Political Science Class Pushes Boundaries, Envisions Sustainable Suburbia

It’s not an art class, but College of Charleston students in Kevin Keenan’s “Suburbia: People, Places and Politics” course stepped out of the classroom recently and into the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art to observe the Pulse Dome Project. The exhibition was created by artist, architect and designer Don ZanFagna and was on display from October 19 to December 8, 2012.

Keenan hopes the on-campus field trip will give students inspiration for their final papers about the future of suburbia. “I am hoping that this art exhibit will help them envision a future that is, perhaps, a bit more sustainable,” says Keenan, a political science professor. “Students learn in many different ways. Some are visual, experiential learners and my goal was to use this exhibit to engage different learning styles.”

The exhibition presented paintings, drawings, sketchbooks, and 3-D models that explicate the futuristic and metaphoric concept of “growing” your own house. Conceived in the 1970s, ZanFagna imagined a home created, constructed, and maintained by all-organic processes and in perfect harmony with nature.

Student Jay Hanf says, “I found it fascinating to be able to delve into the mind of such a creative man.  Some of his works offered a solid window of sight into what our future may look like, and others appeared to be a fantasy of bio-chemically engineered housing.”

During the semester, students in the political science class have discussed how the suburbs keep spreading farther out to cheaper land. Keenan adds, “It’s low density so you can’t put transit there and oil prices are going up. We discuss whether we should let this keep occurring, or are there alternatives. The artist was pushing boundaries, and I wanted my students to see that and feel empowered to stretch their own ideas and feel more confident presenting those ideas in their final papers.”

For more information contact Kevin Keenan at 843.953.5679 or keenank@cofc.edu.