"It’s a spot, which I hang on a white wall." - David Bowie
Yesterday we met at the cultural epicenter of Fairbanks for another multipurpose session: this setting serves as an obvious introduction to the preeminent non-profit group dedicated to the arts in our community. So first I briefly lectured about the role of the Fairbanks Arts Association along with the many opportunities to volunteer for and participate in any of the wide range of events hosted in this building by this organization. It's the umbrella for not only Visual Arts, but also Literary, Cinema and Performing Arts as well, and they're always in need of gallery docents, ushers, help with installations like pedestal painting, lighting, labeling and intake of artwork, plus many special events such as parties, readings and performances.
Also we took the chance to do an informal critique of the current exhibition that had just opened up: "50/50 - Fifty Years of Alaska History as seen by Fifty Alaska Artists" (jointly funded by an Alaska Statehood Experience grant from the Rasmuson Foundation and the Alaska Humanities Forum) which had also shown in Anchorage this summer at the International Gallery of Contemporary Art. Along with the meta-lesson in juxtaposing their own pieces against the setting of an established show (more on that in a follow-up post), many students are more comfortable or at least appreciate the break from classroom reviews by casting a critical eye at other artist's work. Students were asked to pick both their personal favorites and their least favorite piece on display, and be prepared to defend their choices. Quite the passionate reactions are uncorked when the creators aren't around, and the uninhibited, unedited debate can be revealing if not amusing.
And we reviewed what was essentially the last assignment for the class - see next post for details.
For the remainder of the morning we worked on an in-class exercise of a one-page vignette using palindromes & 6-word stories as optional verbage. Also I reviewed the selected poems/lyrics/text in everybody's sketchbooks for which to use in the next critique piece - worth noting how pleased I was at seeing a higher than usual number of students opting to use their own writing. Once again I spread out samples from previous classes, and encouraged folks to refer to some of the various solutions illustrated by former students, and to utilize this opportunity as either a warm-up to their own upcoming vignettes or possibly to include the exercise as one of their three required pages. Again it took some hands-on coaxing to lead several students over the creative edge, to just take a chance with something that may or may not necessarily make a damn bit of sense. You just never know.
For example, it was amazing how many folks took this attached demo page seriously (excepting, of course, my own students) while I worked it up over a luscious eggnog latte at a favorite cafe...
I have to admit I got stuck in automatic critique mode as my jaded view was carried over into first offering unsolicited commentary on another teacher's approach to their own classwork assignments and expectations. Not everyone appreciates the stern taskmaster approach of mercilessly driving the team forwards and extricating every last possible nuggets of artwork from students at the expense of their other classes, careers and relationships, not to mention sacrificing sanity. But hey, it's worth a try.
And then an interesting exchange over critiquing local beers, which I tend to love beer snobs about as much as music or art snobs. It's important to maintain your standards at both ends on the spectrum of taste; I like my finely aged bourbon with a bigass bottle of cheap malt liquor, and my Beethoven with a bit of bluegrass too. And besides, if you can't handle crappy art, just what the hell are you doing teaching art anyways?
"In life and art it's better to be an enthusiastic amateur than a jaded professional." - Robert Genn