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APSU Brings Steampunk to Campus with Summer Art Class

Posted By News Staff On Thursday, June 9, 2011 @ 2:00 pm In Arts and Leisure | No Comments

Austin Peay State UniversityClarksville, TN – Several years ago, a group of science fiction and fantasy writers began developing odd visions of the future and alternate realities that looked suspiciously similar to 19th century England. Fascinated by the style of the Victorian era, these writers depicted strange, steam-powered machines in their works, thus giving rise to the “Steampunk” movement.

“It’s a bit of ‘what if we’d gone in a different direction,’ and then being wildly inventive from there,” Mike Mitchell, a local artist and Austin Peay State University adjunct art professor, said.

The Steampunk literary subgenre took off, with its elements appearing in books, such as Philip Reeve’s “Mortal Engines Quartet” series, and the films “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” and 2009’s “Sherlock Holmes.” The movement’s visual potential was staggering, and it didn’t take long for Steampunk elements to bleed over into other art forms.

“The visual art side has developed as a result of role playing characters from that fiction, or folks inventing characters similar or altogether of their own imagination,” Mitchell said.

This June, the movement has come to APSU with a new special topics art course, “Steampunk Sculpture,” taught by Mitchell. The class, which meets until July 8th in the campus’ Trahern Building, is one of the first of its kind to be taught at a public university. 

APSU student Jeffrey Horton works on a sculpture of a hand while taking a Steampunk Sculpture class at APSU this summer. The goggles he is wearing were also part of a project for the class. (Photo By Mike Mitchell) [1]

APSU student Jeffrey Horton works on a sculpture of a hand while taking a Steampunk Sculpture class at APSU this summer. The goggles he is wearing were also part of a project for the class. (Photo By Mike Mitchell)

“It will be organized by me (or other artists), teaching different skills that will give the students the structure to make pretty much any Steampunk-related item that they can image,” Mitchell said. “In a lot of ways, it’s a basic sculpture class with the conceptual component built in. We will do some welding, metal casting, sewing, woodworking, hatmaking, rubber stamp making, collage, etc.”

Mitchell came up with the idea for the class last semester when he began joking with students that he wanted to teach a course on steampunk. The students didn’t think it was a joke.

“That class would fill up so fast,” Toby Lee, an APSU art student, told him.

Word spread through the APSU art department, attracting the attention of both students and faculty. Eventually, a special topics class for the Summer I session was created. The class was opened to any student enrolled on campus, and it quickly filled up.

“It just snowballed from there,” Mitchell said.

At 7:00pm on July 7th, the class will host a screening of Kevin Eslinger’s short steampunk film, “Nickel Children.” The film is open to the public, and Eslinger will be on hand after the screening for a discussion.

Mitchell also intends to add a professional practice component to the class, requiring the students to publicly exhibit their work.

“Most likely, we’ll do this on July 7th as part of the First Thursday Art Crawl,” he said.

For more information on the class, contact Mitchell at Mitchellmd@apsu.edu [2].


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