Student Focus - Aya Mares and Mimi Killinger – March / April 2009
The Art of Research
The decision by Aya Mares and Mimi Killinger to embark on a collaborative research project at the University of Maine was an artful move.
Mares, a first-year art student from Orono in UMaine’s Honors College, had an intense interest in art therapy, collectives and activism. Killinger, a faculty member in the college, had just begun researching The Garden Artists, a Houston-based women’s art collective from the 1970s. Their interests were so in sync that last spring they embarked on a joint research effort.
“We came to the project with shared research interests,” says Killinger, the Rezendes Preceptor for the Arts in the Honors College. “Rather than my delegating, we were cooperating, taking equal responsibility for our work. Aya’s enthusiasm for the subject reinvigorated my study, and sharing my research with a student in an authentic way propelled my own research.”
In the course of several months, they interviewed artists such as Robert Shetterly, Gail Page and Lydia Cassatt; members of the Machias-based Beehive Collective; and Bangor art therapist Fran Clukey to explore the variety of ways that art can help people — from therapy to activism.
“I think the most important thing was talking to these people and seeing they had similar concerns as me,” Mares says. “They’re invested in something, they’re doing something about it.”
Mares may use her findings as the basis for her honors thesis. In addition, last fall she and Killinger presented at the National Collegiate Honors Conference on collaborative undergraduate research. They are now writing a paper on their research process for a scholarly journal.