Students looking at African and African-American art in the Spencer Museum of Art’s Stephen H. Goddard Study Center. Photograph by Ryan Waggoner (c) Spencer Museum of Art.

A course connecting Haiti and Louisiana through art

In Fall 2018, Professor Cécile Accilien (African and African-American Studies) taught a course for the University of Kansas Honors Program entitled “Art Connection: Haiti and Louisiana.” This first-year seminar engaged on the historical connections between Haiti and Louisiana through art. Students worked on a variety of assignments, including a brief précis and a final paper and presentation. You can read the assignments and samples of student work (anonymized and shared with their permission).

Please feel free to use or draw from these assignments in your own teaching.

Students learning in the Spencer Museum of Art galleries. Photograph by Ryan Waggoner (c) Spencer Museum of Art.

Assignment #1: Writing a Précis

Choose a work of art from the current exhibit The Ties that Bind: Haiti,  the United States, and  the Work of Ulrick Jean-Pierre in Comparative Perspective and write a 1 page précis about it.

Here are some questions to consider:

  1. What drew you to that piece and what made you choose that particular work of art?
  2. How does the work of art relate to the theme of the class (Haitian Culture and Identity)?
  3. What do you think about the work of art? What do you think the artist/maker might be trying to express?
  4. What are some of the stories that the work conveys?
  5. What is the context in which the work of art was created?
  6. How do you think that particular work of art connects to the larger title of the exhibit “The Ties that Bind: Haiti, the United States and the Work of Ulrick Jean-Pierre in Comparative Perspective”?

Guidelines to write your précis

In the first paragraph describe the work of art, the name of the artist, the date it was created, the type of art work (sculpture, drawing, oil painting, portrait, watercolor, landscape), the material (oil on canvas, watercolor, granite, plastic)

Sample of Student Work(pdf)

Graduate student Tyler Allen leads a group of students through The Ties that Bind. Photograph by Ryan Waggoner (c) Spencer Museum of Art.

Assignment #2: Final Paper and Presentation

For their final presentation students had to choose a topic to explore further based on the theme of the course “Art Connections: Haiti and Louisiana”.  Students had to use some of the themes/key concepts we have discussed in class as well as the main themes of the exhibit. Their work focused on the following themes:

  • Identity
  • Representation
  • Revolt/Revolution
  • Role of Women
  • Im/migration
  • Link between Haiti and the United States
  • The Louisiana Purchase
  • The Notion of “Creating Dangerously”

Samples of Student Work: