Roman Art Today:

Taking Ancient Roman Art out of the Classroom and into Communities



About this Project*


Students studying ancient Roman art and culture at Washington State University (WSU) in Pullman do not have local museums with antiquities, nor do they typically have the opportunity to present or discuss the reception of antiquity with diverse audiences. Although museums have extensive digital collections and online videos offer simulations of Roman visual culture, reproductions do not foster questions the same way that making objects or experiencing real artefacts do.

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In a unique opportunity, an upcoming exhibition at the Museum of Arts and Culture (MAC) in Spokane on Roman Pompeii (7th February – 3rd May 2020) dovetails with an upper-level undergraduate seminar that I taught on Ancient Roman art and culture in Spring 2020. The MACs exhibition will be complemented by Pompeii Day on 11th April 2020 for museum members and the public. To take advantage of this opportunity, I worked with David Brum, the MACs Director of Adult Educational Programming, to design three undergraduate-led presentations with demonstration/workshops (on plant-based brushes, inks and Coptic bookbinding) as part of this community event. Students will also teach additional community partners at venues including: the Neill Public Library, in Pullman WA and Palouse Prairie Charter School (PPCS) in Moscow, Idaho. PPCS is an experiential learning K-8th grade public school. This project has benefitted from support provided by University partner Shanda Stinebaugh to oversee undergraduate-led demonstration/workshops. Ms. Stinebaugh is a graduate student pursuing her MFA with experience making Coptic bookbinding and plant-based pigments


As a form of experiential learning, community engagement has the potential to benefit students and community partners simultaneously. Student civic engagement is a form of experiential learning. According to WSUs Center for Civic Engagement learning outcomes: students who participate in civic engagement activities have the opportunity to enhance their academic and personal growth in Civic Responsibility, Self-Awareness and Efficacy and Academic Success ( Moreover, hands-on experience increases the publics appreciation for Roman artefacts, contextualizing ancient production processes with the potential to pique their interest to learn more about Roman culture.

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Experiential learning is central to my two core teaching goals which are: building community and learning through hands-on experiences. My personal experiences as a glass blower taught me how to look for evidence of production when analyzing artefacts as an art historian. Whether in hot glass made today or 1st century AD glass artefacts from Pompeii, hands-on experience has shaped my approach to my discipline. Outreach inherent in art-related community engagement helps the public better understand the creative process and experience first-hand curiosity, experimentation, and creation. In addition, workshops illustrate the continued relevance of ancient practices to visual art and technology today.


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Experiential learning is an invaluable way to learn for oneself and to teach others and I am eager for my students to have similar opportunities. Rather than remaining in the classroom behind closed doors, students in my Ancient Roman art and culture seminar will expand their learning through teaching and public outreach. These exciting opportunities, in a range of settings involve undergraduates and graduate students in research and teaching as part of a potentially transformative student experience for themselves and a diverse public audience meeting to learn more about their shared interest of Roman art and culture. Both groups will benefit from this multi-media Roman experience.


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  Edited by Victoria Henry-Lemaster and Hallie G. Meredith


  Research conducted by Colin Biggs, Chloe Blokker, Paul Caldeira, Joseph Daou, Jesus Echevarria, Kira Edminster, Jessica Emert, Martha Jaenicke, Reagan Kelley, Skyler Knowlton, Roy Rand, Rieleigh Renner, Robert Ullerich, Miyah Wood


  Special thanks to the following Washington State University Graduate students, Faculty and Co-Sponsors:

            Shanda Stinebaugh

            Kelsey Baker

            Becky James

            David Janssen, Jr.

            Centre for Arts and Humanities, WSU Pullman, WA

            Centre for Community Engagement, WSU Pullman, WA

            Department of Fine Arts, WSU Pullman, WA

            Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture, Spokane, WA



Extracts from Student Reflections about the Community Engagement Project:



After moving from the in person version of this assignment to an online version made me

rethink my idea of community.


-       CBlokker




Slowing down and really watching what you are doing is something that I took away from this book making. 


-       CBiggs




Even though we have to stay mostly confined to our houses / dorms we are still able to thrive and have a successful community engagement event.


-       PCaldeira




I learned that I have a passion for the arts and history. Personally, I have been a huge math and science type of person for most of my life. Learning how to make decisions based on feeling was something I lacked until I became a part of this class. I never would have thought to create a drinking vessel based on what I felt suited Dionysus most.


-       JDaou




I really liked how the workshops had us make physical items, so I was gaining both a new skill and had the opportunity to teach that skill to someone else.


-       KEdminster




In addition to the technical aspects of building this presentation, I realized that I am really passionate about Art History and I want to continue learning more about it even after graduating from WSU. I think that looking into careers in the field would greatly benefit my future happiness.


-       VHenry-Lemaster




Over the course of this semester as a student in the class, being able to complete projects that were hands-on in a history class was a unique experience that I enjoyed a lot. Knowing that I would have to teach others how to complete the same project forced me to pay more attention to the details of the process than I would have otherwise.


-       MJaenicke




While I did learn the techniques and ideas behind each topic, no better learning tool exists than teaching it to others. Overall, the role of a teacher feels very different than the one of a student. One key similarity however is that learning never truly stops as a teacher. I continued to get better at bookbinding even though the class was no longer about me, it was about my students.


-       RKelley




I now have a better understanding of why you need to explain the context and background of particular projects because without that information the project wouldnt be very impactful. The research, prep, and explanation were key to having this project have its desired impact.


-       RRand




It was nice being the student and just learning how to do make the ink or the book. But I loved also being the teacher and be able to show others how to do what I had learned. I learned that everyone learns at a different pace than others.


-       MWood



* This project benefited from a 2020 Washington State University Community Engaged Scholars Program Fellowship, a partnership between the Center for Civic Engagement and the College of Arts & Sciences. Generous funding was awarded by Washington State Universitys Centre for Arts and Humanities, Department of Fine Arts, in Pullman, WA and the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture in Spokane, WA.