Dr. Kaylee Spencer Harbors Disruptive Art Ideas. On Sabatigo, She'll Make Sure You Do, Too.
Remember the old days that we can't wait to get back to? When we all walked around our campuses and just bumped into each other and had coffee? I do. And I especially do on the verdant campus of the University of Wisconsin at River Falls, together with Dr. Kaylee Spencer. She has been a beloved Historian of Art there for a decade and a half. And also a faculty adviser and scholar in the Chancellor's Office. But you ask what's so memorable about a campus coffee with Kaylee?
The fact that it takes so long, that's what. Because everyone on campus from the chancellor to the freshmen in her class know her and need to talk to her. Now. About the generous ideas she has already shared with them. And the art she has talked with them about. Or perhaps they need to query her on the future of the university? Pro-tip on Kaylee: If you need coffee, you'd better get it and then walk with her. Otherwise you won't get your coffee.
In my experience, when somebody is beloved like this it's not the universe being randomly kind. It means that the person in question was super kind, first. To everyone. And also followed through on things they said they'd do. Kaylee has been such an intellectual and empathic spark plug in UWRF's Art Department that her alumni call her the best teacher of their lives. Or as her current chair, Eoin Breadon says about her:
There's our awesome crew here, and then there's Kaylee. Students who have her classes worship her. There's just no way to describe the level of engagement she brings to her teaching and to their lives. I think I'm pretty good. And then I see what she does to open up the creative world for Art majors here. It's amazing, and we are so lucky to have her.
Kaylee has always loved travel. And she taught abroad for UWRF on a few occasions earlier in her career. The fit of being abroad with great students was something she wore well, so when she heard about Sabatigo she was keen to dive in and make Paris and Berlin her new "classrooms."
I want Sabatigoers to assess the very eyes they bring to looking at art. What are our biases? Where is our privilege? Where do we engage with beauty along lines that are class-based, race-based or lodged within what is socially normative in our lives? I want to show students beautiful things, yes. And I want them to see things they could never find on their own. But even more I want them to learn how to see aesthetics from a fiercely critical viewpoint. That also advances their self awareness, cultural sophistication and innovative powers.
Kaylee's focus in her Wonder-Walks will be the key intersections between strategies of artistic representations and power politics. From architecture to formal portraiture to the most avant-garde art of post-modernism. Kaylee knows that Paris and Berlin will be such deep resources for her sessions that not two years on Sabatigo will see her walking the "same" route.
When Kaylee has finished a week in Paris or Berlin, those of us who know her can imagine what a walk with her down a street will feel like. The café owners we have all seen forever and the market stall where we've all shopped from for ages? They'll bullrush past the rest of our Disruptors and staff to say hello to Mlle. Kaylee. Who will know their names, and about their dogs and kids, and how their aged parents are doing. And whether they paint or not anymore.
There's art on the walls. And there's an art to life. Kaylee is your hot-take expert on both.