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Lonsome Highways: Space and Time in the Deserts of New Mexico and West Texas

May / June 
2-weeks on-site in the desert southwest with scheduled pre- and post-trip class meetings in Milwaukee

  • 3 Credits
  • HS396 Humanities Travel Elective
  • Pre-requisites: Completed Freshman year by time of travel and instructor approval


This research and critical thinking-based course takes students to the desert Southwest where participants will engage in immersive field study, visiting little-known land art sites, as well as geological, cultural, historical, and scientific locations to explore ways of understanding (or exploiting) space, time, and the desert landscape.

What is our connection to an ancient, little understood culture like the Anasazi at Chaco Canyon? What can we learn from the architectural ruins they left behind? Are land art sites like Amarillo Ramp (Robert Smithson) and Floating Mesa (Stanley Marsh) insightful uses of the desert landscape and the wide-open “canvas” it provides? How does a town like Roswell, New Mexico capitalize on our fears and fascination with the mysterious reaches of outer space? Why would Donald Judd, a New York artist, escape to the barren plains of Marfa, Texas? How does the West Texas landscape intermingle with his minimalist aesthetic?

These questions and others will be explored on this 14-day road trip visiting a wide range of places rich in interpretive potential including as Cadillac Ranch, White Sands National Monument, and the Apache Point Observatory. Rigorous documentation, note-taking, and daily discussion will take place during the excursion, providing abundant research material for the students’ final writing-based project.

Students and faculty will fly to Albuquerque from Milwaukee and explore these unique sites together in a 15-passenger van. Course is limited to 9 students.

Shana McCaw and Brent Budsberg have collaborated since 2001 in sculpture, performance, and site-specific installation, and more recently with photography and video. They have been artists-in-residence at MKELAX in Los Angeles, the Center for Land Use Interpretation in Wendover, UT, and the Goldwell Open Air Museum in Nevada. McCaw and Budsberg’s residency project, a book of photographs entitled “States of Matter,” is now part of the collection at the Nevada Museum of Art’s Center for Art + Environment. They have worked as curators and exhibition designers for such organizations as the Chipstone Foundation and the Milwaukee Art Museum. The two received Milwaukee’s Mary Nohl Fellowship for Individual Artists in the established category both in 2008 and 2014. They have taught numerous studio classes at MIAD and have led two previous MIAD travel courses exploring different areas of the west and southwest United States.


Estimated Travel/ Course Fee: $2950
Includes 3 credits MIAD summer tuition, housing, field trips and museum admissions, airfare from Milwaukee and several group meals.
Application Deadline: January 25, 2017. 
Interested students must apply for the program and complete an application packet (download from MIAD website or available outside of office 450B). Space is limited. Completed application forms must include a deposit of $400 payable to MIAD Desert Southwest Program, a statement of interest, 2 letters of reference and financial aid form (whether requesting aid or not).  Students must be in good academic standing with a minimum GPA of 2.5.
Minimum enrollment must be met for program to run. Deposits will be returned if program is canceled because of insufficient enrollment or if student is not accepted.
After student is accepted into the program, the deposit is non-refundable.
Financial Aid: 
Financial aid is available for qualified students. Interested students should inquire at the MIAD Financial Aid office ASAP to determine individual eligibility. Students should be aware that financial aid cannot be distributed before the start of the summer term, and in some cases, not until mid-program, so students should plan other means to cover earlier required payments and plane ticket purchases.
Payment Schedule: 
Payments on balance of course fee and tuition* will be due in the MIAD Student Accounts Office. Sample payment schedule based on estimated tuition/course fee noted:
January 25, 2017 – $400 Deposit must accompany application 
(non-refundable after program acceptance) 
March 24, 2017 – $350
May 1, 2017 – $2200 FINAL PAYMENT** 

Full payment is REQUIRED before program begins.
Payments beyond initial deposit may also be non-refundable if expenses have already been paid on participant’s behalf.
** Students who are expecting financial aid for the summer semester can elect to have this applied to their final payment.

Jenny Krantz, Director, Creative Learning Opportunities & Research – 
Office – 450B