Examining the Current State
of Art Education

September 29, 2014

1In anticipation of the coming academic year, Flash Art examines the current state of art education. We asked the directors, presidents and coordinators of twelve major art schools across the globe to describe their vision for art education, particularly in terms of how their program establishes a balance between knowledge and know-how.

Bard College / Annandale-on-Hudson, NY, USA
Arthur Gibbons, Director of the Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts

When I was hired to direct the Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts, the President of Bard College, Leon Botstein, said my mission was to make the MFA program the kind I would have wanted to attend as a student. Reflecting on my experience at Penn in the early ’70s, I realized that if I learned anything there it was that an MFA program should not be centered on an individual professor or set of faculty: indeed, my program needed to establish its focus on the student.

At the Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts, Bard MFA, the center of the program is the student’s work — not a set of theories or skills. Our students engage in all the arts: visual, verbal, musical and physical — the conversation is interdisciplinary and collaborative. Painting, sculpture, photography, music, film/video and writing are staffed by artists active in their disciplines who comment on one another’s fields guided by a life of work and thinking.

The core of the program is work-based and verbal. The student meets with thirty or more faculty each summer in private conference to discuss the work at hand. From one-on-one conferencing, he or she addresses specific in-depth formal interests; these are followed by school-wide critiques in which a hundred people convene to discuss the work for twenty minutes each. It can be theatrical, but the process pivots on the students and their work. In this way, students learn to address what they see and hear before their peers; they learn how to think on their feet; they learn how to communicate.

The Bard MFA student hears many points of view, and it is his or her concern to sort through these views to find his or her own voice. This is accomplished by an intensive eight-week summer session followed by a ten-month Independent Study program prescribed by a written proposal of intent and conducted by the individual. The Independent Study is a time to reflect, codify and consolidate the communications of the summer session.

All the above is founded in trust and generosity by both the student and the faculty. To be affective as a teacher, the teacher has to remain a student. The Bard MFA program is therefore basically a work-based think-tank for students. Students are the center of the conversation, and thereby each can figure out who they are as artists.

Bezalel Academy of Art and Design / Jerusalem, Israel
Eva Illouz, President

Three main areas distinguish and shape our vision of art education.

Firstly, the centrality of history and theory courses within our kaleidoscopic curriculum, which ensures a broad general education. The curriculum for the History and Theory Department was based on an interdisciplinary approach to ideological and contextual pluralism. The department seeks to guide its students through their various stages of study, within which their viewpoints as young creators mature and develop, and expose them to the process of creation, history and theory of art and design. The faculty of the department includes researchers involved in the contextual world that exists between essence and practice, specializing in philosophy, science, literature, film, archeology, sociology, political science and business management, among other fields. The History and Theory Department organizes between four to six seminars a year. Over the past few years the department has hosted creators, curators and theoreticians from all over the world. For the past six years the History and Theory Department has published its bilingual online magazine, History and Theory: The Protocols, and is now launching an academic journal, Bezalel: A Journal of Visual Culture. Thus far, twenty editions have been published on a variety of topics. Since 2009 a collection of articles from the magazine has been published in the journal Protocollage.

Secondly, our interdisciplinary courses: our school’s dynamic approach to curriculum includes eight departments for undergraduate degrees and three programs for master’s degrees with over 2000 students and 400 faculty members studying in the fields of architecture, industrial design, fine arts, visual communications, ceramics and glass design, photography, fashion and jewelry design as well as new media (“screen-based arts”). The interaction between tradition and the ever-changing technologies of artistic expression are an important part of the experience we offer. As for the Fine Arts Department and its MFA program, it sees art education as a moral education and art as an autonomous body of knowledge that challenges the idealistic boundaries of being an artist, raising questions regarding civics, religious beliefs, research and management. The department consists of a number of lecturers from different generations, holding pre-modern, modern and post-modern perceptions and representing the most prominent lecturers throughout the past decade. Traditional and contemporary media and methods are taught in the department characterizing the contemporary artistic disciplines — painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, video, installation, performance, sound and printing, which are all taught by specialized artists in addition to theoretical classes and lectures. The practice of learning is expressed through discussions, texts, presentations and criticism of ideas and artworks. The department recognizes two main factors. The first factor is related to an understanding of creativity as the opportunity for freedom, challenging protocols and norms of art education. The second is the recognition of a designated space that allows a kind of interaction which goal is to question, through dialogue, the different voices in the department, stemming from the heterogeneous social structure that characterizes Israeli society.

