Monday, May 4, 2009

One more about art schools

I am going to post the Commencement Address from a local art college. This is taken word for word, without editing or any changes by me. Straight off the college news letter. Enjoy:

"I thought that I would come to the _____________ and learn what art is.

I thought that, by now, I would know what made art good, and I expected my teachers would tell me how to make it.

I thought that I would be sure of what I wanted to make.

I thought that I would have all the skills I needed.

I thought that I would learn how to make art that everyone would like and want to buy.

I thought that I would confidently call myself An Artist.

I did not get what I came here fro. Instead of confidence and certainty I have questions and doubts. Of course, I blame my teachers for this. They never told me exactly what art is. They always asked questions. They asked questions about who artist are, where art should be, and who it is for, anyway. Sometimes they revealed that they are uncertain about their own work. They never showed me how to do something exactly, but always suggested that there are many ways to do things…. And that it would be better to figure it out for myself. And they never revealed the absolute litmus test for proving what is and what isn’t art. They showed the artist not as a finished product but as a work-in-progress.

Whatever is received is due it gratitude, even when it is not what was asked for. Parents, friends, family…administrators and staff- I want to thank you all for helping us on this project. Gratitude affirms that we need each other. Giving and receiving links us in a mutual interdependence. Like breathing, what we take in we must give back in order to take in again. There is also a wider family in the community to thank for giving their unsolicited blessings and gifts of arbitrary generosity. I recall the clerk at Kinko’s who just let the bill slide when the copy counter didn’t work, the BBC Overnight World Service for stimulating conversations at 3 a.m., the baker who gave away free slice of foccacia, the sheet metal man who couldn’t bear seeing me dig for change. Thanks to the sales clerk at Norton’s who gave me a cheese Danish along with a verse of his favorite song (and I thought that I didn’t have the time).

But I mostly want to say thank you to the teachers for giving what I didn’t know how to ask for:

For hesitation instead of assurance…thanks

For more questions than answers….thanks

For turning things upside down and shaking them out….

For showing the many ways an artist can be…thank you ……All of you …..All. "

I was going to write something about the above, but I think I will just let it speak for itself.


Jeremy Elder said...

Yikes, the teachers fooled this student into actually believing they knew what they were doing. So sad.

Stapleton Kearns said...


Can you imagine a thoracic surgery
student saying this? Or a plumber aboiut to install your new bathroom? How about the pilot on you r flight to London? This only happens because the larger society doesn't think art is very important. Their reaction to this slipshod sort of training is, what does it matter, it is only art? The purpose of an art school is to provide employment for its instructors.

Dave said...

I think you should change your strict teaching method to ", figure it out for yourself...(burp).."

HULK said...

well at least art school prepared me for law--I am very acquainted with someone is BSing me, even when they are very sincere.

Anonymous said...

Does beg that question why go to College art programs-the only jobs that ever come from those degrees is the chance to teach the next generation what they could learn by staying home. As Wyeth said, no great artist has ever been the product of the collegiate system.

Norman Engel said...

So the school is at fault???..All students should learn the craft of painting...i agree. However... if you can tell the world what is art, then please do....Great philosophers have tried for centuries......Then again, we could just mandate a state or academic style and approach. It is a shame that schools want the students to actually think for themselves.......

Richard J. Luschek II said...

The schools are certainly at fault. Why go to school otherwise? Is it just a cool place to hang out while you try to figure it out on your own? A place to sit and think up new crazy ideas?
I don't think schools should be concerned with "art" other than to show fine examples from great artists.
Schools should teach drawing, painting, and sculpting. I am not sure art is teachable. The craft it. It is up to the student to go off and if they work very hard- maybe create "art" on their own.
Of course, I am not of the mind that if someone uses art supplies, they are going to make "art".

Norman Engel said...

I agree that the schools are at fault, but this fault is also shared by the student. Universities are full of educated idiots who claim to be artists. Likewise they are also full of students who think that a diploma somehow gives them the title of artist. In my experience, I find that students want to be spoon fed...I believe this is part of the problem. Skill, and technique require discipline. Schools are businesses after all, and must retain students. Too many students would drop out if the schools actually required discipline.

Richard J. Luschek II said...

I have heard that more people graduate with a Master Degree in art every year than there were artists living in the entire Renaissance. How many artist can you name from then? How many from today?
We need more art school drop outs. They need to go and get a productive job where they don't have to be self motivated and waste our time with their bad drawings. Most starving artists are starving for a good reason.
The main fault of the student is believing the rhetoric of the college art school system. They should be looking for schools that teach the grammar of art. But then again, high school counselors are not showing the atelier system as a choice. So, if they are interested in a career in the arts, the are not given all of the possible choices.

Norman Engel said...

I will say this, in the commercial art realm, the trade schools seem to do a great job of training artists. These students have to perform to industry standards or the school goes out of business....but an education from a trade school is very week in the fine art realm and very expensive.....
I enjoy your blog by the way. I added your link to mine. ALOHA