Discuss This Article

Grounded in the Arts

By Rachel Faugno

The arts have always been important to Stefanie E. Wojcik ’04. She began studying piano at age 4 and still plays daily for personal enjoyment. Her humanities work at WPI culminated in a recital featuring works by Chopin, Mozart, and Brahms. Her IQP with the Worcester Community Project Center focused on ways to convert vacant mills into suitable housing and studio space for Worcester artists. Now a graduate research assistant in mechanical engineering with plans to explore a career in industry, Wojcik expresses a deep appreciation of the value of the arts and humanities in her education. “Arts and humanities are especially important at a technological school like WPI, where the core courses are very intense and students are extremely focused,” says Wojcik, whose B.S. is in physics. “Music, literature, and history help you relax and at the same time challenge you to look at your work from a broader perspective.”

Professor William W. Durgin, with whom Wojcik is conducting research on the transmission of sound over long distances in the ocean, observes, “Being grounded in the arts and having a broad perspective flows over into research work. There is more to research than technical curiosity; there is also the heightened sense of need to contribute to human progress in a responsible way. I think WPI does a better job than many other universities of fostering an appreciation of the greater implications of science and technology.”

Speaking at WPI’s new faculty orientation this fall, Wojcik said that because WPI is so flexible, there is no one typical way of doing something, no one typical student. “Projects are a great influence on every student’s academic career,” she explained, “because they allow you to think creatively and independently.” She says that humanities projects, in particular, allow students to see the world in a new light and give them a better appreciation of the richness of our culture. With humanities projects, students explore areas of interest that may have no direct bearing on their career goals. Her own project centered on her piano performance, but her interest in the arts led to an IQP reaching out to Worcester artists.

Working with Eric Anderson ’04 and Conor Casey ’05, and under the direction of David DiBiasio, professor of chemical engineering, and Steven Taylor, assistant professor of management, Wojcik’s team conducted a survey intended to help Worcester create a successful artists district, an idea the city has been exploring for some time.

The Artist Survey Project—developed by Rob Krueger, Worcester Community Project Center director—was disseminated in a three-phase process by three separate teams. It asked artists about their pref-erences in living and studio accommodations, and sought to identify the types of amenities that would attract them to an artists district.

“I was amazed by all the creativity in Worcester,” says Wojcik. “I could spend a whole day going to all the arts places and a whole week going to all the arts-related businesses. There are enough artists to create a vibrant district, but there has to be careful planning in order to attract them. Our survey looked at the need for studios, galleries, living space, and amenities such as electricity and sinks.”

Survey results, which were well received by the city, identified a number of artists interested in living and working in what are currently brown spaces. The information will serve as a useful guide for economic planning and development, says Krueger, noting that converting old mills into modern accommodations will require a sizeable investment of resources. “Technology in service of the arts,” he explains.

But, as Wojcik sees it, the arts and technology have always gone hand-in-hand. “Arts and humanities shaped our culture. It’s who we are,” she says. “But science and technology are what make it run.”
Maintained by:
Last modified: Dec 20, 2005, 16:52 EST
[WPI] [Alumni] [Home]