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Announcement
September 10, 2021

Office Hours: Pope.L: University of Chicago Department of Visual Arts

Art & Education

Martin Girardi, eddies, 2020. Eight digital photographs.

ashanti owusu-brafi, Parents lack the time to teach they’re kids, 2020. Wood birdhouse, single-stack 9mm pistol without a manual safety, and bird feed. Performance documentation courtesy ashanti owusu-brafi.

Office Hours: Pope.L: University of Chicago Department of Visual Arts

1. Why did you decide to go into teaching?
TRUTH IS I JUST NEEDED A JOB. REALLY BADLY.

2. What drew you to your school and what is your teaching philosophy?
MY FIRST JOB WAS A SUDDEN, OUT-OF-THE-BLUE OPPORTUNITY TO TEACH THEATER AT A SMALL LIBERAL ARTS COLLEGE IN MAINE. I ENDED UP TEACHING THERE FOR TWENTY YEARS. IN THE BEGINNING, I HAD NO TEACHING PHILOSOPHY. I SIMPLY NEEDED TO BUILD A WAY OF TEACHING. OVER TIME, I’VE SIMPLIFIED MY TEACHING PHILOSOPHY: WORK, WORK HARDER, THEN WORK HARDER STILL. TYPICALLY, I CREATE A PROMPT OR A SITUATION WITHIN WHICH THE STUDENT OPERATES. THE STUDENT MAKES A PROPOSAL FOR THAT CONTEXT, WE DISCUSS ANY OBVIOUS ISSUES, THEN THE STUDENT RESPONDS WITH THEIR WORK AND THE CRITIQUE BECOMES AN EXPLORATION/DISCUSSION OF HOW THE STUDENT WRESTLED WITHIN THAT SITUATION AND HOW THEY CAN BETTER THEIR APPROACH.

3. What theory and art history do you consider most essential for your students? What artist or artwork do you refer to most often?
I DO NOT NECESSARILY LOOK TO ART HISTORY FOR WHAT IS ESSENTIAL. I WOULD JUST AS LIKELY LOOK TO SOCIOLOGY OR PSYCHOLOGY OR LITERARY OR CULTURAL THEORY. OR USE EXAMPLES OF WORKS BY ART PRACTITIONERS TO EXEMPLIFY A CONCEPT OR POINT OF VIEW. SOME ART FOLKS COME UP AGAIN AND AGAIN, FOR EXAMPLE, MICHAEL HANEKE, AN AUSTRIAN FILMMAKER; JOHN CAGE, A COMPOSER; OR EVEN MRS. MOHAMMED, MY UNDERGRADUATE ART TEACHER, WHO SAID THAT WE BLACK PEOPLE LOOK BEST IN RED.

4. How do you navigate generational or cultural differences between you and your students?
WELL, STUDENTS ARE NOT CHANNELS IN RIVER SYSTEMS, SO NAVIGATION? I AM NOT SURE. I TELL STUDENTS THE REASON THEY ARE TAKING THE CLASS IS BECAUSE THEY CHOOSE TO, AND IN DOING SO ARE CHOOSING THE ROLE OF STUDENT, THEREFORE A KIND OF NEED, A KIND OF IGNORANCE; WHEREAS I, BECAUSE OF MY EXPERIENCE, CHOOSE TO TAKE ON THE IGNORANCE OF THE KNOWER AND THIS IS HOW WE ARRIVE IN THE SAME ROOM. HOWEVER, STUDENTS ARE FREQUENTLY INADVERTENT TEACHERS. THEY MAY NOT ENVISION THEMSELVES AS SUCH OR VALUE THIS SIDE OF THE EQUATION, BUT THEY CONTRIBUTE KNOWLEDGE IN THEIR OWN WAY. THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN US PERHAPS IS I PAY MORE ATTENTION TO HOW THE KNOWLEDGE I DELIVER IS IMPARTED.

Read more of Pope.L’s Office Hours on School Watch.

Office Hours is a new questionnaire series that gathers insights on teaching from artists. In response to ten prompts, educators reflect on the discourses and approaches that animate their teaching, share their visions for the future of art education, and offer advice for students navigating the field of contemporary art.

School Watch presents critical perspectives on art and academia. Featured profiles, surveys, and dialogues consider education in fine art, curating, and critical theory, as well as the ideas and conditions that influence practice.

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