ONTOPO founder Jon Santos also co-organized a weekend arts festival at a sleep away camp in 2012 titled The Last Weekend which ran until 2014. Some key features of this production: The duration (3 days and 2 nights), participating artists sharing space with attendees, eating meals, presenting and participating in the work. This interaction created meaningful exhange and new relationships between all attendees, whether they chose to or not were participating in a collaborative artwork.
Moved by the social dynamics and creative production that occurred in this context, Santos thought to create a new production in 2015 (ONTOPO) that reduced the number of attendees and participants from hundreds (250-400) to dozens (12-48) and would began a study of enganging sacred sites as a venue for creative production and performance. An informal classroom model was born from this and it informs the curriculum that Santos currently teaches in the Communications Design department at Pratt Institute to undergraduate design students.
Santos has been adjunction in the Communications Design department since 2007 and has been teaching a new curriculum introduced in 2018 spearheaded by department chair Jessica Wexler.
The Integrated Visual Communication courses function as lab and studio environments that engage students’ applied technical skills and craft through a range of cross-disciplinary assignments. Critical strategies will be covered through weekly lectures and in-class studio time that help guide students through each phase of application and production. Information and ideas take on many forms in contemporary design practices. The inherent challenge is for designers to consistently apply the execution of idea, form, and craft across different media platforms, including print, digital and environmental, each of which introduces a unique set of properties and constraints to which to respond. This course exposes students to the tools and knowledge base required to realize design concepts at high levels of production and craft.
In Integrated VisCom 1, assignments are structured across multiple platforms, prompting students to employ elements of design, narrative, and messaging, as well as introducing students to the tasks and responsibilities encountered in visual communication projects, comprehensive project management and physical production. Assignments will encourage the exploration of mediums and techniques based on the contexts of the largely student-driven projects. Alternating intensive critiques and medium-specific labs will focus on furthering the application of ideas toward substantial final products that are well crafted, and convey a consistent message as well as a clear visual strategy.
The course will explore the mechanics of scoring, organizing and executing participatory art works. Special attention will be given to event planning, curatorial practice, site specificity, production, documentation and the effect of multi-disciplinary process in a practical group setting. We will look at case studies of past events but the seminar itself is designed to be an action in and of itself. Participants are expected to contribute to the exercise of hosting an event at OXBOW using the site buildings and grounds as a setting and inspiration for what will culminate in a happening. The seminar will be co-facilitated by Kamau Amu Patton, Assistant Professor, department of Visual and Critical Studies, SAIC and Jon Santos of Common Space and founder of ONTOPO.