Course Info 2019


Space Atacama, Chile: Exploring Art, Culture, and the Environment in the high Andean Desert

“The time in Atacama Chile is a powerful experience that allowed me to learn about a new culture while reflecting on my own art making practice. A definite must while you are at WVU!”

Course Overview

Space Atacama Chile is a 4-credit adventure art course exploring ideas about space, perception and the landscape through digital media. There are no prerequisites for the course. Any student can sign up. The highlight of the course is a week-long, spring break trip to the remote, high altitude Atacama Desert of Chile and Bolivia. It features a 3-day trek to the breathtakingly beautiful Salar de Uyuni, the largest salt flat in the world. Also on this trip you will: trek through the otherworldly Valley of the Moon, sandboard the dunes of the Valley of Death, bathe in thermal hot pools at 12,000 feet, participate in a desert astrophotography workshop and see the stars like you’ve never seen them before. At the end of the journey you’ll visit the ALMA observatory, the largest radio telescope in the world. This course is open to both art majors and non-art majors alike.

The course is open to both art majors and non-art majors alike. During the 2019 spring semester, the class will meet on Wednesdays from 2-4:45 in the electronic media lab (room 5018) of the Creative Arts Center, and online. Students work with animation and video to investigate themes of space, perception, time the experience of the landscape through digital art. Students also learn about the history, politics and culture of Chile and the Atacama region.

While in Chile these themes are explored through daily hikes and expeditions into the extraordinary natural landscape surrounding the remote desert town of San Pedro de Atacama and the Altiplano. During our journeys students record and document their experiences, gathering data and information for a final art project. Finally, students learn about the particular aspects of the Atacama that distinguish it in terms of its flora and fauna and geology, and its unique astronomical characteristics. Upon return to the US, students complete the course with the creation a final, multimedia art work inspired by their experience of the Atacama. Non-art students and students with little technical experience are encouraged to apply; the skills needed to complete the final project are learned on location and during the final week of study

“This is by far one of the most memorable experiences of my life so far and I couldn’t be more happy to have been presented with an opportunity like this. Thank you for making this happen and I hope you can continue to pass this unforgettable experience onto many more generations of students.”

Travel to chile

On March 8, we begin our travel to northern Chile, flying first to the capital city of Santiago, and on the following day, continuing on to the northern mining town of Calama. From Calama we head south by bus arriving about an hour later in the small desert town of San Pedro de Atacama, renowned for its quaint and rustic beauty as well as its unique and eclectic population of travelers, mountaineers, artists, musicians and the locals who call call the desert their home.

Each morning for the next seven days we’ll pack-up the camcorders and digital cameras and head out on daily excursions into the surrounding mountains and valleys. In the evenings, as we unwind by a fireside dinner, we gather together again to reflect on the day's experiences, discussing our insights and thoughts about the day’s journey.

By weeks’ end, we’ll have wandered through pre-Columbian ruins, hiked across ancient lunar-like landscapes, pondered mysterious desert petroglyphs, and marveled at the night's sky  - impossibly vast and clear. We'll climb glistening dunes, take a dip into the crystal clear hot springs of Puritama and travel to a salt flat larger than any other on earth. Surrounded by this timeless landscape, you'll feel the tug of its ancient history as well as the awe of its extreme and surreal landscape. You'll experience the local Andean culture whose roots trace back through the Inca Empire and beyond. In the midst of this dreamlike setting you'll probe the very essence of your experience and talk about the relationships between art, perception, the landscape, technology and culture.

We’ll round off the week with a visit to the operations support facility of the ALMA observatory, the worlds largest radio telescope, and an afternoon sandboarding trip to the dunes of death Valley. On our return trip, we’ll have the opportunity to spend the day visiting the Chilean countryside on the outskirts of the capital city of Santiago.

Space Atacama is led by the School of Art and Design Professor Gerald Habarth, who visited Chile often as a youth and later lived in Chile after graduating from college from 1992 - 2000.

“Chile - a magical landscape that will change your life.”

program dates

Regular semester meeting times: Mon/Wed, 2:00 – 4:45 pm
Travel dates: Friday, March 8 – Sunday, March 18.


Cost per student: $3900


  • ALL TUITION AND FEES for 4 academic credits.
    This is EQUIVALENT TO: $4,380 for Non-Resident students
    and $1,628 for Resident students.

  • All transportation expenses from Washington DC,
    including roundtrip airfare, buses, and transfers.

  • All lodging (we will stay in hostels in San Pedro
    and while traveling through Uyuni).

  • All curricular equipment needs.

  • Some meals, including breakfast and several lunches.

  • Comprehensive Travel and Health Insurance.

  • Entrance fees for Chilean and Bolivian national parks.

  • Trip to Las Termas de Puritama (Puritama hot springs).

  • 3-day travel to the Salar de Uyuni.

  • Sandboarding in El Valle de la Muerte (Death Valley).

  • Visit to the ALMA Observatory.

  • Visit with students at a local elementary school.

  • 2-Day bike rental.

Itinerary in Chile

Coming soon!


Registration for Space Atacama is made through the WVU Education Abroad. The deadline to register is November 1, 2018. Space is limited. Follow the link below to begin your registration.