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101 Things to Learn in Art School

I received an great gift from Michelle, a book called 101 Things to Learn in Art School, by Kit White. Since I never went to any formal art schools, I thought “this will be good.” I think it will be interesting to share some of White’s insights, here and in future posts.

Kit remembers being an art student and how he wanted to focus on being a maker of art. Not imagining he would become an art teacher, his initial feelings mirrored George Bernard Shaw’s quote – and one which I love, and feel is appropriate for art schools – “Those who can, do; those who cannot, teach.” From my observations, most (and I will concede that there are exceptions!) art schools are cases of the blind leading the blind. But what White fondly remembers of art school was the critical discussions that rose out of the need to know. My retort is I’ve spent my whole professional life in those discussions – I have never lamented not attending art school.

White’s opening lines in his Author’s Note are particularly poignant and I think help in describing just what art is: “Art is an idea that belongs to everyone. It is found in every culture. Whatever physical form it might take, whatever emotional, aesthetic, or psychological challenge it may offer, it is vital to every culture’s sense of itself.” In other words, art matters!

And on that note, White’s 11th Thing: “All art is quite useless” – Oscar Wilde. White states: “Art isn’t utilitarian, and if it is, perhaps it isn’t art. Art serves a non-practical role in our lives, but that does not mean it is not vital or necessary.”

I say “Bravo!” I have produced a multitude of works that are utilitarian – benches, tables, candlesticks, flower vases, etc. – but I have not considered them works of art. My sculptures and paintings that I consider art works are those which are purely aesthetic; are pleasing to the eye, stir the soul and entice one to touch or look at repeatedly. The art works serve no utilitarian purpose, but are necessary to my patrons in that the art fulfills a need in their hearts.

Knowing that my labor is appreciated as such is very rewarding.