Past Program

Mexico: Pre-Columbian to Contemporary: Architecture & Crafts

This travel course is a cross-disciplinary Liberal Arts collaboration between THAD and HPSS. The THAD component "Pre-Colonial to Contemporary" addresses colonial, modern, and contemporary arts, while the HPSS component, "Pre-Columbian Architecture and Traditional Crafts" addresses the pre-Columbian history of architecture and arts.

Co-led by Sean Nesselrode Moncada (Assistant Professor, Theory and History of Art and Design) and Winifred Lambrecht (Senior Lecturer, Theory and History of Art and Design/History, Philosophy, & Social Sciences)


Wintersession Travel Course
  • Mexico City, Mexico
Winter 2020

Course Dates: Jan 3, 2020 — Feb 1, 2020
Travel Dates: Jan 7, 2020 — Feb 1, 2020

Open to RISD students, Brown University students

Minimum 2.5 GPA required. Open to first year students with approval from the Dean of EFS.

  • Craft
  • Colonialism
  • Indigenous Communities
  • Art History
  • Architecture
  • Visual Ethnography
Academic Credits
  • Theory and History of Art and Design
  • History, Philosophy, & Social Sciences
Course Numbers
  • THAD-W135
  • HPSS-W235

Includes accommodation, field trips, local transportation, some group meals, museum entrances, health and travel insurance. Group airfare is included.

Mexico: History, Pre-Colonial, Colonial and Contemporary Arts
Mexico City, Mexico 2019
Mexico: History, Pre-Colonial, Colonial and Contemporary Arts
Mexico City, Mexico
Mexico: History, Pre-Colonial, Colonial and Contemporary Arts
Mexico City, Mexico

About this Travel Course

The course hopes to not only inform students about the culture and history of our neighbors to the South, but also give them knowledge and an appreciation for the many contributions that Mexican past civilizations and contemporary Mexican culture have provided globally, and continue to bring to us. We also hope that our traveling students will learn about group dynamics, develop sensitivity towards a culture that might be foreign to them, be willing to explore a host of new traditions, acquire new knowledge, and discard possible stereotypes and preconceptions about an American region to which so many of our US citizens and immigrants have a connection to.

Prior to leaving for Mexico, the students will be given a illustrated lecture with an overview of Mexico's past cultural and political history, including the development of major civilizations throughout Mexico, the conquest of the region by the Spanish in the 16th c., the Mexican revolution, and the current political structure of the country. During our travel, each site visit will be accompanied by a brief contextual introduction orienting the students to the site's contributions to Mexico's history and cultural context.

This travel course has two components: Theory and History of Art and Design + History, Philosophy, and the Social Sciences.

1. THAD Seminar: Pre-Colonial to Contemporary - Sean Nesselrode Moncada

The THAD portion of the course will cover the colonial, modern, and contemporary periods in terms of artistic, architectural, and visual production, considering how indigenous pre-colonial techniques and traditions (addressed in the HPSS portion of the course) are revived, reinvented, and synthesized with European, African, and Asian styles, materials, and practices.

Students will be required to write two short papers (3 pages, double-spaced) that reflect upon the readings and/or the sites visited. They should be focused, organized responses that include a clear thesis (or guiding idea) rather than being a stream-of-conscious response, but may incorporate personal reflections, impressions, and opinions. The course will conclude with a focused, researched response (5-7 pages) that engages with some aspect of Mexican art, architecture, or visual culture, from the pre-colonial period to the present day. It may incorporate personal reflections and impressions, but it should reference and cite specific texts that we have read in the course, as well as artworks and/or sites we have visited during our trip. Papers will be due after our return from Mexico. Students' grades will take into account their participation and inquisitiveness in/about the various site visits, as well as their level of inquiry and critical engagement demonstrated in their written responses.

2. HPSS Seminar: Pre-Columbian Architecture and Traditional Crafts - Winifred Lambrecht

The HPSS component will also address the contemporary cultural traditions that distinguish each region from the other in terms of crafts production, the use of local materials, and the identifying regional dress, language and cuisine modalities.

Students will complete a series of pre-departure readings and the keeping of a journal that includes both written descriptions and observations as well as sketches of the many site visits; this requirement is part of exploring the focused discipline of "visual ethnography", i.e. the observation and visual description of environs, people and material culture through simple available tools: paper and pencil (or other portable tools such as water colors, etc.). Students' grades will take into account their participation and inquisitiveness in/about the various site visits, a written quiz on the readings, and the interest the Yoruba show through their journals and sketches. We hope to have their work exhibited at our journey's end on the RISD campus.

This is a co-requisite course. Students must plan and register for THAD-W135 and HPSS-W235. Students will receive 6 liberal arts credits

Travel Locations

Together, the courses explore topics across several regions of Mexico, including:

  • Mexico City, where we will visit the Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and José Clemente Orozco murals, Frida Kahlo's house and museum, the Palacio de Bellas Artes, and the world-renowned Museo de Antropología and Xochimilco, the canals left from the early settlement of the Valley of Mexico by the Mixteca/Aztec civilization)
  • Puebla, known for its ceramics production and its ties to early colonial commerce, as well as nearby Cholula with its many colonial churches
  • Veracruz, a port city distinctive for its ties to the Caribbean and as a site of the importation of enslaved Africans
  • Mérida, the most culturally active city in the Yucatán Peninsula, with access to several early and classic Maya archaeological sites, as well as a vibrant contemporary arts scene.

Apply to a Wintersession Travel Course

The application for Wintersession Travel Courses 2024 is now closed.

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