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Space: Atacama

Space: Atacama is a six credit, four-week multimedia, adventure art course that will take students into the remote, northern desert region of Chile to investigate themes of perception, space, positioning, self-awareness and environmental appreciation.

Designed as an immersive experience, the program emphasizes direct engagement with a remote environment while bringing a host of multimedia tools and strategies to bear upon this investigation. It aims not only at the production of inspired artworks that exhibit refreshing takes on these time honored themes, but ultimately at the inspiration of students through a reawakening to the senses, and the discovery of new, technologically oriented forms of interpreting and relating such experiences.


Led by WVU Intermedia professor Gerald Habarth , the first week of study takes place in Morgantown to give basic instruction of the tools students will take into the field in Chile. Students will read and discuss selected essays pertaining to relevant art history and theory, as well as to Chilean political history and culture to prepare them for their journey.

During the days, we pack-up camcorders, digital cameras and GPS units and launch daily excursions into the surrounding mountains and valleys. In the evenings, as we unwind around a campfire or sip warm tea in a desert cafe, we gather together again to reflect on the day's experiences, record our findings and discuss issues of art, technology, science, culture and history.

Over a two-week period you'll wander through pre-Columbian ruins, hike across ancient lunar-like landscapes, ponder mysterious desert petroglyphs, and marvel at the night's sky like you've never seen it before - impossibly vast and clear. You'll climb glistening dunes, traverse crystalline salt flats, and then re-energize with a dip in the crystal clear hot springs of Puritama. Surrounded by this timeless landscape, you'll feel the tug of its ancient history as well as the awe of its extreme environment. You'll witness one of the Atacama's largest desert folk festivals and experience the local Andean culture whose roots trace back to the Inca Empire and beyond. In the midst of this dreamlike setting you'll probe the very essence of experience and talk about the relationships between art,perception, science, technology and culture.

After a final day in the desert sandboarding the dunes of Death Valley, we round off our trip with a two-day visit to Chile's modern and bustling capital city of Santiago, strolling its centuries-old city center, visiting contemporary art galleries and the National museum of art.

All the while you'll record your every step through this magical world, completing the course upon our return with a multimedia project that recounts your journey and synthesizes your experiences. One recent student participant had this to say about the course:

"The experiences that I accrued during the 10 days I spent in Chile are ones that I will hold with me for the rest of my life. I cannot begin to explain how valuable this trip has been to my overall education in Biology, Evolution, Astronomy, Ecology, Art and Culture, and most importantly... life."


Academic credits: 6

Total cost per student: $4,000 (subject to change)

Cost Includes:

  • All transportation expenses from Pittsburgh, including airfare, buse, airport trasfers and metro.
  • All lodging (San Pedro and Santiago)
  • All academic enrollment costs
  • All curricular equipment needs
  • Breakfast and lunch meals (you are responsible for your dinners)
  • Entrance fees for Chilean national parks and museums, including: El Valle de la Luna (The Valley of the Moon), Laguna Cejar (Lake Cejar), la Quebrada de Kezala, Ruins of Pukara de Quitor, Ruins of Tulor, entrance into La Quebrada de Jerez, and the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (National Museum of Art)
  • Trip to Las Termas de Puritama (Puritama hot springs)
  • Guided stargazing trip
  • La Fiesta de San Pedro (Festival of Saint Peter)
  • Visits to various small towns and villages of the region, such as Toconao, Talabre, and Rio Grande
  • Sandboarding in El Valle de la Muerte (Death Valley)
  • 3-Day bike rental
  • Student travel insurance