2CalArts / Valencia, CA, USA
Thomas Lawson, Dean of the School of Art

Last year our graduation speaker was an early alumnus, Eric Fischl, who reminisced at length about his years as a student, years he apparently loved and hated in equal measure. He loved the generous studio space he was given, and the intense, all-night conversations he had with fellow students. He hated the grief he was given for wanting to be a figurative painter, and still feels bitter about that. In many ways his story continues to hold true; we give students an expansive physical and intellectual space in which to work, and while we expect them to understand current conventions of art making, we also expect them to challenge them. We are less interested in training students to make work in well-known forms and styles, and more interested in investing time in young artists who want to try pushing past various comfort zones to seek new forms of expression.

The first classes at CalArts were held just short of 45 years ago. This means that the history of the school is still encompassed within a lifetime, and there are many people who remember its beginnings. As a result that history remains in the realm of memoir, fraught with partiality, emotion and forgetfulness. What do we know for sure?

First, and most confounding, it grew from an idea that Walt Disney had, in the years he was dreaming up Tomorrowland, to create an art school for the future. In 1961 he bought out two failing arts academies, the Chouinard Art Institute and the Los Angeles Music Conservatory, and used them as the nucleus of the California Institute of the Arts, a new type of art school that would bring all the arts into productive proximity under one roof. What he wanted was a school that would foster the kind of collaborative interdisciplinarity that made possible films like Fantasia, and built environments like Disneyland. But he died in 1966, before he was able to do more than sketch out this new academy for a populist Gesamtkunstwerk.

The project was written into his will, however, and his heirs resolved to see it happen. To do this they hired a group of mostly avant-gardist artists to shape the program. Six schools were established — Art, Dance, Design, Film, Music, Theater — and the faculty hired to teach in these schools were mostly anti-establishment experimentalists intent on rethinking what their art forms were and what the best ways to teach them might be. In the visual arts this meant a rejection of traditional skill-based foundation classes, and an intense questioning of the conventions of painting and stand-alone sculpture. And there was a feminist program putting further scrutiny to representational art forms, and to male-dominated support structures and histories.

The first years were tempestuous, but in time CalArts became a thriving institution, with a live thread of critical experimentalism. Today we live in a very different world from the 1970s; expectations reach further, professionalization can tamper with risk-taking. Yet CalArts maintains much of its original attitude, and intellectual and theoretical norms remain contested. The building hums with art making and art talking twenty-four hours a day, every day. Students are still considered young artists from the time they arrive on campus and are given space to work. We have eight galleries on campus, solely for student shows. We have some of the best production facilities anywhere, in print media, analog and digital photography, wood and metalworking, video production. And of course students can access the film, music and theater production capabilities of the other schools on campus. Disney thought he would build an art school of the future, but in fact he made one that is ever in the present.

Central Academy of Fine Arts / Beijing, China
Xu Bing, Deputy Director

My view of art education comes from my experience within the traditional Chinese approach, as well as with the two different styles of art education in the East and West, and my experiences participating in artistic creation on an international stage.

Before I came to America, I was educated under the Chinese system, which took as its foundation early 20th-century European academic approaches. After 1949, the creative practices of Soviet Socialist Realism were added to the curriculum, which were, at the time, foreign to the Chinese. This shifted the lion’s share of pedagogical focus on mastering the technique of “painting a three-dimensional object on a two-dimensional plane while maintaining its sense of three-dimensionality.” This kind of approach has certain qualities of naivety and datedness, and does limit the creative potential of students, but this approach has also lead many Chinese artists to possess rather unique qualities that will become increasingly rare in the future. This pushes us to reflect upon the comparative advantages and disadvantages — the positive and negative aspects of this approach. Western arts education today no longer focuses on training this set of skills. Art education means instead to study the history of artistic creation, making something different and then learning how to explain this creative act. It has made art students place more value on explaining their work, and less responsible to the work itself. But really, Eastern and Western systems of art education both have their strengths and weaknesses.

