Culture in the Classroom

Culture in the Classroom: “Survey of Asian Art” explores the spiritual and religious aspects of art and architecture

For those of you interested in broadening your culture knowledge, “The Survey of Asian Art,” taught by Marcia Rickard covers it all. This unique class offers a new perspective on art and architecture. This semester, the class focuses on art’s relationship to religion and ritual. Rickard talks with her students about ideas and monuments from India, Southeast Asia, China, and Japan through multiple Web sites, films, and the textbook, The Art of East Asia.

Rickard explains, “[The course] grew out of personal interests—travel experiences, family members living abroad, collecting Asian textiles, and an awareness of the ever-increasing role of Asia in global affairs. As the academic world began examining the restrictiveness of the traditional Eurocentric model, it became apparent to me in the early 1990s that art history at Saint Mary’s should be looking beyond those boundaries as well.”

With a travel grant from Saint Mary’s, Rickard was able to study textiles and dance in Indonesia. Her knowledge expanded when she took courses in Chinese and Japanese art history in Chicago. Since then, she has participated in many NEH Institutes on such topics as: Chinese Imperial Art, Indian Art and Culture, and Southeast Asian Culture. Meanwhile, Rickard has explored the culture and civilizations of Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, and Indonesia from the East-West Center.

To better enlighten her students, Rickard uses her own textile collection. When talking of herself, Rickard exclaims, “Am I an expert in Asian art? Hardly, but I have pockets of expertise which allow me to create a class of great interest to me and, I hope, to students.”

Rickard currently leads the three-week China summer study program. Students spend their weeks traveling through Beijing to Shanghai, and taking tours, participating in a service project, and meeting Chinese University students. Rickard says, “The impact of walking through the giant gates of the Forbidden City can only be matched by the intimate experience of visiting a Tang Dynasty water village where people still wash their clothes at its community pond.”

Learn more about the art program at Saint Mary's.

—Sarah Sheppard '11