Whether in the making of a functional pot, sculpture, or installation, my method of teaching art rests on a balance of conceptual thinking and technical proficiency. In each course I teach, I provide students with both structure and the freedom to explore. Students need the opportunity and encouragement to take risks, struggle through their ideas and possibly to fail at an idea. Courageous “failures” are often more beneficial to one’s artistic growth than are safe successes. Throughout a course students are given a framework of assignments to ensure that technical skills and conceptual development are not allowed to stagnate. Advanced and graduates students receive more individualized mentoring specific to their area of inquiry.
From mixing clay to exhibiting work, it is very important to actively involve students in all aspects of the creative process. By organizing students into work teams, they get hands-on knowledge of various processes in the studio while learning to work communally. These same skills are transferable when making art. They supplement a student’s ability to think deductively as well as inductively. Whether a student is interested in creating functional objects or installation sculpture, a student must approach both of these situations with the same sensitivity to detail, understanding of history, theory, and perception. I introduce additional perspectives through student presentations, group discussions, visiting artists, slide presentations on contemporary and historical works, and reading and writing assignments, which all serve to widen a student’s experiences and give a larger perspective to their understanding.
Through group critiques, students learn how others receive their work and intentions, as well as how to articulate their opinions. This discourse enables students to realize how effectively they have communicated their ideas, as well as how well they have understood their own intentions. An end of semester final generally consists of a portfolio review, small exhibition, or intense review over a chosen piece created during the semester- depending on the level of the course.
The ability to promote divergent thinking while seeking answers to open ended questions is the authority that art holds. It is this power and responsibility, reinforced by the teacher that I relish in. Being in the position to learn alongside students and to be challenged to keep up, is one that I hold true in my classroom. I push my pedagogy and studio practice to be relevant and progressive. I hold myself to this high standard and work to improve my craft while encouraging students to take chances, fail, be curious, and to learn.