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I believe that the art classroom should be a forum for four primary elements.
1. Exposure to diverse artwork and critical discussion of it.
2. Training in the use of specific art-making tools.
3. Experimentation with and directed exploration of these tools.
4. Peer evaluation and discussion of student work.
My approach to integrating these elements is based on the idea that my role as a teacher is both to clarify information and to facilitate free discussion. On the one hand, I believe in the importance of sharing the technical skills and intellectual tools that empower students to act decisively. On the other hand, I value a classroom environment in which the flow of information is multi-centric and multi-directional; a conversation rather than a one-way transmission. I present lectures and demonstrations, but I am also committed to topical conversations, student presentations, and collaborative group activities. In this way, I try to cultivate a community of learning and experimentation where students feel comfortable sharing their interests and specialized knowledge. Ultimately, this helps them to identify the unique personal curiosities that motivate their work and enrich their lives. Learning is a lifelong process that doesn't depend on a classroom, so my goal as a teacher is to help students to get better at learning and to enjoy it more.
I think that a foundation of any art class is to bring students into contact with both international and local art culture. When they have a sense that they can participate in a cultural conversation that extends beyond the classroom and around the globe, students are more motivated to self-direct their creative practice. I like to share and discuss an array of art works, including examples of diverse approaches to the medium being taught, and work from other media which has conceptual or formal relevance. This includes in-class slideshows and screenings, as well as visits to museums or galleries. I also invite local visiting artists to give guest lectures about their work so that students can benefit from the perspectives and experiences of working artists. Such first-hand experience gives students a sense of context and a source of inspiration for their own work.
When teaching the use of media tools and complex production processes, I believe it's especially essential to teach students a set of standard operating procedures while simultaneously encouraging a critical engagement with the limitations of these procedures. In the age of post-disciplinary conceptual art, some teachers are wary of teaching specific technical skills, under the assumption that excessive attention to craft might limit a student's creative freedom or give undue primacy to formalism. While my first commitment is to cultivate creative thinking, I believe that a foundation of practical production knowledge empowers students to incorporate their materials into their thought process, and to acquire the control over their medium necessary to innovate conceptually and aesthetically.
Finally, I believe that students develop their critical vocabulary and a sense of their own artistic identity by presenting their work and participating in peer critique. I organize small-group discussions of work in progress, as well as larger critiques of finished work. In each context, my role is to ask questions that stimulate productive discussion and help students to clarify their own intentions.
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