The structure of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, its approach to education, firstly takes a lead from the social value of “focus on reality in the service of the people.” And that’s why training in the aforementioned methods of Socialist Realism takes a central stage in the curriculum. In addition, the curriculum also includes the unique techniques of painting, calligraphy and other traditional Chinese subjects. At the same time the unique structure of the Central Academy of Fine Arts also includes departments of experimental art, practical art and the humanities.

Art has always allowed a certain group of people to remain in a state of obstinate, mischievous childishness. The point of art education is managing and guiding this special group, legitimizing and arousing their particular abilities. Art education must teach the student to take their individuality and to form a connection with the kind of creation needed by society. Art education supplements what is lacking in this childish group, for instance knowledge, technique, the ability to collaborate, etc. However, it cannot erase this youthful spirit and that would be a shame. The development of human civilization requires that a group of people do things that are “outside of the norm,” supplementing acts of logic and reason with those qualities that they lack. That’s why some people say that the goal of one’s life is to recover those things that have been lost. In my opinion art helps people who want to find those very things.

Columbia University School of the Arts / New York, USA
Carol Becker, Dean

Most schools of art in the US invariably reflect the collective influence and history of a diverse and layered faculty. There is no one voice determining their direction. The Visual Arts Program of Columbia University School of the Arts is no exception. It is an amalgam of unique points of view embodied in a brilliant full-time faculty with varied expertise and orientations. Adding to this full-time roster are a strong adjunct faculty and a mentor program that brings additional artists into the mix to spend concentrated time, sharing their process and projects with students. Other extraordinary artists living in or visiting New York City also are invited to participate in studio visits and critiques. And, of course, the program’s orientation is constantly recalibrated by new ideas brought to us by talented students from around the world.

In my writing, I have posited certain elements that should be in place for a school of art to function well in relationship to its students. These are not necessarily theories about how to educate artists as much as observations about what is needed to map a creative environment for the twenty-first century, which, ultimately, is what we do.

I think most faculty would agree that art schools need to establish what psychoanalytic theorist D.W. Winnicott calls a “holding environment” — a safe place where students can move between the conscious, the unconscious, dreams, the material world and play. Negotiating such states hinges on risk taking, and, because there is no risk without the possibility of failure, such an environment also has to embrace failure as part of the process of discovery. Some corporations like to reference the importance of risk and failure to a culture of innovation, but, in truth, most don’t actually want or expect anyone to fail. An art making program, however, has to give its students permission to leap, no matter the consequences.

This is the spirit of place so essential to the production of interesting work. Such an environment also should be truly interdisciplinary. Columbia’s Visual Arts Program is intrinsically that. This is not to say that all students need to work across disciplines. But artists should have the experience of such fluidity, to observe how others construct and conceptualize the range of possibilities available to them. Even if they ultimately return to their initial form, their approach will be different.

Art gives materiality to ideas. To enter into the contemporary world, students increasingly must be conversant in the ideas that are being discussed. They need a strong theoretical foundation to give them confidence to engage the thinkers of their time who inadvertently inspire their work. We have seminars that provide such a foundation and we also are part of a first-rate University where students can study with experts in many fields. Most art schools understand that this symbiosis between thinking and making requires balance. If the equilibrium is unsettled, tipping too self-consciously to the theoretical, it can be immobilizing.

In the end, a truly creative educational environment is dependent on a working faculty challenging themselves in all these same ways. We, too, must be willing to engage this moment of history with intelligence and passion, not focused exclusively on what other art schools are doing or on what the art world is doing, but rather on what the world is doing — what issues need to be understood and acted upon. Such engagement guarantees that a school, by reimagining itself constantly, will continue to be relevant to its students, global society and the evolution of thought.

