I had a professor in graduate school that always talked about a metaphorical toolbox. It was a place to both deposit and retrieve information. Inside mine I gathered and recorded failed experiments, abandoned ideas, and moments of great discovery. I still carry my toolbox today. I look inside often and I am always reminded that art making is a process that requires a strong foundation, time and space to practice, and an active interest in exploration and discovery.
In the classroom I encourage students to look at art making as a form of communication. Teaching them the elements of art and principles of design, I urge them to think of line, shape, color, and texture as one thinks of language. In doing so they learn each individual component has the ability to carry meaning and when brought together convey a complex set of ideas.
I teach students how to use their hands and tools such as saws, hammers, and drills, along with a variety of materials, to clearly communicate and articulate their ideas through physical manifestations. Assignments are designed to provide an artistic problem, sometimes limiting their use of materials, other times focusing on form, abstraction, or a broad concept, but always allowing students the physical and mental space to find their own creative solutions. They are encouraged to gather information through research, experimentation, and testing practices that assist and guide them in making educated choices.
In addition, my classroom is an active learning environment where interaction and collaboration serve a major role. Each class project includes a series of group discussions where students share ideas, provide feedback for one another and in the end create a strong sense of community. I encourage productive dialogue where students learn how to look at and respond to art critically. We look together, interpret together, and try to find solutions to complex visual problems together.
I want the classroom studio to be like a toolbox where students can store the failed experiments and incomplete ideas that so often, when revisited, lead to moments of great discovery. I want it to be a place where process is an integral part of the learning experience; where students learn that art making is a wonderfully complex form of communication and that through practice, hard work, and clarity of thought they can create their own meaning.