"Intuitive Survey”: Reilly Jensen’s Community-based art education exploration

November 10 2022
Reilly Jensen in Bat, Oman Reilly Jensen in Bat, Oman Reilly Jensen

Guest post by arts education MFA student Reilly Jensen

"Intuitive Survey” exhibition in the Gittins Gallery"Intuitive Survey” exhibition in the Gittins Gallery (Photo: Amelia Walchli)I came to the MFA in Community-based Art Education (CBAE) program as an archaeologist-turned-spy. My mission was to identify and obtain the collaborative skills of artists, to address systemic cultural heritage and contested narratives of the past. Utah's legacy includes unique historical, geographic, and social borderlands. It has always been home to travelers, migrants, and people who persisted at the edges and have woven their legacies together over time to create something new. In untangling these pasts in my work as an archaeologist, I was looking for ways to challenge, unite, and address them as an artist.

My favorite radical approach was to "learn by doing." In the CBAE program, I learned by doing. I learned that arts have the power not only to integrate disciplines but tell a story. Through the stories we convey as artists, we can include communities as creative collaborators, capable of changing our circumstances and realities. Together, we can tell and create our own stories while honoring the pathways and intentions of those who came before us.

Knowing everything is less important than getting out there and adapting with your boots on the ground. So I went out there, boots on, and I learned some great "secrets" of artists, like radical pedagogy, co-intentional educational approaches, and the power and weight of community relationships.

"Intuitive Survey” exhibition in the Gittins Gallery"Intuitive Survey” exhibition in the Gittins Gallery (Photo: Amelia Walchli)I put it all together into a community-based ceramics project for my MFA thesis with the Bat Archaeological Project, funded by the National Endowment for Humanities, at the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Bat, Khutum, and Al Ayn, in the Sultanate of Oman. There, I worked with scientists, artists, and local schools to harvest local clay and create ceramics, as a means to research Bronze-Age ceramics processes and generate questions about the cultural past and our relationships to it through the creation of heritage.

While the MFA thesis culminated in a local exhibition on campus, the work continues. You can find me gearing up for this coming field season, follow my process here or on Instagram: @quaffingreilly.