4École de Recherche Graphique (ERG) / Brussels, Belgium
Corinne Diserens, Director

ERG’s prospective project is to implement a series of practical and discursive tools that can be freely appropriated by students, in accordance with the future orientation of their respective artistic practices. This project follows a double logic. The first develops the already-existing dynamics within the framework of ERG’s curriculum. The second provides and generates a series of teaching processes centered on the issue of artistic practices, with a focus on their experimental dimension. In that sense, ERG must more than anything avoid considering history and theory as separate entities in terms of artistic practices, but quite the contrary, as necessary and inherent dimensions to any relevant project in the current artistic contexts. In addition, it intends to call into question the arbitrary separations established in recent Western cultures and societies by formal modernism as well as by the cultural industry, in relation to artistic production and process. A special emphasis of ERG’s project is linked to the fact that a collective capacity of reception is always required in contemporary cultures and societies, without which no artistic production or project could ever be conceived and developed.

Therefore, ERG is placing research at its core while being attentive to its methodologies, its discourses and its economies, as well as its capacity to contribute to trans-artistic dialogues, structuring agencies throughout the history of modernity (understood as a counterproof to the modernist program of separation/isolation between the arts). But it does so in a challenging manner, for it also relates to research as an operator (both practical and symbolic), anchoring the possibility for today’s artistic practices to confront themselves with the transformations inherent to contemporary cultural projects in a globalized context. Meant as an explicit counterproof to dominant cultural models (namely, that of the cultural industry in terms of economy, and that of sociology in terms of theory), this educational project does not intend to distinguish between so-called “avant-garde,” “community” and/or “popular” cultures, for it results from a very different kind of logic. It allows students to approach and relate to artistic practices under the auspices that structure them in any context: their modes of production, presentation and reception. In other words, art is taught, thought about, processed and discussed; it always occurs as the result of constantly dealing with these three aspects/levels.

In order to stimulate, underline and develop capacities allowing students to make deliberate artistic choices in accordance to the priorities demanded by their projects, ERG encourages its students to experiment and discuss the paths that every artistic practice necessarily forms and elaborates in relation to a historical present. Students are encouraged to reflect upon and analyze how artistic practices always refer to their production processes and their meanings in relation to their project and to an economy, in order to learn how to position themselves consciously and contextually; they reflect on forms and question their modes of display in relation to context and society; they interrogate the reception of their practice, i.e., the ways in which practices or projects come to be described, communicated, discussed, commented on and transmitted, then appropriated, transformed and reinvented through other and rarely foreseeable practices.

These educational priorities are elaborated with ERG’s faculty, together with a program of visiting artists and scholars with a background in arts, science and human sciences, appearing in workshops, seminars and public interventions. Thus, this program bets on the students’ and the professors’ collective capacity to open new paths allowing experimentation within a constantly evolving pedagogical model.

FAAP / São Paulo, Brazil
Marcos Moraes, Coordinator of the Visual Arts Course

The Visual Arts Course, whose origin dates back to the mid-1950s, has, throughout its existence, played an important role in the field of visual production, in accordance with FAAP’s mission, which is to “support, promote and develop visual and performing arts, culture and education.” Since the beginning of its activities, FAAP has been a nurturing space for the processes of research and artistic experimentation and the consequent implementation of these within the learning process.

The Course’s faculty and alumnae include a significant number of representatives of the Brazilian artistic and theoretical scene, who are celebrated nationally and internationally.

The trans-disciplinary vocation of the course is closely linked to its origin, and its mission is to train professionals in the field of visual arts, with a solid theoretical, critical and humanistic basis. Students learn to optimize time and space while focused on research, experimentation, invention, construction, labor, and critical reflection.

Theoretical and practical subjects are articulated, and our activities — workshops and laboratories — employ a broad and diverse view of the visual art field. The courses are spread over eight semesters; the aim of the final semester is to deepen and unfold the praxis, and to develop the orientation of each individual area of research. This comes with the implementation of integrated projects, and culminates with a concluding workshop or project.

