Alderman Stacks

Creative Processes and Practices

What processes, practices, and sensibilities foster creative lives? How do artists engage with society in transformative ways?

This Forum takes a performance studies approach, a paradigm increasingly widespread within arts, humanities, social sciences (and sometimes drawing on natural sciences). The approach gained a particular footing during the 1960’s and 70’s when visual and performing artists converged to open up the idea of what art can be, attending to creative processes, the energy of democratic collaborations, the idea of performance as ritual, and the role of artists in questioning mainstream assumptions.

This outlook challenges divisions between elite and popular cultures, and draws perspectives based in non-Western traditions from a postcolonial and postmodern position. This aesthetic is evident across experimental and improvisational movements in dance, music, theater and visual arts. Widely recognized examples include the annual Burning Man Project, New York’s High Line, the Bread and Puppet Theater, and Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall.

Our Forum will be a 34-credit two-year long (co-) laboratory, in which students, in consultation with Forum advisors, design a course of study working with their peers and mentors to investigate across disciplines, reflect on their own creative processes, become a thinking and practicing ensemble community, and engage in individual and group experimentation.


Michelle Kisliuk, Associate Professor of Music (Critical and Comparative Studies)

I actively research, write, and teach about creative experience in dynamic communities. I have lived with the forest people (BaAka) of the Central African Republic and learned from them about how musical life, dance, and art in everyday life are essential to healthy community. This includes an understanding of the importance for free and strong individual expression within the balancing context of a collective. I teach courses on music in everyday life, ethnographic creative nonfiction, and I direct the UVA African Music and Dance Ensemble where we learn and perform music and dance from Ghana/Togo and from the Central African Republic, and relate our performances to the immediate realities of our own lives. My training is in the post-discipline of Performance Studies, spanning fields including ethnomusicology, anthropology, theater, dance, creative writing, poetics, and folklore studies. I have published books and essays, and lectured and run workshops nationally and internationally.

In my classes we become a dynamic thinking and interacting community. Students look first to their own current stories, share them with others, and then work as individuals within a collective to bring into action the materials and issues that emerge. In our Forum we will draw upon our own and each others’ interests and skills, read and explore, and develop new skills and ideas as we go along. I expect we will emerge with challenging, engaging, exciting initiatives and events.

Vanessa Ochs, Professor of Religious Studies (Scripture, Interpretation and Practice)

I was a Drama major at Tufts University and studied classical French acting in Paris and Mime in NYC.  I then studied writing and directing for theater at Sarah Lawrence College, where I got my MFA and learned a great deal about the creative process. I found my voice in non-fiction writing, and worked as a journalist and wrote a number of books. At the time, I was also teaching writing at Colgate U, and then Yale. After writing a book on women and religion, I was asked to teach courses at Drew University on religion. This led to my doing a PhD in anthropology of religion, which eventually led me to the department of Religious Studies at UVa, where I have been for many years.

I am looking forward to this Forum because being engaged with a number of the arts—writing in particular— is a constant fact in my life. From my own experiences, I know that while one part of an artist’s training is practicing skills and mastering techniques, the other equally important part is learning how to nurture and protect the creative imagination. It is also significant for artists to recall that our work evolves over time as a process, and often that process is collaborative. Over our two years together, I look forward to immersing ourselves in different art forms, learning to foster creative practices, meeting creative individuals who will challenge us and engaging in creative projects that challenge us and those who witness them.

Navigating the  Forum

In the first semester (Fall ’16), you will enroll in FORA 1500: Introduction to Creative Processes and Practices. Team-taught by Michelle Kisliuk and Vanessa Ochs, the course provides introductory guest lectures and workshops from UVA and visiting faculty across the arts and beyond. Along with becoming a thinking and creating collective in which we read, write, and reflect upon a range of experiences, the course will generate performances and installations at the University.

In semesters two and three (Spring ’17 & Fall ’17) everyone will enroll in a 1-credit monthly discussion group where we will continue the synthesis of learning.

In the fourth and final semester (Spring ’18) you will enroll in FORA 2500: Capstone Seminar. The capstone will again be team-taught by Michelle Kisliuk and Vanessa Ochs and will incorporate guest lectures and workshops at an intermediate level both in intellectual challenge and application of skills (skills in particular arts practices will vary among students). We will continue to study relevant and increasingly more advanced texts in performance studies and related areas.Projects: Working as a class, in small ensembles, with mentors, or individually, students will develop and present Capstone projects including performances, installations, and/or written work. 

In addition, over the course of the two years you will choose and enroll in additional courses (totaling 26 credits) that relate to Creative Processes and Practices. The courses will (see Coursework below) expose you to the practice of arts and performance, appreciation and analysis of creative expression, the many contexts in which creativity is derived, and the process and imagination that reside at the heart of scientific inquiry and mathematical theory, Courses will be selected from the following categories:

Arts and Performance Practicum - Each year, in consultation with advisors and committee members, students are required to enroll in at least one course in the practice/performance of the arts, which include selected practical courses in: Drama, Music, Dance, Creative Writing, Architecture, Arts Administration, and Studio Arts. Work in these courses may provide a basis for each student to contribute their perspective, developing skills, and experience to the collective Forum seminars.

Appreciation, Analysis, and History of Creative Expression - Students must select at least two courses in the history, analysis, or appreciation of drama, music, dance, literature, art, film, media.

Creativity in Context - Selecting from approved courses in Psychology, Anthropology, Sociology, Religion and Women and Gender Studies.

