Course Spotlight: Art of Anatomy with Dr. Susan Beckwith


Image courtesy of Edson Silva

Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man

Gabrielle Gappy, Science & Technology Editor

Upon entering college, many students find themselves struggling to pick a major and deciding what path they want to pursue. After a concrete decision is made, many end up taking classes that may almost all correspond to a certain subject area. In doing so, the idea that various disciplines are intertwined and can affect one another may be neglected. 

Art of Anatomy, HC-2010, which will be offered next semester during the Winter of 2023, hopes to tackle this issue through exploring how art is implicated in the sciences as well as in technology. Dr. Susan Beckwith, the professor, answered some questions to give further insight into the class and its overall goals.

GG: How did you come up with this class idea and what made you want to teach it?

SB: I think too often we unintentionally separate or divide ‘the Arts’ from ‘the Sciences,’ and not only will this course explore how Art / Artists and the understanding of human anatomy and medicine are entwined, but also how engineering and design practices are deeply connected to the human body and how Art can inform and enhance these disciplines as well. This course will also include practices of ‘seeing’ in detail and from different perspectives, which speaks to all innovation! And, on a more human level, I believe that the pleasure of being in the presence of creativity (of all sorts!) and aesthetic objects is essential to our lives and well-being. 

GG: What kinds of students do you think would be drawn to this course?

SB: I welcome all students to my courses, because everyone brings a fabulous individual and unique experience to that learning community. With this course straddling Art and Science, I believe that everyone will connect to and enjoy the experience. I also hope to see students who have not previously thought of themselves as ‘artists’ or as being ‘creative’ in this course because we will discover that this is a much broader spectrum than is often thought! And of course artists and students who actively pursue creativity (in its myriad mediums!) will find new ways to engage with the arts and also consider the connection between their practices and the sciences and technology.

GG: What do you think students will enjoy most through this course?

SB: In all my courses, I emphasize a learning community, where we all journey into discovery and new knowledge and perspectives together, and encourage students to bring their own interests into our discussions and engagement with the material. So this inclusion of what students already enjoy will be present throughout the semester. For example, we may have students who would not consider themselves artists or art aficionados, but perhaps they are gamers: I would definitely consider the rendering of physical beings in video games to be art, and would be very interested in what students may want to explore in that regard!  Also, while we will be exploring the interconnectivity of art and sciences as they strive to improve the human condition, we will be taking time in this class to experience the immediate benefits (physical and mental) of experiencing art and being in the presence of art. 

Oakland University (OU) and the Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine (OUWB) have shed light on the importance of incorporating art and humanities into curriculum centered on the sciences and medicine. To anyone interested in this class and/or in gaining further knowledge on this topic, email Dr. Beckwith at [email protected] or read about a study conducted by OU and OUWB staff.