Winona State University’s art, design and English departments recently collaborated to host two workshops aboard the Cal Fremling Interpretive Center and Floating Classroom.
Roger Boulay, Winona State’s art gallery coordinator, organized the collaboration.
Boulay offered Winona State English professor James Armstrong and his poetry students the chance to participate in the workshops.
“I put it all together and invited Armstrong because he and I have collaborated together in the past on different things with art and poetry in the [Watkins] gallery,” Boulay said.
The collaboration also included the Minnesota Marine Art Museum, which offered members of the Winona community the opportunity to participate in the workshops alongside students.
“We like to do cross-curricular cooperation,” Armstrong said. “Roger wanted to know if some of the poets in my 312 poetry writing class would like to come.”
Aboard the Cal Fremling, students and community members had the chance to work with Beau Carey, an outdoor Plein Air painter from Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Plein Air painting focuses on moving beyond studio painting and experiencing painting and drawing in an outdoor landscape.
Carey recently had a showing of his paintings in the Paul Watkins Gallery on campus and the workshops were also a part of his visit.
“It seemed like a good opportunity to get on the river and have students learn some tricks of the trade from Beau and learn how to paint the world around you from a moving boat,” Boulay said.
In addition to working with Carey, the painters and poets also got to spend some time working with each other.
“We were specifically looking at the way painters would approach rendering a landscape and comparing it to the way a poet might render a landscape,” Armstrong said.
Armstrong talked about the specific vocabulary that goes along with Plein Air painting.
“The painter had a set palette of very particular paint color names that he was using,” Armstrong said. “I encouraged my students to use some of those names in their poems.”
Boulay also explained the unique painting palette system participants used while working with Carey.
“We made every participant of the painting workshops a traveling paint palette out of a cigar box,” Boulay said. “Beau devised this system where you could put a piece of paper that accepts oil paint in the top of the box and then the bottom of it was where you mixed your paints.”
When students were finished with their paintings, the box could be easily folded up and tucked away in backpacks.
Although the experience was positive for everyone involved, Boulay did mention some difficulties he faced in organizing the workshops.
“The boat is $300 for the first hour and $200 for each additional hour spent on the boat,” Boulay said. “The whole trip cost our departments $900, which is a lot for two departments to come up with.”
Boulay hopes that the University can devise a way to make the boat more available to professors who want to teach beyond a classroom setting.
“I’d be interested in the University trying to problem-solve or figure out ways to make the boat more accessible, especially for small departments like the art and design department.” Boulay said.
Despite facing some challenges in setting up the workshops, Boulay and Armstrong both had positive things to say about their experience on the Cal Fremling.
“It’s always fun to get out on the river and watch the students at work,” Armstrong said.
Boulay elaborated by stating his experiences.
“We had a great time,” Boulay said, “I think the students really took something from it and that’s the important thing.”