The Classroom as Collective and Individual Learning:
Art does not take place in a vacuum. We are influenced by other artists, writers, mentors, and friends. I believe it is essential for the classroom to provide all these stimuli and to be an arena for discourse and collaboration. As an educator I provide this opportunity and create a comfortable environment in which students can inspire, think and create. My goal is to have students leave class with a sense of confidence in their opinions, an open mind, and a critical eye for all artwork, including their own.
The classroom is a unique space where one is continuously engaged with the same group of people over the course of several months. The familiarity amongst students enhances their comfort and cultivates creativity as a group effort. I take advantage of this effect by holding regular discussions during and after projects are completed. Peer to peer feedback assists students in identifying new and relevant methods for their projects. This classroom environment encourages personal evaluation, provides outside stimuli, and challenges student ideas.
It is my job to ask the right questions. No two students learn the same way nor are they trying to express the same idea. I focus on each student as an individual and adapt my teaching approach to fit the student’s need. Projects are structured to introduce students to a variety of methodological approaches, including metaphor, appropriation, mapping, collaboration, and illustration. Once students finds where their strengths and interests lie, they can pave the way for their own future projects.
The Platforms for Learning:
When I write curriculum, it needs to be multifaceted. I focus on the various mediums that will be employed and what the implications and historical contributions of those mediums are. It is important that students are made aware of contemporary issues and gain experience on material and process. Technical skills and craft are stressed, but also an in depth knowledge on how a medium enriches a concept. In my Digital Imaging and Online Media course at Eastern Connecticut State University, students created and maintained a blog, where they posted assignments, project inceptions and research. This blog was vital to the curriculum in that it taught students how to present their work online; and through reading assignments, educated them on what issues are facing new media artists today (such as copyright issues, truth and technology).
Conflict and Inspiration:
John Baldesarri once wrote that he is an artist because he can’t not be. I am an artist and an educator because I can’t not be one. For me it is the most rewarding and fulfilling career. However, I see a growing conflict between art and higher education and believe students should be aware of this. Liberal arts degrees may seem to be a one-way ticket to debt and instability, but without art in our culture, we lose a particular kind of self-expression and innovative thinking. I want students to be aware of life beyond college; to expose them to residencies, grant writing and artist collectives. Starting a discourse within the institution breaks the myth associated with an art degree and provides agency to the students.
Recognizing you are an artist and having the drive to create is only part of the battle. What to communicate and how to express it is a personal journey for a student as well as any artist. This is why discourse and collaboration is important and it is also why I consider myself a facilitator. I’m not interested in students making my work. Throughout the semester it becomes my job to enable others to find their own voice, systems, or interests.