when allowed to be so. I love my time teaching here. While I’m teaching, I am also exploring with the students. Their thoughts bring freshness to my own thinking. I do not present art lessons as if I hold the only answers. The point of the class is to explore all possible answers. Once students catch on to that premise of the class, they go into groove mode and it is a delight to see.

To learn more about what it was like to take Professor Phoenix’s class, read about student Abby’s experience this summer. »