I have always wanted to travel, in fact one of the most important goals my wife and I share is to visit as many parts of the earth and experience as many cultures as possible. We are passionate learners, compelled to fill our minds with the mechanics of the world and everything that makes life special; the arts, science, policy and politics, history, philosophy, and sport. Life is short and we live with enthusiasm, together we have visited multiple continents and numerous countries as tourists, students, and professionals.
Travel experiences in college inspired me to author a study abroad initiative. In 2004 I met a board member of the Tropical Forestry Initiative who was teaching at ECU. After learning about my endeavor to write a study abroad program, he invited me to pursue it in Costa Rica. In 2005 I wrote several drafts of my study abroad initiative and cobbled together some small research grants which funded a 2006 reconnaissance trip. In the summer of 2007 I co-directed a group of 17 students and faculty with the assistance of an ECU faculty sponsor. We led a 21 day multidisciplinary creative and research expedition, with students and faculty from East Carolina University and Georgia State University. Below is a copy of the original abstract publication from that work, and while certain aspects of it were never realized, the program was a success.
Program for International Study in Art, Culture, and Ecology: Costa Rica 2007, Stuart R. Kent, School of Art & Design, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC, 27858
The aim of this program is to create a financially self-perpetuating study abroad curriculum for East Carolina University (ECU) School of Art & Design (SOAD), establishing an exchange between Costa Rican and American art faculty/students by heightening societal awareness of the global impact of rainforest consumption.
Artists possess the unique ability to affect social change by creating trends and generating profound statements through the manipulation of materials into aesthetic forms. This program uses large-scale outdoor wood sculpture on the National University of Costa Rica (UNA) campus as a catalyst for dialogue about rainforest depletion. In May 2007 graduate/undergraduate students will receive academic credit for traveling with mentoring faculty from the SOAD & Biology Dept. of ECU, and Georgia State University (GSU) to Costa Rica for participation in an international sculpture symposium. Students will travel to a biological field station in the southern Pacific region of Costa Rica for an introductory field study in rainforest ecology, species diversity, and conscientious material consumption. The second part of the expedition will lead students through important national sights and communities to aid in their understanding of Costa Rican culture and demographics. Lastly, students will travel to San Jose where they will produce sculptures in response to the experiences and knowledge gained in Costa Rica. The symposium will consist of ECU, & GSU faculty/students, internationally recognized professional artists, and students from UNA. All participants will give and attend presentations. Artists will publicly exhibit and auction artwork produced during the symposium to raise funds for contribution to a private scholarship designed to offset the costs for qualified future ECU students. A successful career in the visual arts relies on exhibitions such as this, wherein young artists interact with established working professionals creating a forum for creative discussion and visual exploration.