Cross Talk: Art Edition

Cross Talk is a regular feature, highlighting three to seven items on some discipline taught at the college. We should all know more about what our colleagues know, teach, and love. Lifelong learning, blah, blah, blah, and all that jazz.

#1) Be happy you don’t teach art. Apparently, it’s way more complicated than I ever gave it credit for being.

Check out this horrifying list of “Seemingly Innocuous Assignments That Will Lead to Improbable Calamities: Cautionary Notes for Teachers, Unfortunately Based on Personal Experiences.”

An example:

Make something ugly

Some twisted genius will stumble upon the ultimate solution to this art school chestnut: when it’s their turn to be critiqued they’ll just stand up and destroy the work of one of their classmates. An administrative shitstorm will ensue.

They get funnier (and more appalling) from there.

#2)  You should know about Kehinde Wiley.

#3) The teaching of art is changing, or so says this author, as the making of art has become radically democratized. From the Chronicle:

Art making has changed radically in recent years. Artists have become increasingly interested in crossing disciplinary boundaries—choreographers use video, sculpture, and text; photographers create “paintings” with repurposed textiles. New technologies enable new kinds of work, like interactive performances with both live and Web-based components. International collaboration has become de rigueur. Art and design pervade the culture—witness popular television programs like Top Design, Ink Master, and—the granddaddy of them all—Project Runway. And policy makers and businesspeople have embraced at least the idea of the so-called creative economy, with cities rushing to establish arts districts, and business schools collaborating with design schools.

Those developments are already affecting how the arts are taught: Curricula are becoming more flexible, with students encouraged to reach outside their departments to master whatever tools they need to make the art they want to make.

But there is another shift occurring that is more subtle and more destabilizing to art colleges: Suddenly, everyone is—or can be—an artist.

#4) No Flowers In the Psych Ward: If you can resist reading this piece after scrolling through the pictures, I’ll give you a dollar.

#5) Dave Hickey is an interesting dude and art critic, as you’ll see in this profile published last January in the Chronicle. A snippet:

Academics don’t understand how a serious intellectual could have spent so many years not doing academic work, instead snorting cocaine and jamming with the Nashville-based singer-songwriter Marshall Chapman. (They were “romantically involved,” Hickey says, and wrote songs together in the 70s; he also was her tour manager and, when needed, played rhythm guitar.) And academics certainly don’t like it that a man who spent so much time on different college faculties would have the gall to bash his academic colleagues and higher education in general.

Educated in what he refers to as “the liberating discourse of French Structuralism,” Hickey dismisses its American disciples as “misshapen offspring.” With his take-no-prisoners attitude, he writes in openly derisive terms about the watered-down, enfeebled American version of French thought: “Somehow, the delicate instrumentalities of continental thought had been transmuted by the American professoriate into a highfalutin, pseudo-progressive billy club with which to beat dissenters about the head and shoulders.”

3 thoughts on “Cross Talk: Art Edition

  1. Ummmmmm… PhiloDave I have to say I am subtly very happy my art students will not view the list of “Seemingly Innocuous Assignments…” I think If they did my now 13 page syllabus might accumulate a few more notes in the classroom conduct section. But hey what the hell if they did It would definitely make for an exciting semester – we would rock the HDUB dept of art and arch!

    But in all reality once students realize that ceramics is not a blow off class and you may not make “3-holed vases” (augh so frustrating) we have a laboratory full of dynamic objects – a very good place to be. It’s hard though and takes some work to impress upon students, some faculty and staff that art is not an easy class. The non-traditional classroom environment – I guess?! (compared to a lecture hall) can throw a curve when someone outside the arts reflect on what they assume is an art curriculum.

    I’m not going to preach – I’m tired. However, I would love to discuss anytime, without a keyboard, how art really does help drive success for many students and just regular plain ol’ folks.

    Here are some links to some fun stats on how art can really impact students in a most excellent way. These links listed below are mostly stats for K-12 (the most researched group).

    We are currently teaching a generation of k-12 completers who have most likely not had access to early art classes. Many of our current students have never taken an art class before or the only art class they are currently enrolled in may be the only art education they experience. This is concerning to me in an ever increasing visual society that we all be live’n in.

    http://www.dosomething.org/tipsandtools/11-facts-about-arts-education

    http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/arts_smarts

    • That’s awesome…thanks for the links, Jess. I’m 100% in agreement with you on the importance and value of art education. I’d rather my kid learn to do art (or even listen to an art history lecture) than listen to someone in a big hall prattle on about Kant. I know which one they’d rather do, for sure.

      Just to clarify: I didn’t mean to imply that teaching art was easy–every year I am amazed at the work that comes out of students who, I know, have never tried their hand at it before the class began, and the 8th floor is one of my favorite places to go when I’m stressing, because I ALWAYS find students working or thinking or planning or something. Y’all do some spectacular work down there.

      And I am going to start calling everything that is jacked up in some way a “three-holed vase.” No one, well, few people will know what I mean, but it’ll be funny to me. So, thanks for that, too!

    • Jess, picture me vigorously nodding in agreement to everything you say here. Even though art history has more in common (in terms of the structure of the classroom) with other humanities and social sciences, it definitely shares with ceramics and other art classes in that students tend to underestimate the subject and expect it to be a breeze. Maybe because art is treated as a hobby (or the ultimate in irresponsible life pursuits) by much of our society, it can take a while for students to shift their perspective and realize that art (and art history) is also real work. It can still be fun while being challenging.

      Thanks for the fun links, Dave. And thanks for starting this cool Cross Talk project with art.* I’m going to plug the Fine Arts Integration Committee, led by Stephanie Burke and Galina Shevchenko of the Art and Architecture department. For anyone who may be interested in an interdepartmental collaboration–whether you teach science, math, music, English, psychology, etc–let us know if you’d be interested in finding a way to integrate art into your classroom and/or a particular project. We’d be happy to share information about the cross-collaborations that have already taken place. Some have involved guest lectures. Others have involved projects linking students in two different courses for a particular assignment that helps meet outcomes of each class. My email is emccormack but you can also email either of them for information about our meetings or just to get more information.

      *I, predictably, am a sucker for contemporary art consciously making art historical references (shout out to Jess for her sabbatical presentation as well as to Kehinde Wiley).

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