Free from a purely technical determinism — which is incompatible with the perspective of contemporary production, as well as the search for specialization in any artistic language — the course provides conditions for creating an experimental space for extensive discussion.

The curriculum is composed of different frameworks for language and technique, from the most traditional to the most recent, and it includes technological research; the course highlights a historical perspective, but it is also based on experiential knowledge and procedures aiming to develop a critical production in relation to the technical, conceptual, and formal aspects of language.

The course maintains strong relationships with the FAAP’s artistic residency program at La Cité internationale des Arts, as well as with the Residência Artística FAAP, a space for local and international artists where they can develop their research projects, in direct relation to the faculty members and to the students.

Thanks to a harmonious relationship between the student body, the faculty and the staff, united by the common goal of excellence in art education, these assumptions articulate pedagogical conceptions and practices as well as methodological principles and academic perspectives, thus enabling a clear relationship between teaching activities and contemporary artistic practices.

HEAD / Genève, Switzerland
Yann Chateigné, Dean of the Visual Arts Department

In my opinion, teaching intrinsically relies on the notion of movement: it allows the circulation of ideas; it is based on a certain idea of performance; on energy. Art education, in particular, is a sort of magnetic field defined by polarities: our role is to create equilibrium in between these ever-changing forces. I see the process of designing a program like tightrope walking, or the work of a cartographer expanding territories while recording their borders. Our pedagogy could be described as a geometrical space that is structured both horizontally and vertically: it balances in between freedom and order, closure and disclosure, to accompany the students’ project towards its organic realization, enhancing their critical faculty, fostering their political awareness.

Each “plateau” composing our theory classes offers a chronological, methodological or disciplinary variation on the history of recent art, through constant attention to the new fields opened in social sciences. The courses are informed by the current, singular and innovative research areas that are explored by the teachers, who benefit from a total academic freedom: these findings represent the prime material of our program, which is also partially responding to the students’ participation and own interests. Aside from the seminars, the form of the workshop is also applied to theory, considered as a practice dedicated to the formation of concepts through texts that can be dismantled and read, just like any other object.

An interdisciplinary approach reigns over the technical classes, led by active artists, designers or even writers and musicians. A particular emphasis is placed on production in the fields that we consider the most promising: publishing, through a program lead by guest publishers who invite students to develop an artist’s book with a graphic designer; then writing, through studios which deconstruct the interrelations in between theory, fiction and artistic production; and curating, through our curatorial institute that initiates students both theoretically and practically to the current state of exhibition making, with collaboratively produced projects in cooperation with artists, curators and thinkers.

At the core of the program lie the studios: they are collectively led by artists, curators and theoreticians, and offer an oblique approach to art, a critical attitude toward medium divisions, and a multiplicity of positions: Appropriation, Action, Construction, Information/fiction, Interaction and Representation represent the six paths that students can take at the bachelor level, while they can go deeper at the master’s level through practices like Research (CCC), Transmission (Trans) and Production (Work.master). “Space” is the first element that makes these different zones readable, and which also allows students to navigate in and out of the institution, thanks to the close collaboration of chosen partners. The other one is “Time”: in between project-driven proposals and studio-based practice, various temporalities, themes and methods are meticulously knotted together.

HEAD offers the most important Visual Arts Department in Switzerland. But far from any idea of “mass education,” each student plays an active role in the definition of something like a sur mesure program: the main goal of our school is the building of specific “tools” by students, progressively and cooperatively forged for self-teaching, intellectual emancipation and artistic exploration of the world

3Royal College of Arts / London, UK
Juan Cruz, Dean of the School of Fine Art

Our approach to teaching fine arts is premised on an understanding that artists today are neither constrained by the medium they use nor by a sense of what content their work should address. Contemporary artists are valued for their contribution to culture because they test and reflect upon the way in which we try to engage with our rapidly changing world. Artists exploit the possibilities of new technologies while also engaging with the value of traditional approaches; they enact new philosophical positions and reflect upon how our thinking has led us to where we are. And they often adopt stances informed significantly by the past to antagonize our assumptions about society.

