Bringing Culture to The Valley

An LVC student views a piece of artwork

After more than a decade teaching his Color + Culture course (ART-351), Michael Pittari, professor of art & art history, developed a new approach to the content of the course with a greater emphasis on writing.

“With the study of art history as a starting point, Color + Culture has grown to encompass literature, music, sociocultural issues (such as gender, race, sexuality), and visual culture at large (advertising, film, television),” outlines Pittari. “Paralleling this expansion of content, my approach to teaching Color + Culture evolved from a fairly traditional pedagogy of lectures, discussions, tests, and papers to a more dynamic approach incorporating interactive presentations, discussion groups, and focused writing projects, with a writing process designation added in 2011.”

After teaching the revised course beginning in 2011, Pittari considered writing a book to address the multi-faceted nature of color, a topic that had not been thoroughly examined in an academic context. During the Fall 2013 semester, he started to feel that the strength of students’ work produced in the course might actually comprise such a book. 

This was the unofficial beginning of the publication of a 100-page Color + Culture journal at Lebanon Valley College, which was published in January 2016. Pittari received an Arnold Experiential Grant to begin producing the journal with student collaborators Becca Worhach ’16 and Diana Hoffman ’16.

“I was interested in working with Professor Pittari on this project because it is a great concept and excellent experience,” notes Hoffman. “It was a real chance for me—at the time he offered me the job, it seemed unreal. I was ecstatic and I said yes to him about working on the project.”

No stranger to student-faculty research, Hoffman is an art & art history major who worked with Dr. Grant Taylor, associate professor of art history, as a research assistant in 2013. The departmental Student-of-Promise in 2014, Hoffman is known for the quality of her work and being highly motivated, which was evident in her own Color + Culture essay on color in relation to the Holocaust. 

For Worhach, it was the opportunity to participate in the developmental and publication process that attracted her to the project: “I greatly enjoyed the subject matter of Color + Culture—I was enrolled when first approached about the journal—and I also greatly enjoy editing and the problem-solving aspects of the editing project. Moreover, realizing that this would be a great learning-opportunity career-wise, made agreeing to work on the project very easy.”

Described by Pittari as an art & art history major of exceptional talent, Worhach was the recipient of the Student-of-Promise Award in 2013 and has presented at the Central PA Undergraduate Art History Symposium and LVC’s Inquiry 2014. Worhach brings past editorial experience to the project as the student art history editor of the Valley Humanities Review.

Together, the team selected 12 essays as finalists from Pittari’s original collection of 36. The essays span a range of almost 10 years (2007–2015) and are approximately 2,500 words in length with full-color images. 

“I think the most memorable part has been reading through all of the papers and learning about the topics; most of which seemed original and interesting,” says Hoffman.

The group was then faced with an extensive editing and formatting process that included fact checking, image selection, and the design of each essay. The author of each essay also needed to be contacted to secure digital copies of the essays, arrange copyrights, and obtain current biographical information.

“In our case, we are designing the journal completely on our own using the steps of a professional magazine, a very involved process,” clarifies Pittari.

Each student had a unique role in this process based on their individual strengths. Worhach trained in the production and design process, while Hoffman focused on the editorial and proofing process. 

“The most valuable skill I learned from the project was likely gaining a working knowledge of Adobe InDesign, a program I did not have prior experience with. This is helpful in any art and art history-related field, even if one is not necessarily working strictly with design-focused processes,” affirms Worhach. “I plan on working in the museum field, and being able to make media-like advertisements, brochures, and catalogues may provide an advantage in the hiring process.” 

After the finalization of design and content, final proofs were generated for review. The final version was published through the online publishing house Blurb. 

“Being able to see the journal’s appearance starting to take shape after beginning to design the layouts of the individual journal pages was the most memorable part of the project,” reflects Worhach. “Prior to this, the essays, texts, and images with which we had worked were separated, and so the design process provided the opportunity to see the images fully integrated with the essays for the first time.”

Pittari intends to use this publication as a starting point for curricular initiatives within the Art & Art History Department and for collaboration with other groups of faculty and students, as well as an annual or biannual publication of the Color + Culture journal. 

Hoffman’s enthusiasm for the journal and its development is clear. “I enjoyed everything about this experience and I loved every moment of it,” she says. “To other students interested in pursuing a similar opportunity: if you are offered a chance, take it. It will be challenging at times but you will enjoy it and love it. You will have fun, gain a new experience, and it will change your life. It has for me.” 

“I absolutely enjoyed the experience, having loved the journal’s subject matter and the processes that went into its completion,” agrees Worhach. “I would encourage any student considering a similar opportunity to definitely take it. Though the work can be at times be demanding, the skills offered by large-scale projects such as the Color + Culture journal are beyond valuable.”