I am the Program and Graduate Director of the Fine Arts Studio program and a Professor in the School of Art, College of Imaging Arts and Sciences at Rochester Institute of Technology. I currently teach advanced undergraduate sculpture courses, graduate sculpture courses, a BFA capstone senior fine arts studio course, ideation & series, and a MFA graduate research course.
As an artist and an educator I find it impossible to separate those two roles. My desire to make art fuels my ability to teach art; my passion to explore art drives lectures and critiques of student work. I share this enthusiasm with students while they begin learning skills, processes, and materials necessary to develop ideas into objects. I find that students in turn reinforce my excitement of the subject matter, introduce me to new thoughts and ideas, and challenge my tried and true approaches to technique which can produce beautiful new results. I try to remain open and evolving in my teaching to take advantage of this communication.
My first belief in art education is that students should know the rules. Talent must be guided through the knowledge of formal design concerns. Language and vocabulary need to be understood while also verbally and visually expressed. The depth included in the Foundations program at RIT provides this basis for students as they enter the Fine Arts Studio Sculpture courses. Through introductory sculpture the focus is the continuation of this foundation with emphasis on how ideas can translate into form. Skill development, as new processes and materials are introduced, is stressed. Knowledge of art history and awareness of contemporary approaches aids students in the understanding of how to apply newly acquired skills.
Sculpture can be so many things; consist of so many materials, objects or concepts. In practice, I find it is important to expose students to as many of these materials, processes, and techniques that time and studio space will allow and through images and research as many others as possible. Traditional sculpture techniques such as stone carving, foundry, mold-making, steel fabrication, and wood-working are incorporated into introductory projects to address the basic sculptural approaches of addition, subtraction, and substitution. Other projects focus on assemblage and the manipulation or appropriation of found objects. I want students to address materiality and process as they relate to content, and I believe they need to make educated decisions as to the techniques and materials used to produce their artwork.
My second belief in my teaching is that students need to bend, twist, or break the rules when creating art. As students progress from learning how to apply design principles, skills, and techniques, I encourage them to discover their individual paths in art making. This requires confidence. Students need the respect and freedom to make mistakes, which I believe are vital to the learning process. I try to guide critiques so that honest feedback is achieved without judgment from either myself as the instructor or peers. I find that numerous group critiques aid in this confidence building, the more students share their ideas the more they believe in the overall worthiness of those ideas. Students also learn how to both accept and give constructive criticism.
I believe in encouraging students to thoroughly conduct both internal and external research. Reflection and observation lead to growth. Idea generation becomes an exercise and skill set just as important as technical skills with each relying on the strength of the other to produce results. Advanced and graduate students are expected to increase and apply this research while developing the skills necessary to communicate the importance of research through verbal and written forms.
In addition to teaching students technical, formal, and conceptual components, I believe in preparing the individuals to participate in the professional community of artists. I have included students in many professional activities that I have attended, from artist residencies to national conferences. Students have served as panelists, workshop instructors, participated in exhibitions, and given demonstrations allowing them to make new contacts, develop their confidence, and contribute to their chosen profession. It is a very rewarding experience to see students and alumni presenting the culmination of their art education and research and to hope that I served as a guide in that process.