Toward a New School of Art: How Social Practice, Radical Locality, and Antagonism Should Shape Art Education in the 21st Century


The following is based on ideas that must certainly exist in other contexts, books, and agendas. While not necessarily referential to any of these particular sources, the following knowingly exists within a continually evolving matrix of art and studio-based pedagogy. The following also attempts to address what I believe is the only option for art schools to stay relevant in the coming decades—a time that will demand holistic and constantly shifting attempts to unfold the complexities of everyday life, founded on a commitment towards the local and the small.

Art education should be framed around the following realities and situations:
‣ place
‣ social-engagement
‣ antagonism towards existing infrastructures of all kinds

Faculty in this New School will be a mix of semi-permanent locally-committed professional artists and visiting artists from abroad; both groups of faculty will maintain the following:
‣ an artistic practice that requires mutually-beneficial collaboration from students
‣ a record of creative activity that is not exclusively tethered to art galleries or art infrastructures
‣ an active and evolving interest in pedagogy
‣ a lack of fear of the uncharted
‣ an insatiable interest in collaboration
‣ an open studio / work / office space
‣ a quarterly public presentation on their research
‣ a commitment to the local
‣ an aggressive stance on the importance of the idea of the ignorant school master
‣ an appreciation of affective vs. effective

A New School of Art will not hinge on a new art school, instead it will occupy spaces that require formal partnerships with other institutions within a given geography such as:
‣ buses
‣ bus stations
‣ storefronts
‣ libraries
‣ living rooms
‣ backyards
‣ parks
‣ bars
‣ malls
‣ rooftops
‣ interrogation rooms
‣ tree houses
‣ theatres
‣ chemistry departments
‣ office space
‣ high schools
‣ gymnasiums
‣ the occasional space previously assigned to old art schools

Students in this New School of Art will apply to enroll with the following understandings and interests:
‣ there will be no instructions
‣ writing is a foundational skill
‣ reading is necessary for understanding the world
‣ there is a never-ending supply of potential in any given place
‣ learning is constant
‣ the transference of employable skills is abundant if you pay attention, but you should not pay attention to that part
‣ using social media is not being social
‣ questions are not optional
‣ critiques can take many forms
‣ your instructor will not always have the answer
‣ you will not be asked to make anything specific
‣ everyone will need your help at some point, as will you their’s
‣ an art practice does not equate to making an art object every day
‣ collaboration is not optional

These realities and situations will appear as the following in the New School of Art:
‣ an underlying agreement to develop art practices, not art objects
‣ no medium-based classes
‣ medium-specific workshops
‣ relentless collaboration
‣ an ongoing curiosity about community and its possibilities
‣ learning opportunities organized around themes
‣ projects that occur beyond and outside of institutional schedules
‣ ignorant co-teaching
‣ classes that only take place over dinner with local food
‣ demonstrative occasions of what art can do outside of a gallery
‣ truly preparatory instances for young artists working in a world beyond the “art world”
‣ no private studios
‣ no classrooms as we might normally recognize them
‣ ongoing discussions with neighbours and explorations of neighbourhoods
‣ a rigourous and continual investigation of how place shapes you and how you shape place
‣ an embedded understanding that not every experience in life is art, but that every experience in life informs an art practice