Curated by Joanne Dijkman
Given my background, it is inevitable that I spend a lot of time thinking about possible forms of art education and radical pedagogies. I am a lecturer, teacher, and PhD researcher in art education at AKI ArtEZ, the Netherlands, a small, idiosyncratic academy founded on Bauhaus pedagogy. Here, the emphasis was and is on experimental, cross-border and innovative higher art education.
As a result, my curation from the APRIA archive consists of contributions that are all related to thinking about new forms of higher art education, both in the past and or in possible future(s).
I hope you enjoy them.
Teaching Art Episode 1, Notes on the Classroom by Dennis Gaens / Teaching Art, Episode 2, Notes on the Teacher by Dennis Gaens
The audio essay ‘Teaching Art’ by creative writing teacher Dennis Gaens was for me a feast of recognition. Gaens has divided the essay into three episodes, focusing on the questions of ‘how to teach,’ ‘what to teach,’ and ‘who should we be when we teach it?’
There’s a quotation by creative writing teacher John Vigna at the beginning of the second episode that answers that last question: ‘When you take on any vocation, whether it’s writing, playing an instrument, teaching, you realise that, once you start, you’re into a lifelong apprenticeship.’ As teachers, we should be leading learners, and we should embrace that journey of lifelong learning together with our students.
Gaens also asks the question, ‘what kind of space should the art academy be?’ He starts by not only looking ahead but also looking back. He turns to examples from the past, in particular the liberal arts college Black Mountain College, North Carolina, U.S. He learned about the school through the Black Mountain Poets, such as Charles Olson, Robert Creeley and Robert Duncan.
Episode 1: https://apria.artez.nl/teaching-art/
Episode 2: https://apria.artez.nl/teaching-art-episode-2/
The Future of the Art School
The AKI at ArtEZ is part of a long-standing tradition of experimental art academies and institutes, such as Bauhaus, Black Mountain College, and the Free International University, which have permanently changed higher art education in the twentieth century. What is special about the methodology of these three radical educational innovators? Why were these experiments so meaningful on a pedagogical level? What can current art education learn from the experiments of the past? These are among the questions that I address in my PhD. What those pioneers have in common, next to their short existence, is their focus on community (building), participation, co-creation and learning by doing, concepts which are also central to the educational philosophy of the American philosopher and progressive educator John Dewey, who played an important and inspiring role at Black Mountain College.
In this context, I would also like to highlight the interviews from the series From a University of the Arts to a Pluriversity of the Arts, in which Els Cornelis and Catelijne de Muijnck explore possible, imaginary futures of the ‘Art School.’ In particular, I want to draw attention to the interviews with Louwrien Weijers, Jack Bardwell, and Sophie Krier.
Louwrien Weijers, an artist, writer and former assistant to Joseph Beuys, reveals in her interview that she still expresses Beuys’ radical innovative ideas. As a result, Weijers continues—in a way—his Free International University (FIU). The Free International University was Beuys’ alternative educational model for creativity and interdisciplinary research. It mainly consisted of a huge network organisation, without a fixed location but with various branches of the FIU in Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands and Belgium among others.
In his interview, Jack Bardwell gives very inspiring examples of pedagogical experiments and interventions he has organised within the art institute (in his case the KABK), creating ‘a school within a school.’ He explains that he likes to work with Dewey’s concepts of community, co–creation and learning by doing. He is also inspired by the legacy of Black Mountain College because of active participation of students in this school community on every level, from cooking and farming to designing and building a new school together.
Krier’s interview is especially interesting because of the alternative forms of art education that she has realised, such as outdoor classrooms. She’s talking about examples from both inside and outside the established art institutes (art schools) and universities. I see similarities with Black Mountain College and also Beuys’ FIU in the sense of the challenges of working within an institute (faculty) while wanting to break free. Krier’s solution of ‘satellites’ is beautiful.
Interview met Louwrien Wijers: https://apria.artez.nl/interview-met-louwrien-wijers/
Interview met Sophie Krier: https://apria.artez.nl/interview-met-sophie-krier/
Interview met Jack Bardwell: https://apria.artez.nl/interview-with-jack-bardwell/
Somewhere a Bit Further Away
‘Somewhere a bit further away, Foothills of the Appalachias, North Carolina, South East, United States’ is beautiful essay by Helena Sanders is perhaps a stranger in this selection because it is not directly linked to thinking of alternative art education, but indirectly it is connected. Her studies of the complex notions of colour, pigment and related meanings and histories of places and land brought her to the area where Black Mountain College was once located. The small town of Black Mountain, at the foot of the Appalachians. There’s also a connection with Josef Albers—a painter and Bauhaus and Black Mountain College teacher—through his focus on colour and colour theory.