Process and Imagination in Sciences and Mathematics - Many fields in Science and Mathematics require creative modes of thinking and application, certainly at advanced levels but potentially also at introductory levels. The courses chosen for the Forum are meant to emphasize the creative aspects of quantitative and empirical engagement.


Core Required Courses (8 Credits)          

FORU 1500: Introduction to Creative Processes and Practices (Fall ’16)

  • FORU Class (TBD): Forum Discussion Group (Spring ’17 & Fall ’17)
  • FORU 2500: Capstone Seminar (Spring ’18)

Electives (24 Credits)

Arts and Performance Practicum (at least 6 credits, 3 credits in each academic year)

  • ENCW any
  • DANC (any -- except DANC 1400 The Art of Dance and DANC 3400 Dance and Culture as these courses fill the next category below)
  • DRAM (any -- except  DRAM 1010 Intro to Theater/How Theater Works, DRAM 2010 Theater Art: Image to Form, DRAM 2810 Cinema as Art Form, DRAM 3050 Theater History, DRAM 3070 African American Theater  -- as these courses can fill the next category below)
  • MUPF any
  • MUSI 2340-2 Learn to Groove, MUSI 2370 Make Rock, MUSI 2600 Jazz Improvisation, MUSI 3090 Performance in Africa
  • MUEN any
  • ARAD any
  • ARTS any

Appreciation, Analysis, and History of Creative Expression (at least 6 credits)

  • CPLT any
  • ENAM any
  • ENGL any
  • ENLT any
  • DANC 1400 The Art of Dance
  • DANC 3400 Dance and Culture
  • DRAM 1010 Intro to Theater / How Theater Works
  • DRAM 2010 Theater Art: Image to Form
  • DRAM 2810 Cinema as Art Form
  • DRAM 3050 Theater History
  • DRAM 3070 African American Theater
  • MDST any
  • ARTH any
  • MUSI any except those listed under “Practicum” above

Creativity in Context (at least 6 credits from two different departments)

  • AAS 2224 Black Femininities and Masculinities
  • ANTH 2365 Art and Anthropology
  • ANTH 2310 Symbol and Ritual
  • ANTH 2400  Language and Culture
  • ANTH 2420  Language and Gender
  • ANTH 2430  Languages of the World
  • ANTH 2440 Language and Cinema
  • ANTH 2120  The Concept of Culture
  • ANTH 2230  Fantasy and Social Values
  • ANTH 2625  Imagining Africa
  • ANTH 2620  Sex, Gender, and Culture
  • PSYC 2150 Introduction to Cognition
  • PSYC 2210 Animal Behavior
  • PSYC 2300  Introduction to Perception
  • PSYC 2600 Introduction to Social Psychology
  • RELA 2750 African Religion
  • RELA 2850 Afro-Creole Religions in the Americas
  • RELB 2165 Buddhist Meditation
  • RELC 2215 Mormonism and American Culture
  • RELC 2850 Kingdom of God
  • RELG 2160 Religion in American Life from 1865-Present
  • RELG 2210 Religion, Ethics, and Global Environment
  • RELG 2660 Spiritual But Not Religious: Spirituality in America
  • RELJ 3490 Jewish Weddings
  • SOC 2320 Gender and Society
  • SOC 2470 American Society and Popular Culture
  • WGS 2100 Introduction to Gender and Sexuality Studies

Process and Imagination in Sciences and Mathematics (at least 6 credits)

  • ASTR 1210 Introduction to the Sky and Solar System
  • ASTR 1220 Introduction to Stars, Galaxies, and the Universe
  • ASTR 1270 Unsolved Mysteries in the Universe
  • ASTR 1280 The Origins of Almost Everything
  • ASTR 3470 Science and Controversy in Astronomy
  • CHEM 1410-1411 Introductory College Chemistry Lecture and Laboratory
  • CHEM 1420-1421 Introductory College Chemistry Lecture and Laboratory
  • EVSC 2220-2221* Conservation Ecology Lecture and Laboratory
  • EVSC 1450 An Inconvenient Truce: Climate, You and CO2
  • MATH 1150 The Shape of Space
  • MATH 1210 Applied Calculus
  • MATH 1310 Calculus I
  • MSE 2110 Materials that Shape Our Civilization
  • PHYS 1050 How Things Work 
  • PHYS 1060 How Things Work
  • PHYS 1090 Galileo and Einstein
  • STAT 1100 Chance: An Introduction to Statistics
  • STAT 2120 Introduction to Statistical Analysis

[Note: Students who are pre-med or plan to be science majors may petition for alternative courses]

Required Summer ’16 Project

Prepare specifically for this Forum a short but meaningful introduction of yourself to the group by using whatever creative medium or media you choose: The only requirement is that you focus in on some specific aspect(s) of your life, your past, and/or your dreams for your time at UVA. These should take about five minutes each (or less) to read or present or otherwise share in whatever form during our first few class meetings. These are not to stress about but to think about and prepare with a "play" mode in mind. 'Mistakes' or wrong turns of all sorts are okay. Examples of what you might do include: a two-to-three-page creative writing narrative -- non-fiction --though fiction is okay if you feel strongly about it (all preferably written to be spoken aloud), a poem, a set of photographs or collage, a sculpture, drawing, or painting, a dance (either live or on video, choreographed or semi- improvised), a song or other sound composition (scored/memorized or semi-improvised), a skit, a radio play or sound art piece, a group "happening"  -- or a multi-media piece -- or perhaps something else that we haven't thought of. Feel free to email Michelle or Vanessa over the summer if you have any questions or just want to say "hi."