I teach at the |www.artic.edu|School of the Art Institute of Chicago, in three different departments: Art History, Theory and Criticism; Master of Arts and Art Education (MAAE); and Sculpture. Although these may seem disparate, the classes I teach all share certain characteristics: They have to do with the way that artists, art institutions and audiences, and the larger body politic interact. The following are descriptions of some courses I've developed
ARTS, ACTIVISM AND RESPONSE:
Artists, Activists and the Role of Institutions (Art History /Theory/Criticism)
In recent years, the place of political and social themes in art has been much debated. Critical and institutional attention has waxed and waned: in the 90’s some institutions privileged overtly political work, others have created projects based on community and cultural activism, while some institutions disdained art as a force for social change. This course looks at how these issues are reflected in the arts since the 1920's, examining both the art and the relationships between artists, institutions and the body politic, and explore such questions as:
What constitutes political or activist art? What defines it-Intent? Audience? Reaction? Once, many artists perceived themselves to be penalized because their art dealt with political or social content. Now some artists feel this sort of work is privileged over other investigations. Perhaps different audiences and institutions have evolved?? Have things changed? If so,why? How can one evaluate this work? Especially in the case of community based / collaborative works, what criteria apply? And what of art which is clearly made for an art world audience, with commentary aimed at art world issues?
EXCAVATING HISTORY (Sculpture)
Since the 1980s artists who have focused on the stories that shape our lives have brought new, critical insights to our relationship to history. They may use history in combination with fiction, political and social agendas, or urban folklore. These artists have raised essential questions--whose story gets told and who gets to tell the story?- In this course studetns work within a historic site , and develop specific artworks and proposals, working toward an exhibition. that excavates various stories from the site. The role of artist as historian, ethnographer, and trickster-narrator; and art as documentation, fiction, history, mythology, and argument will be explored.
MUSEUM EDUCATION; HISTORY, THEORY AND PRACTICE
Looks at the social role of museums, and traces the way American museums developed,(as distinct from European museums which grew out of aristocratic collections) as well as the philosophy behind their missions and the practices they employ. Students gain a practical understanding of a career working in a museum as well as a critical look at the contradictions and inconsistencies of museum practice
Sculptural practices embrace many dichotomies and apparent contradictions while utilizing diverse media, techniques, and contexts. This class functions as an introduction to the many ways that sculpture is practiced in the art world and contemporary society. It explores underlying concepts involved in creating forms, and methods of fabrication, tools, materials, and procedures with which to realize concepts, while stressing critical inquiry into the development of ideas and the articulation of intent.
We will look at contemporary practices through handouts, slides, and video presentations, as well as through field studies at cultural institutions and other city sites to collect artifacts and research data for projects. Additional emphasis will be placed on the consideration of context, problem solving, process, and individual practice.
LANDSCAPE ART AS SOCIAL ACTION(sculpture, developed with environmental educator Dr. Lisa Roberts)
Course explores how artists can create and foster a sense of personal connection to the environment through making landscape–based artworks. It will also explore how this personal connection then be engaged for the purpose of generating public commitment to environmental stewardship. In addition to creating artworks on the grounds at OX-BOW, students will study the history of earth/landscape art, and contemporary environmental considerations and issues, through readings and discussions. Readings may include: Land and Environmental Art, (Lastner Wallis) Land Art (Tiberghien), The Meaning of Gardens (ed, Francis, Hestner), and Interpretation (Morris, Brennan, Smith,). Artists like Goldsworthy, Long, Nash, Mendieta, and Dion will be included.
SENIOR SEMINAR / PROJECTS (sculpture)
Course has three objectives
1) To help students put together the best BFA show/ending portfolio possible
2) To explore topics around making the transition from student to non- student, explorations of the various "art worlds" (in and outside of galleries) and helping students make an honest assessment of their strengths, weaknesses, interests, needs and natural proclivities
3) To help students develop "real world' skills, (researching grants, writing artist statements and proposals) as well as encompass discussions of their work and explore ways to continue to make work outside of a school context.