Thinking Creatively About Art

Lebanon Valley College English graduate Matt Baczewski displayed a project he started as an undergraduate student.

Visitors to the Handwerker Gallery in Ithaca, New York, encountered an unusual piece in its 2017 summer exhibit that got its start at Lebanon Valley College.

Matt Baczewski ’14, who is pursuing his master’s in fine arts in image text at Ithaca College, created the work, titled “A Declaration.” He started the project during an independent study as an English literature major at The Valley. “A Declaration” began with a reworking of the text of both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.

“I reordered the existing words based on word count to create a new document that contained the same words and quantity of words, then assigned numerical values to them based on their appearance in the new document,” he explained. “I then assigned a tone to each number and created a musical score, which I then realized through Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) instrumentation [a way to connect devices that make and control sound—such as synthesizers, samplers, and computers—so that they can communicate with each other]. Afterwards, I followed the same process with Marx and Engel's Communist Manifesto and played the two together.”

Baczewski, an English literature graduate, credits the influence of Dr. Robert Machado, professor of English.

“He invests a lot of time with his students, even after the semester ends, and pushed me to think critically about aesthetics beyond the artwork and to develop and embrace my own creative voice,” Baczewski said.

“A Declaration” is one of many experiences Baczewski has enjoyed in his graduate work. He also traveled to Mexico City and spent a week meeting with local artists, writers, and arts organizations. He and his fellow students visited Aeromoto, which provides independently published, small run, and art books and periodicals to all community members based on a library membership model.

“Many of these books would be extremely hard or impossible to access any other way, so it's a great way to get these books in more hands,” he said. 

Baczewski’s time at graduate school has inspired him to envision a future where art is part of every community.

“I’d love to be involved with or start an organization that helps people create and distribute unconventional art, focusing on community involvement and making art practices available to all community members,” he said. “That seems to me to be an important outlet for creativity and discussion.”