Liberal Studies Dept. Partners with CEMaST to Present First-of-its Kind Art Exhibition

November 30, 2022

Anna Rios

An award-winning generative art design created by liberal studies major Anna Rios has been selected for public exhibition in the College of Science’s Center for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (CEMaST).

Biology Professor Paul Beardsley and Becki King, a CEMaST staff member, chose the project to display.

Generative art (GenArt), symbolic of science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) pedagogy, refers to art that is made in part by using an autonomous computer system, and can be described in this context as making art with code. 

Rios, an aspiring math teacher, developed an interest in combining math, computer science and art through her LS 4011 GenArt PolyX course taught by Liberal Studies Assistant Professor Maya Stovall. According to Stovall, Rios’s faculty mentor, a departmental reception to celebrate the exhibition will be announced in spring 2023. 

“I couldn’t be prouder of Anna Rios’s academic, artistic and professional development,” said Stovall. “While learning to make art with code, Rios was able to explore her passion for mathematics through the lens of computer technology in the context of the visual arts. Her leadership and collaboration in the classroom with her peers was truly inspirational.

“The course is centered by accessibility and inclusivity in STEAM pedagogy. In addition to developing innovative works of generative art, Anna Rios embraced the anti-oppressive pedagogical model of the course and served as a peer mentor at the LS GenArt CodeAThon, attended by 100 students in spring. I am excited for Anna Rios’s brilliant future as a STEAM educator, and I know she will inspire and mentor so many students with her passion for mathematics and vision for more equitable futures.” 

In Stovall’s Generative Art PolyX course, which is part of the CPP PolyX Hub and the LS Department’s PolyX Pathways, students begin to learn how to code within the context of the visual arts, while building equity-minded STEAM and computer science (CS) pathways in an inclusive, accessible environment.

Students in the course work in code pods, which is a peer-to-peer learning model that emphasizes high impact practices and features intensive faculty mentorship. The course is open to students of all majors. 

“The artwork I created is actually math based,” said Rios. “I discovered through Professor Stovall's course that you can manipulate equations, in this case fractals, to create code based generative art.”

Upon learning that her work would be displayed indefinitely in the CEMaST office, Rios said she was deeply moved. This accomplishment was especially touching for her since she’s an adult learner overcoming the challenges of going back to school.

“Hearing that my artwork was so well received made me feel like going back to school was the right move,” said Rios. “I am an older student, 44 to be exact. I am a mother and a wife. I came back to school to pursue teaching after being a licensed vocational nurse for about eight years. I was terrified of coding and I'm a little self-conscious about being back in school at this age. However, my code pod, Pixel, was amazingly supportive and Professor Stovall was an incredibly patient and passionate professor. I am just really humbled and honored.”

Rios is only five courses away from completing her liberal studies degree and added authorization in STEM education. She said the most enjoyable part of being a liberal studies major is enrolling in classes that she wouldn’t normally take.

“I wouldn’t have considered enrolling in a generative art class, but it was one of the coolest classes I've ever taken,” said Rios. “The same is true of Professor Schorr's course on children's literature. It was not only fun, but I learned a lot. I’ve enjoyed all my classes, but I've really loved some of the courses that I’ve taken that have required me to step out of my comfort zone.”

Rios plans to pursue her teaching credential in the near future and looks forward to providing middle school students with a strong foundation in mathematics to prepare them for high school. 

“Combining math and art was a fun endeavor and I hope to incorporate what Professor Stovall taught me into a math lesson for my future students,” Rios concluded. 

For more information about the liberal studies program in the College of Education and Integrative Studies, visit www.cpp.edu/ceis/liberal-studies.