We also conceive fine arts as a subject that is accessible to collaboration with other fields and disciplines; it is a subject that celebrates the deployment of diverse methods of research and production that are invented, borrowed and even stolen. At the Royal College of Arts we enjoy an environment that is supportive of the varied research enquiries that fine art can enable. We support customary methods and processes associated with fine art practice whilst enabling others that we cannot even anticipate. We are committed to examining and researching both the means by which fine art enquiries emerge — the rich array of positions, techniques, methods and materials that artists use and have used to develop their research — as well as the subjects, ideas and issues that are successfully articulated by art, with a view to understanding its broader cultural, societal and economic impact.

Teaching in the school is organized around programs that provide specific material and historical coordinates as points of reference from which students are encouraged to consider the development of their own work. Regardless of their program of study, students interact across the broad area of fine arts and are also encouraged to engage with other areas of the college. There is an especially strong affinity with Curating Contemporary Art and Critical Writing in Art and Design, and there are also strong synergies across the various disciplines in materials, design, communication and architecture. Research in the School of Fine Art often leads staff and students to less immediately cognate fields in the humanities as well as the sciences, and the school works with a range of significant partners such as the V&A Museum and Imperial College to further its ambitions in this regard.

We therefore view our programs in Painting, Photography, Printmaking and Sculpture, as well as our new pathways in Performance and Moving Image, as useful pedagogical structures, in that they focus on specific areas of activity within an ever-expanding field. The programs enable directed study within an environment that is ambitious not to proliferate and perpetuate what we know but to generate new practices and insights, with and through art.

Städelschule / Frankfurt am Main, Germany
Philippe Pirotte, Director

There is not only one distinctive vision but many at the Städelschule — often contradictory visions embodied by a group of very convincing individuals. The professors at the school develop their own strategies of artistic education freely in their classes. Discursive ideas and research are exchanged with the students during theory seminars led by professors or guest lecturers. The technical and media knowledge of staff supports all kinds of experimentation. The cohabitation under one roof of artistic and architectural education creates a context in which both creative environments reflect and question each other. Add to that the presence of a curatorial program, and the Städelschule becomes a small art world in itself.

The Städelschule constructs and maintains a place where artists, architects, thinkers, craftsmen, philosophers, etc., with all their different visions of new platforms for experimenting with art and knowledge production, can meet. Städelschule’s modest size is crucial to such an undertaking. To me the idea of a successful art school is to invoke a situation that preempts the realization of doctrine when it comes to the circulation of knowledge, and which defends the immaterial value of art. Certainly, in today’s excessively commercial realm, the question of whether it is at all possible to demonstrate an alternative to our systems of thought is all the more urgent. For example, since 1978, when Peter Kubelka ran the film class at Städelschule, it was deliberately geared as a kitchen, with Kubelka appointed as professor of the Class for Film and Cooking as an Artistic Genre. After Peter Kubelka left his professorship at the Städelschule, the tradition of cooking persisted. It could be read as an early metaphor for today’s attempts by many artists, curators and art organizations to reinvent the relations between art and research outside of the academic world, and to experiment, often in a collaborative manner, on possible models of knowledge production and exchange. It is about creating a place suffused with possibilities, situations that reflect the difficult understanding of freedom versus continuous control. The most important aspect may be to create areas of non-communication and ruptures in the flow of communication in order to escape control.

Moreover, there is no art school in the world that has an ambitious experimental exhibition space like Portikus connected to it. This adds to the uniqueness of Städelschule, because students are involved in the staging of exhibitions with important artists. They work and spend time together, sometimes resulting in projects that are collaborative, as most recently with Paul McCarthy, but also last year when students channeled the ghost of American filmmaker and artist Jack Smith: Hamlet, Shakespeare’s most abused tragedy, was adapted, retold and performed by the Städelschule’s Pure Fiction seminar, developed by writer Mark Von Schlegell. Another important Portikus project based on the reality of the school was “Gordon Matta-Clark: In the Belly of Anarchitect” in 2004. A project by Pierre Huyghe and Rirkrit Tiravanija in co-operation with the art historian Pamela M. Lee, it is the work of two artists around and through the oeuvre of Gordon Matta-Clark, an attempted transmission of a Matta-Clark experience into the present. The project and the exhibition were based on a student workshop held at the school under the direction of cook Hocine Bouhlou, and it represented a continuation of the art school’s long tradition of close connections between art, cooking and architecture.

