In late November and early December 2021, UA’s Dr. Jennifer Feltman piloted a virtual reality (VR) experience of the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Reims with eighth graders in Mrs. Jessica Buckley’s art and design classes at Tuscaloosa Magnet School – Middle. This public engagement project, initiated by a seed grant from the Whiting Foundation, is designed to introduce premodern architecture in public arts education using the latest technologies.
Dr. Feltman visited the school four different times to enable all the eighth graders to “walk through” the cathedral. Students learned about medieval architecture, the design process for a VR app and created unique drawings of the cathedral.
As Feltman explains, “Gothic is an architecture of light, space, and dramatic scale. These concepts are best understood through experience, but this is difficult to convey in the classroom, where we often rely on 2D projections and videos. The VR app allows you to feel what it’s like to stand inside a Gothic cathedral. This makes architecture come alive in exciting ways.”
Tuscaloosa Magnet School – Middle Principal Constance Pewee-Childs said that she was delighted with the project. “This is a lifetime experience for many of our students. The students were exposed to architecture, design elements, history, art and so much more while working on this collaboration with Dr. Feltman and Mrs. Buckley. The experience alone can spark a career path or the love of architecture. The experience was priceless.” Mrs. Pewee-Childs added, “I enjoyed it as well!”
The non-profit, educational app is being developed for the Oculus Quest (ages 13 and up). The project is directed by Feltman in collaboration with colleagues from Florida State University, the University of Liège, and the University of Iowa. More information is available at http://networksofgothic.org.
For more information about The University of Alabama’s programs in studio art and art history, visit our Degree Programs page.