Making whisks out of spruce tops at Yestermorrow in Vermont the first night of class

Making whisks out of spruce tops at Yestermorrow in Vermont the first night of class


Guided communication is at the heart of all I do.

As artists embrace methods that utilize social practice as a model for communication, so must the institutions that prepare our future artists adopt methods of teaching that align with social practice. As a dedicated sculptor and maker, i am careful not to suggest that concept should subordinate fabrication. instead, i champion virtuous making in service of engaging communication. I present challenges to my students that will prepare them for the social-forward aspects of the current and near-future field. This includes participatory models of artist-viewer relationships, innovative communication about social issues, multi-disciplinary collaborations, and criticism of traditional models of exhibition and collection.

Research-teaching can be described as learning with, rather than teaching to, groups of students. The instructor's role only differs from that of the students by virtue of the fact that the instructor manages projects, offers guidance, and ensures that milestones are met. Research-teaching requires transparency (all involved know all that is involved in a project and how it fits the field), open communication (from charrette to critique to early career), and commitment (students must be dedicated to learning through the projects). 

As a group, we try out contemporary social practice strategies such as appreciative inquiry, design thinking, non-linear brainstorming (thinking wrong) human-centered design, and solution-based thinking. These methods are often supported through introductions and discussions of the contributions of Project M, IDEO, and Edward de Bono's Divergent Thinking  through TED talks.

The projects listed here could all be called dialogical, relational, or socially engaged art. each started with a prompt (an issue) and began with a group charrette (an intense, generative period of issue definition and creative design) but none of the projects suggested a script or pathway for process. Each featured collaboration between groups of students and many included creative interaction with viewers and participants. In all cases, i was able to guide students through conceptual processes as well as fabrication of built items. These projects served as introductions to the methods and techniques of art and social practice, therefore all inquiry-based learning started with a multifaceted social issue.