Teaching fosters a community within the classroom that expands outward to other disciplines and into the larger community. A teaching/learning experience may spark in so many different ways–with the magical details of a time-intensive traditional printing technique; in changing the way we see and perceive form through repeatedly drawing a human figure slowly dancing through space; traveling with students to a new region of the country they have never experienced for a gathering of hundreds of artists; or even in mentoring a group of students as they develop a workshop plan at a letterpress studio focused on creative entrepreneurship and outreach. Each of these are just a few recent examples of what I consider to be part of my profession of teaching at my current position at Southeast MO State University.
I enjoy getting my hands dirty and creating an interactive learning environment by using a combination of lecture, demonstration, student-run presentations and conversation. I strive to enhance students’ education by providing practical, physical experiences to supplement a mediated virtual lifestyle. By emphasizing time spent in the physical space of the studio as a part of my curriculum, a sense of community is fostered among the students. These invaluable bonds created through hard work in a community setting can last throughout their education, and even throughout their career. Even something as simple as working together to reorganize a studio, or taking a walk to a gallery downtown and starting a conversation about the work can help students to jump to positive new perspectives in their personal practice.
In addition to the technical aspects of art making, I emphasize critical dialogue about art—the students’ own practice, the work of their peers, as well as in reference to historical and contemporary figures, artistic and otherwise, through readings, visiting artists, and field trips to galleries and studios whenever possible. In education, all means of knowing should be activated: touch, sight, reading, writing, talking, thinking, planning, drawing, and so on. Multimedia presentations allow classroom procedures to reach out to students who may have difficulties learning by only one or two methods alone. I require written brainstorming, collaborative discussion, verbal and written analysis, and assign interdisciplinary readings relevant to classroom topics. I encourage the construction of mock-ups or models when students are working on larger projects so that they can get a sense of space, form, and lighting. Learning through a variety of means allows art majors as well as those from other fields and backgrounds to explore art making as a life-enriching experience and develop a strong personal studio practice.
I lead by example in the classroom by working tirelessly on my own art practice, meeting with students one on one throughout the semester to discuss their goals, and involving students in group critiques and writing exercises. This helps students to become well-rounded, thoughtful artists who understand their audience.