Dean of the School of Liberal Arts at the Savannah College of Art and Design, Kate Newell provides perspective about the education of liberal arts and why creativity is critical in making innovation happen across the creative arts, history, literature, writing, philosophy, sociology, psychology, anthropology and more.
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Hello, I'm Roy Sharples, and welcome to unknown origins podcast series, the purpose of which is to provide inspirational conversations with creative industry personalities on entrepreneurship, pop culture, art, music, film and fashion. Today's topic is liberal arts, for which I have the pleasure of chatting with Kate Newell, who is the Dean of the School of Liberal Arts at the Savannah College of Art and Design. are areas of research include adaptation, and intersections of literature and visual culture. She is the author of expanding adaptation networks, from illustration to normalization. This was published on Palgrave Macmillan in 2017. And has published essays on the topics of adaptation and illustration, as adaptation. Hello, and welcome, Kate. Hi, how are you? I'm doing great. How are you? I'm doing well, too. Thank you What inspired and attracted you into the liberal arts in the first place?Kate Newell:
Well, I think that's a really great question. I think that my background is in literature, even though my my specialty now is an adaptation studies. And I think that I was inspired early on in high school, and then in college by teachers and professors who were, of course passionate about what they were doing. But who really could could take a work of art or take a paragraph that someone had written or line of poetry, and walk the whole class through just the process by which the writers word choice and phrasing had produced particular patterns and effects. And I think that, you know, I saw these same close analysis strategies in my visual arts classes. And it just really from that, that early moment, the liberal arts just grabbed me in the way that I think the liberal arts provides us with ways of looking at parts of the world really closely, and seeing how they connect to larger parts of the world and more global parts of the world. And I just, you know, ran with it. And you know, I became passionate about the other fields like psychology and anthropology. But my heart has always stayed with literature, of course, and visual study, what is your approach to liberal arts education? So I think right now, I mean, I guess it's, that's, that's a great, that is another great question. Because right now, I'm the Dean of the School of Liberal Arts. But I've also been a professor of the liberal arts for a really long time. So I think that my approach differs based on which which hat I'm wearing at a given moment. So as the dean, my approach to liberal arts is, of course to, I mean, I'm DNF, the Savannah College of Art Design. So liberal arts underpins all of the majors that we offer here in art and design. And I feel like, you know, when we think about the skills that set us up for success in the world, either critical thinking, adaptability, curiosity, kind of ability to to make connections, those are those are characteristics that will hold someone in good stead no matter what they're doing, no matter what their major. And so as a dean of Liberal Arts, I feel like my, my goal is to always connect the liberal arts curriculum to those major programs, but also the other way around to kind of connect all the major programs in design and art and creativity, to the liberal arts that we can all seek and how these these pieces are all all fold together. as a, as a teacher, within the liberal arts program, when I teach classes in cinema, or literature, or adaptation, my goal is always to focus on those close reading skills that I mentioned earlier. And close analysis and kind of encouraging students to see the ways works are kind of really there, they can be broken down into different components, and that those components all fit together in very specific ways. But also encourage students to think about how how words change, if we take those components apart, and put them together a different way and kind of get them to see the constructiveness, if you will, of a piece of art or a piece of piece of literature. So that we I feel like that's a really great way to learn a skill and it's a really great way to learn. what's what's really special about a given artist, you know, it's gonna we can appreciate it when we see it from afar. But then we really learn how to unpack it, it helps I think, our own creativity, but it also helps us really distinguish somebody who's just exceptional from someone who's, you know, maybe a little less exceptional in their field, the book that you've written, expanding adoption networks, what is that about? Sure. So um, in extending adaptation networks, what I've done is so that most of the field of adaptation studies tends to focus on what we think of as incredibly more traditional forms of adaptation. So novels to films would be, you know, the one that comes to people's minds, not, you know, play to stage production stage production to film, those are really common. But what I've always been drawn to is print based forms of adaptations. I'm really interested in illustrated novels, and thinking of illustrated novels, not as a precursor to a better form of adaptation, but rather as its own form of adaptation. And so in that book, I look at several different types of print based adaptation and look at illustration, novelization, I look at literary maps, pop up books, all sorts of kind of paper based adaptation that haven't really been concerned before. Ever been of interest