Where I am, and where I want to go.

Blog inquiry #1

I am in a strange spot.  I’ve been teaching for a while, but it feels like an unofficial position.  I feel like a teacher, I have absolute confidence in my knowledge of art, I write recommendations of students I’ve worked with, reviewed portfolios, accepted students into college. Yet, I am also separate.  I am not involved in their regular high school curriculum.  From my cozy and protected vantage point, I am unencumbered by the limitations that I have seen some of my peers work with – yet their “official” status lends stability, respect and clout.

I know my work, how to practice it, teach it, and yet folding my knowledge into the script of a lesson plan, a curriculum, approval by school boards, working with students that are part of the general population (and have no interest in art!) are new challenges that I face.  New challenges that I will tackle and learn from.  Literacy, both in the visual form, but also in the form of sharing ideas and creating work that must communicate not only your desired intent, but also withstand the interpretation of others, is a complicated subject matter.  As a working artist, I’m only now starting to understand my place in this conversation.  Helping students find their voice through art, yet also guiding them to invite the greater community along with their experience…it’s a weighty task.  Often for young artists, the decision to make work and invite others along is personal.  The time, effort and thought put into pieces of work are hard to separate from the self at that age.

Artist Statements are a small, yet often overlooked tool that can be utilized to make that jump.  To invite the viewer into your own work, and make them comfortable.  To help them understand where your art is taking them, yet allowing the viewer to have the possibility to take it elsewhere, perhaps even further.  To separate the work from the personal (and yet have it still be completely personal).  Artist Statements are also a stepping stone for understanding another artists work, from the contemporary to the original innovators.

Resources for students:

The best way to learn how to write an artist statement?  MAKE WORK.  Practice your craft, the words will discover themselves.

In the past I have had students create either their own blog to track their progress, or create a collaborative blog, so that the student’s could write and share their work for each other, and give each other feedback (miadcreativesketchbook2013.wordpress.com <– dug this ol’ blog up – I would expand upon this for high school students and suggest not only posting their work, but revised artist statements, resources they found helpful, etc.)

Milwaukee Art Museum/other local museums – often times reading what other artists have done, and the summaries included in ancient/modern pieces gives students exposure to topics that artists have explored in the past

Research individual artists – a lot of students have one artist that they’ve heard of, one artist they aspire to be like, and artists that they will meet.  Research their work.  Read what they have to say about their work.  See if the student can relate to why they make art, too.  (i.e. Interviews of contemporary artists: http://create.adobe.com/2016/5/16/_5_3_4_questions_boris_pelcer.html)

Critique, critique, critique.  Feedback from other artists, non-artists, neighbors down the block, regarding a students’ own work is invaluable.  See if the idea you are trying to convey through your work is actually being conveyed, or if it needs clarification, and adjust your work (and future works) from there.

Workshops – Places like the Milwaukee Artist Resource Network have mentorship programs as well as workshops that focus specifically on professional development of upcoming artists.  (https://www.artsinmilwaukee.org/programs/workshops/)




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