Jared Spitz interned with The Odyssey Project’s inaugural High School Program this summer. He came to Illinois Humanities from The University of Chicago’s Master of Arts Program in the Humanities (MAPH).
On Thursday July 28th, The Odyssey High School Program celebrated the end of its Summer 2016 session at the Hyde Park Art Center. Students, parents, faculty, and friends enjoyed dinner and refreshments before gathering in the second floor gallery to listen to the presentations prepared by the capstone scholars. The seniors, who have been with the program since their freshman year at Harlan, spent the last three weeks in an art history course that culminated with their presentations on Thursday night.
For the final presentation, each student chose a piece of artwork from Patric McCoy’s collection to present to the attendees of the event. Mr. McCoy’s collection features over one thousand paintings, drawing, sculptures, prints, etc. of African-American art. The students archived over one hundred works owned by Mr. McCoy and chose a work of art that they especially appreciated for their final project. Mr. McCoy graciously offered his home several hours a day for the scholars to hold class, research art objects and artists, as well as prepare their final presentations. Along with Mr. McCoy, The Smart Museum provided their galleries as classroom space for the scholars. The Smart Museum’s theme this summer is “In Anticipation of Belonging.” They presented the students with works of art that both challenged and expanded their understanding of belonging, which in turn, pushed the students to dig deeper into the artwork they chose from Mr. McCoy’s collection.
Included in each presentation was a brief biography of the artist, the various forms, mediums, content, style etc. associated with the artist’s work, and various influences for the art work. Some of the students were even able to conduct personal interviews with their artist about their work providing a personal touch and an added layer of insight into the work chosen from Mr. McCoy’s collection. The students spent hours during the final week crafting their presentations for the event on Thursday night. In all, the scholars created fascinating, polished presentations. The audience listened intently and engaged with each student as they talked about their artist. The scholars confidently spoke about what they had learned through their research, and also asked nuanced questions about the meaning of the artwork they chose. Thus, the final event embodied the success of the summer 2016 Odyssey High School Program: by participating in an intense, college level course designed to not only prepare them for college, but actually provides transferable college credit towards their degree, each student gained invaluable experience in public speaking, research, and the pursuit of humanistic inquiry that will advance their academic and professional careers.
From all of us at The Odyssey Project, congratulations to our graduating scholars! We are excited to see what the future holds for these exemplary students. Also, once again, a special thanks to Patric McCoy, The Smart Museum, and the Hyde Park Art Center for allowing the Odyssey Project to utilize your space.