before. And what I'm doing is tracing how a work that's originally produced in one medium, but then has been adapted multiple times, of course, multiple platforms and multiple media. And what how that, that that process of adaptation, how that journey of adaptation really shapes what a culture was understanding of a work is. So when we think about something like one of the one of the words I look at in the book is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. And when we think about the many, many, many different adaptations of Jekyll and Hyde over the years, you know, we don't really within rubber, those Stevenson's novel, he doesn't really describe Hyde ever, it's kind of like these sort of vaguely defined or vague characteristics. But the adaptations really solidify that character, and they amplified and they make him and Dana, by the time we see him in what is the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, he has this, you know, this Hulk like character, bad behavior, you know, and so across the network metaphor is there to really kind of highlight how all of these different adaptations are connected. They're all linked as cultural productions. And none of them is necessarily a definitive source text, you know, that, that, that add up, even though we might think of the novel as the source that novels being drawn from, from works that came before it, and newspaper accounts that came before in other productions that came before. And so that's what I tried to do in the book kind of trace how it's not just about a book and a movie that form our cultural understanding of what it means to be Jacqueline Hyde or whatever, whatever book. But rather, it's all of these many different forms of adaptation, both big and small, that contribute to what our what our culture understands as a given work of art. Your book is in the post, Kate, and I'm looking forward to getting more clued up on this domain, and discovering how adaptation of visual culture beyond just TV and film and expanding that into genres, such as mobile apps, video games, interactive media, and the avant garde, play it play a role. The Liberal Arts is a broad area, encompassing history, writing, literature, psychology, sociology, philosophy, the Creative Arts on on more, Kate, from your experience, what do you believe are the fundamental skills needed to succeed within the liberal arts? I think it goes back to you know, any, you know, I think that the because the liberal arts underpins everything, I think that the skills that someone needs within liberal arts tend to be the skills that people need in the world, you know, certainly, curiosity. Certainly, adaptability and flexibility, openness of mind, you know, these are like that's, those are the skills, curiosity and open mindedness, I think, are kind of quintessential features of the liberal arts. So much of what we think of is as liberal arts is really about questioning, questioning, questioning, kind of given norms, questioning, given stories, and really hearing other's perspectives. So I think that those are two definite skills. But I think those are skills that are transferable to any any given field, I would say, also essential to liberal liberal arts, and this is probably my own bias my own literary leanings. But me being an active reader, and being an active writer, even if you don't think of yourself as a reader or writer, I think that I'm key to being an active, engaged thinker Are you know, continuing to read continuing to write and certainly those are the tools of a lot of liberal arts as well. I don't feel like you can really fall foster creative thinking in other person if you're not also trained to regularly exercise those those skills yourself. We're in a time machine now. And you have the opportunity to go back and share your insights in terms of your lessons learned, and your pitfalls to avoid. What would you share with a younger kid? Based on what you know today? Yeah, just the one or two right But I haven't seen I've been thinking about this, you know, a little bit recently. And I feel like one of the pitfalls I would like to avoid and, you know, advice I would give someone which is, of course, it's always easier to give advice than it is to hear it at the time when you need it most. But I think just trusting your own ideas, and not worrying so much about what other people are doing, I feel like, as in when I was 18, I was in college, I had met professors who encouraged me, so that was never a problem. But I think that I had trouble really recognizing the value of my own ideas and being afraid to put them out there. And I also work on by not worrying about what other people were doing, I think I was off, I would hear achievements of my peers, and I would automatically think about how that it reflected on me, you know, so if this, you know, if one of my, one of my fellow students got something published, I would, instead of just being happy for that person, I would internalize it, but what am I doing wrong? Why is my work not getting out there at work? Someone got an internship, and I didn't know, what am I doing. And I think over time, what I realized is that, you know, there's myriad reasons why something happens one way or another, and that, you know, genuinely being happy for people when good things happen to them actually feels better than the, the the self doubt, but I think just the the trusting, trusting ideas and trusting what you're putting out there, and some of that's gonna fall flat, but a lot of it won't. And when you give people access to your ideas, that support groups that you build with your teachers, and your professors and your your fellow students, that's the support group that helps make