“The facts lead to understanding of a greater picture of the cosmos, and that’s the purpose of doing astronomy. It’s not to create a stamp collection of what is out there but to understand how in the world all of this is working together,” he said.
Ed Finn, founding director of the Center for Science and the Imagination and an associate professor with a joint appointment in the School of Arts, Media and Engineering and the Department of English, taught the “Approaches to Light” course.
“Classes like this are why I came to ASU,” he said. “Light is so fundamental to our experience. Civilization is a story of our manipulation of light from fire all the way to lasers.
“The challenge for students was to figure out what to do with this overwhelming topic.”
Stephanie Gonzalez, a graduate student in the School of Art, said that Roden Crater made her question the notion of art.
“I came back and went into my studio and looked at my work. I wondered what I could do with my practice to reshape the question of what art can be.”
The true experience the students visiting Roden Crater get is not so much the earth, the structures or the architectural interventions Turrell has created inside, according to Olga Viso, a senior adviser to Tepper who is the liaison between ASU and the Skystone Foundation, a nonprofit that raises money and operates Roden Crater.
“As James likes to say, the work is really about you seeing yourself seeing,” she said.
The field labs were pilot courses as part of a year-long planning process, which was led by Tepper. The goal is to build on these experiences and work with Turrell on both completing his work and developing one-of-a-kind immersive learning opportunities for students.
“For us, we were thinking of Roden Crater as an extraordinary learning laboratory like none that has ever existed,” Tepper said at the showcase. “What would it look like to build a learning enterprise around a singular, masterful work of art and how could that drive generations of future learners and scholars to think and create in response to this?
“We want all of our classes to achieve that sense of wonder at the possibilities.”