Art Across Borders Creating New Experiences for Cayuga Students

A new course this semester at Cayuga Community College is creating opportunities for art students to collaborate on an international project with an art institute in Mexico, culminating in exhibitions at both colleges.

The course, Art Across Borders, will see Cayuga students collaborate artistically with students from the Instituto Allende in San Miguel D’Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico, throughout the Spring 2021 semester. Along with exhibitions at both institutions, the student work will be documented in a published exhibition catalog.

Cayuga Associate Professor Melissa Johnson, who developed the course as part of a fellowship through Cornell University’s Einaudi Center for International Studies, is hopeful students will learn about and connect with individuals from another culture while developing their work.

“I’ve always loved the idea of using artwork to connect people across time and space, and in this case different regions, countries, and cultures,” said Johnson. “I’m hoping the course leads to the development of a powerful body of artwork, but also is an expansive and connecting experience for students.”

Johnson has a direct connection with the Instituto Allende, where she completed a two-week printmaking course in San Miguel de Allende while enrolled in graduate school at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. While developing the Art Across Borders course, she contacted several institutions in Mexico before developing a partnership with Instituto Allende.

Established in 1950, Instituto Allende has a long history of international educational partnerships, particularly with institutions in the United States. Along with partnerships with universities such as Texas A&M and Loyola Marymount, Instituto Allende is also affiliated with the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. 

Instituto Allende offers a Bachelor and Master of Fine Arts Degree, along with a series of interactive workshops and life-long learning programs designed for adult students. Thousands of local and international students study at Instituto Allende, which trains students for careers in the arts, communications and culture, with a commitment toward social and human development. 

The program partnership will see students from each College paired and exchange photos, including a self-portrait, landscapes from their home regions, cultural and favorite objects. The Cayuga students will design artwork based on the photos they receive from the Instituto Allende students, as well as their interactions.

Johnson said the course allows students to work in a variety of artistic genres, whether it’s painting, drawing, sculpture or digital media. The students will meet virtually several times this semester to discuss the photos and their subsequent work.

“The course is an opportunity for each student to learn about their partner through discussion and viewing the photos representing parts of each person’s identity, and then use these elements to generate work in response to the newly formed friendship.”  she said. “Learning about another culture through collaboration, and having the chance to exchange ideas with a fellow student who lives in that culture, is a rare and exciting opportunity. I am excited to see the works of art that will be created over the next few months.” 

At the end of the semester, the Cayuga students’ artwork will be displayed on-campus, said Johnson. Images of the artwork created by both Cayuga and Instituto Allende students will be included in an exhibition catalog along with photos and biographies of the students.

For more information about Cayuga’s art programs, visit For more information about Instituto Allende, visit