Written by David Hemmer, dean of the College of Sciences and Arts
Mary Cyr, lecturer in the Department of Visual and Performing Arts, has been selected as our first spring Dean’s Teaching Showcase member. In making the nomination Hemmer said “The costume shop is next to my office in Walker, but until recently I had no real idea the incredible work that Mary does there. Our classroom students and student performers are fortunate to have her talent and creativity on campus.”
Cyr’s courses in costume technology, design and crafts are typically hands-on requiring very up-close and meticulous work such as: sketching and rendering of the human form; pattern drafting, marking, and alteration; machine sewing and hand sewing techniques; along with dyeing and other fabric manipulation techniques.
For the sudden shut-down in the Spring 2020 semester, Cyr quickly assembled appropriate level kits, to be picked up or mailed, for both FA1703 Costume Technology and FA 3703 Advanced Costume Technology. These included the projects the students had been working on as well as the remaining projects for the semester, which had to include basic hand sewing tools and materials for FA1703 and next level patterns, fabric, drafting paper, and hand-drafting tools for FA 3703.
Using document cameras and creating pictorial tutorials, she taught the students the necessary techniques while also introducing the proper use of the tools. Then the students remotely shared their works in progress for guidance and finished projects for critique and evaluation.
Cyr expanded and enhanced these methods for Fall 2020 to begin with face-to-face classes that had to be ready to go remote at a moment’s notice. She used a document camera and large monitor in the costume shop to demonstrate close work while maintaining appropriate distances from and between the students who could also show their minute work using the same.
Cyr also chose to teach two sections of FA1703 so a typical number of students could take the course while maintaining social distancing in the costume shop. With time to plan, she researched patterns all would be able to understand and use whether remote or in-person. She expanded the supplies and tools to function in class and transition easily as potential take-home kits.
Cyr searched out very small but fully functional sewing machines, small irons, and good quality fabric shears to effectively create a portable costume shop for each student. In addition to her classroom responsibilities, she is the costume designer for all of the theatre productions. She also oversees the work of the costume shop as they build the costumes for the theatre productions.
She is imaginative in her designs and consistent in meeting all deadlines for costuming the shows. VPA Chair Jared Anderson said “Mary has been a vital part of the Visual and Performing Arts Department since she arrived in 2015. She has created new courses that have expanded opportunities for students to work in costuming and has been especially innovative and flexible in the ways that she has delivered a hands-on curriculum during the COVID-19 pandemic. She is always dependable in her work, meeting important deadlines and overseeing student workers in the costume shop. She is beloved by students who work with her. It is a pleasure to have her on the faculty in the Visual and Performing Arts Department.”
Cyr will be recognized at an end-of-term event with other showcase members, and is also a candidate for next year’s CTL Instructional Award Series (to be determined this summer) recognizing introductory or large-class teaching, innovative or outside the classroom teaching methods, or work in curriculum and assessment.