Thoughts on Arts Education

When discussing art education, it is essential that the compartmentalization of it be addressed. It remains true that in most academic settings students are required to chose a medium, whether it be sculpture, painting, drawing, or otherwise. Within printmaking, there is an added danger of further compartmentalization as in an academic setting the processes of linocut, etching, monotype, and others are broken up into different units or semesters. In his book, “Relief Printing,” Michael Rothenstein states, “And this notion of a particular technical approach may take precedence over exactly what we mean to do with these media.’ (Rothenstein p.31) Rothenstein makes compelling argument against the specialization between and within mediums, suggesting that the instruction of printmaking should present the student with problems that fundamentally develop the student as a whole artist, and not just a printmaker. Unfortunately, the art world is still composed of many people who want to assign an artist to a specific medium and methods of schooling that force a young artists to pick a side, so to speak. However, it is my belief that a change is crucial and we may begin with the separation of methods within printmaking. By beginning to break the habit of separating intaglio from lithography from relief printing, a printmaking student would begin to see an immeasurable number of ways to manipulate combinations of processes to create new works. Research in other disciplines beyond printmaking is also necessary for the student’s total experience. (Rothestein p.41) There is a danger in forcing students to specify in one form of art or another, and within an art to force them to specify methods. However, there are different dangers to be had with over diversification just as there are dangers with over specification. A balance must be found in both undergraduate and graduate studies, and finding that balance will be part of my studies for myself in the next two years and also an attitude I would like to apply to all of my future students.

While an individual is still practicing in academia, in any medium, there is a wide array of expensive equipment at their disposal. Rothenstein attests, and I must agree with him, that the more money a school puts into facilities the wider the gap is between work done in academia and work done post academia. Especially in disciplines where the student must rely on equipment provided by the school, the academy is doing a severe disservice to their students; focusing strictly on processes that use this equipment can severely stifle an artist upon graduation. (Rothenstein p.38-40)There is also a severe lack of a support system post-graduation, and a young artist often feels alone and defeated. This was the situation that I found myself in for too long after graduation. I believe it is the duty of an educator to not leave a student in this position, even if it only means that they will direct the student to other resources. By not teaching the student how to practice their art in an everyday setting, a teacher can also solidify the marrying of art and academia, thereby separating art from life even more. Obviously, this is not something that all young people struggle with, but the number of young people that could benefit from a small amount of guidance and care for their after-graduation practice would prove to be well worth the efforts.