your ideas really great ones. The other advice I would suggest is to take advantage of any opportunities, you might have to meet people working in your field. So you know, my university, I did my undergraduate at Temple University, and in Philadelphia, and they would often have writers come in and different speakers come in, and sometimes I would go and sometimes I didn't. But a lot of the time, I would rush out at the end, and I wouldn't stick around for the question and answer. So I would miss out on those opportunities to really get to take advantage of what the university is putting before me. And I find that at the Bennett College Martin design, we have so many so many industry guests come through. And that's advice I regularly offer my students like don't rush out, stay around stick talk to these people. You know, that's why they're here. They're here to encourage you. And so I think those would be the two like just in any way that people can try to develop their confidence by taking chances and meeting new people. I think that that that's advice I wish that I had taken tilting forward into the future. What is your vision for the future of liberal arts? And where do you see the role of creativity play its part? Well, I would say creativity is going to be essential to every every field. Yes, moving forward, I feel like if anything, you know, this past year has really taught us the need for that creativity and innovation are not just nice ideas. They're action plans for the survival of the human just the survival of the humanities or survival of us as people and as innovators. So I think that with the future of liberal arts education, you know, I feel like liberal arts will continue to underpin all projects moving forward again, because of those skills, that the creative reading, creative thinking, creative writing, just those those critical thinking skills will continue to be essential. I also feel that liberal arts is well positioned, because it allows us to again, when when I mentioned earlier, just see the connectivity of things. I feel like as we move forward in the world is kind of getting on its feet again, with, you know, this pandemic is kind of part of our everyday, our everyday life. Now, we're starting to see that even more than ever before. I think that being siloed is not working very well. And we need to be able to forge and identify those connections. One of the people I work with likes to say that he he likes to encourage cross training, you know, he likes to encourage people to not just focus on like, well, this is my job, I'm you know, I do this thing and only this thing, but rather to recognize the connections between what they do each day and what someone else might do and try to figure out what you forge those connections. And I feel like the liberal arts allows you to really hone those skills and develop those skills. And that that's going to be essential moving forward where people can see when not only am I a designer, but I'm also really gifted in social media strategies or not only am I an art historian, but I'm also able to curate exhibits or not only am I a writer, but I'm also a performer, you know, people being able to really see how they connect in different different places. And if you like We've talked about this for a while over you just with global, the global Global Access that's been a part of our internet connected world. But I feel like this, the situation with the pandemic has really forced people who may not have been embracing that connectivity to really try to identify those opportunities. Also, innovation is around us 24 by seven, but as humans, we don't always see it. And it's the ability, like you see a cake to make those connections. and creativity involves being able to see what others don't, or at least until it is presented to them. And so having those skills and mindset that you mentioned previously, is critical to helping us navigate and find the future, much like innovation, creativity is one of those things that we sort of take for granted and think, Oh, I'm creative, I'm not creative. You know, people hear people say that I'm not a creative person, and not a I'm a very creative person. But you know, really framing it this way as a, like a life skill. And as a, you know, a survival skill. I think it's such a, such a wonderful way to think about it and we can really opens up the possibilities, you know, like what it means to be crew, you know, we were talking before about, and I said, Why don't know that a really a creative writer, because I write academic writing. But then I've been thinking more and more about what it means to be a creative writer. And I've been thinking aboutRoy Sharples:
creative approaches, right? And we think about, that's what kind of brings it back to creativity that's really encouraging to hear Kate, and that. You see creativity as a core life skill. And it isn't it should should be nurtured that way, exactly. like reading, writing and arithmetic at a young age and then be nurtured all the way through, not just from an educational perspective, but through an individual's life experience. Well, thank you. It's been really wonderful talking with you. Thank you, Kate. To find out more about what Kate is up to, please go to the liberal arts section of the Savannah College of Art and designs [email protected], that's s c ed.edu. Or follow her on LinkedIn. And also check out her book expanding adaptation networks from illustration to novelization, which was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2017. For more inspirational conversations with creative industry personalities on entrepreneurship, pop culture, art, music, film and fashion, please go to unknown origins.com