thoughts on teaching
(see examples of student work)
For the last eight years I have been an adjunct instructor of an array of studio arts and art history curricula while pursuing an active multi-disciplinary visual arts practice, including extensive exhibition experience and curatorial projects. As an educator I am aware of the energies, needs and characteristics of individuals within a student body. I am also interested in cultivating an active dialogue with colleagues within a pedagogical community and practice-based arts discourse to bridge our experiences with theirs. Community engagement, arts visibility and exploration of creative thinking along with social practice through the arts are values I bring to the college setting even in basic level classes. My pedagogical approach is rigorous and supportive, with an emphasis on applied studio time and in-progress group critiques. In these courses students start to engage a visual language supported by measurable skills to develop strong portfolios. It is a priority to cultivate creative problem solving experiences for all students through visual arts practice, observation, articulation and experimentation. I stress the importance of looking at work by other artists and using visual arts vocabulary. The projects I introduce are inspired by the notion that creativity needs exercise.
I am a firm believer in the process of studio art as a learning practice that supports widely applicable skill builing. In class, I provide a supportive and challenging environment, above all aiming to encourage and inspire students to value the active process of learning about art. Students arrive at self-discovery through educational experience and should be able to trust and work through their process. I stress the importance of student initiative and invite students to realize the ability and interest that lies within them. Students are urged to value their own perceptions and to give visual, verbal and written voice in response to concepts explored in and out of the classroom. I emphasize the human history of art practice and seek open-mindedness.
I can’t help but be reminded that human predisposition for survival cannot be separated from the practice of visual expression and mark making. Human intelligence is not whole without visual thinking, the tendency toward representation in relation to critical problem solving. This aspect of our intelligence should thrive with the opportunity for visual exploration, cultivation and nourishment in academic environments.
As an educator, I follow primary guidelines for learning outcomes that have some flexibility in relation to process, individual need, and life circumstance. These can be summarized as: visual skill building through learning principles and elements of design, critical thinking and communication, time management, problem solving skills, discipline, intention and flexibility, effort and practice. My assessment rubrics are designed based upon these learning principles and students are made aware of teaching guidelines and expectations.
Applied time in the studio is the most effective way to improve skills. I run rigorous, focused, fun and supportive studio classes. My goal is for students to gain a sense of satisfaction and trust in process and in themselves as creators. To solidify the farther reaching relevance of art making in humanity, I discuss the characteristics of right-brain and left-brain intelligence and address the importance of visual problem solving. I teach students to have a successful dialogue using critique guidelines. Studio classes also introduce the fundamentals of portfolio building.
Studio and design classes include some lecture time. Foundational classes should begin to introduce the critical viewing of art from formal and conceptual perspectives. It is key for students to identify examples of visual concepts, tools and vocabulary discussed and practiced in class, while also receiving a sense of art history. Students need to see images of artworks from many cultures ranging from prehistoric through classical and contemporary eras, including examples of artists who intentionally break and redefine the rules of art, historically. PowerPoint is an effective visual aid for viewing images and highlighting visual concepts. I use a laptop and projector in studio classes, as well as bookmarked texts. Students are encouraged and required to research artists and artworks.
In lecture-based art history and appreciation classes, particularly for non-art-majors, my intention is to engage students in the works of art and architecture that we study. Lecture classes are structured around PowerPoint presentations, including student presentations. First and foremost, I stress the formal aspects of artworks and thenthe cultural and environmental context in which the work was created, encouraging a sense of curiosity for the aesthetics, functions or meanings they held. As an artist teaching art history classes, I find it essential to allow students to claim personal interest. Thus, I prioritize and invite discussion even if it cuts into my lecture schedule. My aim is to bring the visual examples to life and attempt to foster a sense of excitement for art history.
It is important to view visual arts within a larger framework. I value an interdisciplinary approach to learning and encourage students to identify the ways in which art is important in life. I have developed several projects that incorporate cultural contexts, aspects of visual culture and various art forms including music, performance and literature. Where possible, I invite guest speakers/artists to talk to students because it is important for students to be exposed to different ways of hearing, learning and thinking about art.
I encourage students to value the arts as part of their educational foundation, while remaining open to various discourses presented by the visual arts, so that they may continue to have a relationship with art wherever their individual paths, careers or interests may lead them.
Artist-Teacher for MFA Candidates
As a mentor for an MFA student in a low residency program my emphasis would move according an interplay between an awareness of conceptual terrain (and the relationship between honing and maintaining flexibility), visual play (formal and experimental), editing and focus. In the framework of an extended semester it is important that a student is not hindered creatively but is able to move forward in making choices in their studio practice in order to meet creative deadlines. The subjective relationship to one’s own work is both rich and intricate relationship and provides a terrain that needs to be navigated and directed. In talking about work I am interested in teasing out the conceptual core of a project and in providing feedback to motivate creative output and clarity of intention. In looking at work I will not hesitate to mention other artists who come to mind for students to research as students and art makers should seek to contextualize their creative output and art practice within an expanded framework.