Tokyo University of the Arts / Tokyo, Japan
Masato Kobayashi, Professor

Just as the face of a beautiful person will change over time, art is something that can at one time be considered “terrible” and then, when the context or standards change, become “wonderful.” Thus it goes without saying that there is no answer to the question of whether art can or cannot be taught.

The fact is you probably need both viewpoints in an art school — that is, you need it to be a place where explosive individual talents can interact and at the same time a workshop-like place where students can draw on the abilities of others in brushing up their skills. The Tokyo University of the Arts is an art school aiming to be both those things, and it has very well-developed workshops with skilled artisans. As an artist-teacher, I choose to get involved freely with the individualistic side of things. One thing I ask my painting students is: “What do you want to do to the world with your painting?” I want to get them thinking about how, through their painting, they want to interact with the world.

In my tutorials I get them to paint one painting for the one person in the world they love most, and then they have to actually give the painting to that person. The idea is to convey their own emotions to that particular person through the medium of painting, to confess their love through the painting. It’s all about getting love through painting! It’s like you might say, if there’s someone you want to be with then just go for it, but if you want to be a painter, then you’ve got to take them a painting when you go! Try to make that person yours with your painting!

But how can you capture a person’s heart with one single painting?

That’s the tricky part. You could be absolutely burning up with love, but if you can’t express that properly then your painting is going to be nothing more than paint. At the same time, technique without feeling produces at best competent paintings, paintings without power. Heart and technique are the important things. And presentation. For example, with wrapping paper, in the West they rip it off and go straight to the contents, whereas in Japan it’s like a beautiful kimono or origami: you don’t remove it immediately, you don’t disrobe immediately! It’s a kind of eroticism.

The important objective of the tutorial is that you really do give the painting to the person in question. And, you know, just because you’ve received a painting from someone cute doesn’t mean that you’ll fall for that person immediately. It could be kind of heavy — you might not even like it, so you shut it away in a closet. But, one day, after weeks or months or years have passed, you might happen to open that closet again and look at it anew, and it might appear completely different. We all live in such a speed-obsessed age, so I want to make the students understand that painting takes time — and that it will always be there through whatever trials and tribulations fate delivers.

Yale University / New Haven, CT, USA
Robert Storr, Dean of the School of the Arts

Artistic education has a long, complex and dialectical history. In fact, its key episodes — the shift from medieval guild training to the Renaissance academy where mathematics, natural sciences, literature, history, rhetoric and other disciplines were part of the curriculum; then from that to the much-imitated Beaux Arts model of the French Academy from the 17th century on, followed by the innovations of the Vkhutemas in Russia, the Bauhaus in Germany and the free academies in Holland in the 1960s and 1970s; not to mention the palace revolution conducted by Joseph Beuys in the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf — are integral parts in the history of art.

My thinking is based on a critical examination of all these experiments. It boils down to this: artists should strive to know as much about themselves, their society, the culture, their media and the world in general as possible. No serious artist can go far on “personal” intuition or inspiration alone. Knowledge counts. Ignorance is ignorance not bliss — and inherently self-defeating. Nevertheless, when an individual artist is best prepared to learn, is something that must be left largely up to him or her, and for good reasons s/he may choose to shut off information from time to time to focus on the work immediately at hand and the problems it raises.

Dialogue with peers is indispensable. Dialogue with established working artists — some of whom may be teachers, many of whom may not formally be “educators” at all — comes next. Schools exist to facilitate those encounters and to give emerging talents a bracing, realistic sense of what a lifetime commitment to art will mean — and what it will require. After that artists are on their own; nobody asked them to be artists and nobody owes them anything except candor. Oh yes, beware any teacher who promises to show how to game the system and become a success, and any school predicated on the notion that making comes after thinking; making is thinking!

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