‘Wake Up St. Olaf’ disrupts daily routine

Students challenge institutional restrictions on creative expression

Published Feb. 26, 2016, 3:30 p.m. - 263 views


Seven St. Olaf students took their interim course one step further and initiated a project called “Wake Up St. Olaf!” The class, Art 240: Powerful Play and Meaningful Creation, was an interdisciplinary course co-taught by Assistant Professor of Dance Sheryl Saterstrom and Professor of Art and Art History Irve Dell. 
The class was part of a new Creative Learning Community that launched this year. The six-hour class focused on teaching and encouraging creativity through action and teamwork. The students who took it considered it an immense success.
“I think [the] goal was to teach us creativity, which I guess is something you can’t really teach. [However,] you can make an environment where you can hone those skills of being creative. It’s kind of a mindset,” Julian Gruber ’19 said. 
The class provided students with 30 hours a week to think freely and learn how to be creative problem solvers by inventing games and accomplishing randomly assigned tasks. The class was loosely structured, allowing students to choose the direction of the coursework. 
“It was easily the most unpredictable classroom experience I’ve ever had here,” James O’Leary ’16 said.
At the end of the course, the students were given a final project. The class split into two groups: one wanted to use irony to address how the institution of St. Olaf stifles student creativity and imagination, and the other wanted to encourage student spontaneity. 
“Right now we have two different mediums that we use. We have the posters, a lot of which have been taken down because we put them up unapproved. The way the school reacted was exactly how we anticipated it to. It kind of shows that there isn’t a lot of room for creativity or student led activities that aren’t approved by the institution,” Sonja Anton ’18 said. 
The students intentionally hung the posters without permission to show how breaking procedural rules is sometimes okay to communicate an important message in the name of creativity. 
The second part of the project consisted of small cards that the students hid around campus. Each card carried a little suggestion of how students could shake up their day and do something new. Through the posters and the cards, the group aimed to make two points. The first was that creativity should be something that is encouraged at St. Olaf, not limited. The second was to show that students can and should put more individual effort into being spontaneous. 
“I would say the primary goal for us was to break up the monotony that exists here on campus. We have a lot of students that are interested in a huge range of things, but they tend to overburden themselves and take things really seriously,” O’Leary said.
St. Olaf students are known for being involved in a myriad of different activities and clubs.  Their many commitments often make for a long and exhausting schedule. The seven students involved in Wake Up St. Olaf! all believe that college can be monotonous at times and that students should be encouraged to break out of their everyday mold by embracing creativity. 
“Our most basic goal was to get somebody to stop and think, maybe laugh, maybe share something with someone else,” Gruber said. “It’s just kind of a novel thought in your day.”
The project has a Facebook page, Wake Up St. Olaf, for students interested in seeing the complete collection of posters.

ellfel1@stolaf.edu

About the Author

Avery Ellfeldt, class of 2019 is a Communications and Cultural Studies, Spanish major.

ellfel1@stolaf.edu

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