Indonesia, a nation of 17,000 islands, encompasses 400 ethnic groups representing many languages, religions and cultures. As more and more Indonesian-Americans choose to call Los Angeles home, the Indonesian Consulate recently established a new center to serve the Indonesian community and forge connections with the city. In this seven-week studio, students work with the Consulate, Indonesian community groups, artists and designers to create a mural to celebrate and reflect the diversity of Indonesia and Indonesians in L.A. The course concludes with the Indonesian Consulate selecting, funding and implementing student concepts to be installed at their new offices.
Interview with Instructor Amir Nikravan
ArtCenter: How would you describe this class to a prospective student?
Amir Nikravan: The class is essentially a commissioned mural project with the Indonesian Consulate, the goal of which is to create a large-scale outdoor public mural to promote understanding, visibility and education about Indonesian art and culture.
AC: How did ArtCenter come to partner with the Indonesian Consulate on this project?
AN: The General Consul of Indonesia requested ArtCenter’s involvement in the mural project. The Fine Art and Illustration departments decided to co-host the studio with Designmatters for students to learn about the history and cultures of Indonesia through a series of guest lectures, leading to the final presentation of mural concepts. It is thrilling that one of the concepts has been installed at the Consulate.
I wanted to celebrate my home country. Through guest speakers and class discussions, I had meaningful conversations about diversity, representation, and thinking critically about depictions of groups of people.Amanda OesefIllustration
AC: What inspired the direction you took with the curriculum for this class?
AN: The curriculum was deeply rooted in a series of lectures arranged by the Consulate. Over the course of seven weeks, we had weekly conversations with Indonesian artists, historians, cultural icons and scholars — both here in the U.S. and in Indonesia. The goal was to glean a deeper understanding of Indonesia before students began approaching the actual design-phase of the mural.
AC: What are some of the most important concepts and ideas you hope students take away from the experience/classwork?
AN: When approaching a project for a client where goal is to create something "public-facing," it's key to truly understand the role they want the finalized work to play. Since this project's goal was to act as a platform to promote cultural understanding of a community not well known in the U.S., extensive research was done by students in partnership with the Consulate. We wanted to ensure students were as informed as possible about the culture and people they were making the artwork for and about.
AC: What were some of the most interesting/surprising ways the students responded to the challenges and assignments?
AN: Students were incredibly proactive in their independent research into traditional Indonesian arts and design, leading to thoughtful contemporary artistic interpretations.