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Lauren Arnold, The Burren College of Art and a summer in Ireland

By Lauren Arnold
On September 10, 2013

  • Lauren Arnold doing place based learning, in which she was asked to create artwork based off of the sites they visited. RACHEL CARBARY / PHOTO COURTESTY OF LAUREN ARNOLD
  • Lauren Arnold dancing in downtown Ballyvaughan by The Burren Water Works fountain. PEGGY, LOCAL RESIDENT OWNER OF THE TEA JUNCTION / COURTESY OF LAUREN ARNOLD
  • Lauren Arnold dancing at Ballyvaughan Bay, County Clare Ireland. RACHEL CARBARY / PHOTO COURTESY OF LAUREN ARNOLD

I sat in my "Time, Memory and The Burren" course, as the dean of The Burren College of Art explained, "the abroad experience" as "the W complex."
"You will start out on a very large high; nothing will stop you; there on the far left side of the W. And then, you will drop," he said. "You will have nothing to hold on to; nothing to call your own; no one who knew you before. This point is the most crucial part of your entire trip. How will you intersect your past into this new present?"
On my gradual journey up to the centerfold of that middle part of the "W," I began to learn the importance of claiming my own space in a local environment of Ballyvaughan, Ireland, where I spent the summer in an art program.
When I saw the flyer for "An Art and Ecology Program," in the Peeler Art Center next to Professor Anne Harris's office doorway, I knew that this school was going to be a proactive one. The school promotes the culture of The Burren's natural art and land. I learned that Ballyvaughan's culture was as influential to local residents and artists as it was to the town's tourists.
"Place-based learning" was a hands-on form of on site education. DePauw, and specifically my job at the Prindle Institute for Ethics, helped prepare me to plant and grow my own life in a locally-immersed community, both within and out of a "campus bubble." I learned how important it was to create and sustain connections as strong as what I have made here at DePauw. I learned that the more I planted my passion of studying local art and nature into those around me, the more innate differences could coexist as a unit.
As time went on, my plans for my final art show solidified. I realized that I wanted to give back, become one with these spaces, and reinstate for myself that to be alone in nature as a female was not a horrific thing.
I accomplished this through dancing, a form of art that I have felt so close to for all of my life. I felt closer to each local spot itself, as I let the old movements that I knew intertwine with the new environment that rushed over me. I would dance everywhere. I would let the sounds and spaces of the undomestic and domesticated things around me influence my journey of creative movement.
Outside of an old stone home, for instance, nature encroached and took over every foot of the rock and crevice of the once domestic space. Together the undomestic swaying leaves and my raw movement shared a coexistent space that intertwined and sustained a beautifully equal simultaneity of the two.
I danced in a haunted castle and recorded noises of the creaking doors, the broken piano and the loose floorboards. I edited my movements on the computer to match those exact sounds and emotions of hysteria. I would screen shot each second and movement in every dance clip and I would print out all of the pictures and make them into flip books. These creations evoked the notion that every movement and every piece of art form in these coexistent spaces of domesticated life and undomesticated nature and art equally deserved their very own space.
When I got home, I realized I slipped down the final downslope of "the W." I have been back in the states for a little over a month. I can proudly say that I am rekindling these strong and heartfelt connections I have back at DePauw with my close-knit friends, dedicated professors and role models. I have also enjoyed revisiting the inspiring spaces that invite a progressive coexistence of art and nature such as Peeler, Prindle and classes like my Ecofeminist Approaches to the Environment class. I am already climbing back up that final upslope of "the W." Our dean back in Ballyvaughan warned us that it might be hard, but I cannot wait to climb that last step to the final peak.

Lauren Arnold is a junior from Ft. Wayne, Ind. majoring in communications and studio art  

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