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CAFE 541: Avantika Bawa’s unambivalent art now showing at Ditch Projects in Springfield

Avantika Bawa.

In this week’s edition of “Five Questions With …,” CAFE 541 sits down with Portland artist Avantika Bawa, associate professor of fine arts at Washington State University Vancouver, who is currently showing ”#FFFFF,” part of her “Scaffold Series,” at Springfield’s Ditch Projects gallery. Bawa’s utilitarian structures, appearing in Mumbai and the White Salt Desert in India and in Astoria lose their function to become strange, stark elements of what are often already strange, stark settings.

You have been a contemporary artist for many years. I’m curious what or who inspired you to follow the path of becoming a contemporary artist?

It just happened! I cannot pinpoint exactly when it started but working with drawing tools was always part of my life. I recall one day, when I snuck into my father’s office at age 6 and began to draw with staples. I wondered how many other non-art materials I could draw with. From there, my curiosity and explorations only grew. The inspirations have been many, ranging from an endless number of artists, filmmakers, musicians and friends to traveling to new and obscure places. The list is endless. We would need a longer interview for this!

As a contemporary artist, is there a tool or a material component that you couldn’t imagine going without? Why is this so integral to your work?

Yes and no. I like the challenge of landing in a site and working with the materials I find there. I embrace the “locally sourced” and “fabricated” materials and see how far I can go with just that.

Having said that, I do like a box of 2B pencils, a 12- to 16-inch straight edge and a mechanical sharpener that won’t suddenly die. That’s technically three tools, but I see them as related. I use a lot of graphite lines in my work, and I need my lines to be sharp and straight! Although ”#FFFFFF” does not use any of these, the aesthetic is still evident. You can observe a lot of sharp straight lines in the scaffolds and its shadows.

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The Register-Guard

Engaging our statewide community

Over the next four weeks, four WSU researchers in the College of Arts and Sciences will share their work and expertise with communities across the state of Washington.

The WSU faculty are members of the Humanities Washington Speakers Bureau and the initial cohort of WSU Foley Fellows.

Clockwise from top left, Rebecca Craft, Travis Ridout, Matthew Sutton, & Stephen Stehr.
Clockwise from top left, Rebecca Craft, Travis Ridout, Matthew Sutton, & Stephen Stehr.

Speakers Bureau talks are free public presentations on history, politics, music, philosophy, and everything in between. Humanities Washington’s roster of presenters are professors, artists, activists, historians, performers, journalists, and others—all chosen not only for their expertise, but their ability to inspire discussion with people of all ages and backgrounds. All talks are free and open to the public, and each lasts about an hour.

The four WSU faculty presentations begin with:

  • Higher Power: The History of Evangelicals in American PoliticsTuesday, Feb. 18, at 6:30 p.m.
    Indian Trail Library, Spokane WA

    Matthew Sutton, an Edward R. Meyer Distinguished Professor of history, traces the history of the religious right in America, from its early roots to its rise to power under Ronald Reagan and into the current era.

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WSU Insider

Bloomberg’s Instagram meme ad campaign is backfiring

The Democratic candidate’s recent sponcon doesn’t seem to be convincing people he’s any more relatable, hip, or funny than he was before.

The advertising industry that thrives on Instagram seems to love Michael Bloomberg’s U.S. presidential campaign — one marketer who posted a Bloomberg meme told the Times it was the most successful ad he’s ever posted. But the onslaught of critical comments on the memes raises questions about the effectiveness of the campaign — both for Bloomberg and for the influential meme pages that risk losing their cool by promoting a candidate who’s viewed by many of their followers as an out-of-touch billionaire trying to buy his way into an election.

Travis Ridout.

“I’m not surprised by the negative reaction,” Travis N. Ridout, a professor of government and public policy at Washington State University who researches online political advertising, told Recode. “Especially given the media attention that he is getting for this, people could feel like they’re being duped or manipulated.”

Many of the negative comments specifically called out Bloomberg for his wealth — labeling him as an “oligarch.” Others accused him of trying to distract from his checkered past on racial issues, which includes instituting controversial “stop-and-frisk” policing in New York City that disproportionately impacted people of color.

“A lot of times, memes are seen as organic, created by people who have something funny to say,” Ridout said. But “to the extent that this is seen as something that is paid for by a rich guy” then it may not have the same impact.

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Native American drivers are more likely to be searched by Washington State Patrol

While the searches occur at five times the rate for white drivers, they are less likely to turn up drugs or other contraband.

Twelve years ago, WSU academic researchers in sociology, political science, and criminal justice and criminology working with the Washington State Patrol raised a warning flag: Troopers were searching drivers from minority communities, particularly Native Americans, at a much higher rate than whites. They recommended additional study.

That was the last time the State Patrol conducted a substantive analysis of the race and ethnicity of drivers searched by troopers. Meanwhile, troopers continued to search Native Americans at a rate much higher — more than five times — than that of whites, an analysis by InvestigateWest shows. The State Patrol also continued conducting searches at an elevated rate for Blacks, Latinos and Pacific Islanders.

And yet when troopers did decide to search white motorists, they were more likely to find drugs or other contraband, records show.

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The Spokesman-Review

LIFT Faculty Fellowship increases student and faculty engagement

WSU psychology professor Blythe Duel.Teaching Psychology 230 – Human Sexuality – at Washington State University Pullman puts Blythe Duell in front of up to 500 undergraduate students each class session.

Duell, who is a clinical associate professor, wanted to be certain she was doing everything in her power to ensure that students were engaged and getting as much as they could out of the class. Her participation in WSU’s LIFT Faculty Fellowship gave her the tools to do it.

One of her first goals was to show her students that they weren’t alone in struggling at times. She had each student in her PSYCH 201 class write down a time they struggled and how they overcame it, and then shared the results.

“There’s some evidence that shows that if students understand other people are struggling, that they’ll feel more comfortable, and it’s easier to learn in an environment where you feel comfortable,” she said. “This can be especially important for first generation students and students who feel out of place in a college setting.”

The LIFT fellowship, which is currently accepting applicants to join its fourth cohort, teaches a variety of evidence-based teaching interventions. Previous research has shown that these interventions improve student engagement and learning, decrease course withdrawal and fail rates, and boost student retention.

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WSU Insider