This past Friday I had the pleasure of visiting Professor Tiffany Silverman's Art Appreciation classes at The Citadel. Redux Contemporary Art Center, as part of their educational outreach program, is partnering with Mrs. Silverman to bring in local visiting artists to the classroom in hopes of exposing the students to the world of contemporary art that exists outside of the Citadel's thick, concrete walls.
For those of you not familiar with The Citadel... it is a prestigious military school, known for its strict rules and rowdy boys. Of course this is the stereotypical description, but then again, stereotypes don't come from nowhere! I currently live just blocks from the Citadel campus, and am lucky enough to be serenaded with their crack-of-dawn bugles and midnight revelries. Their fall-time football games and their Friday afternoon parades. A real treat indeed... ;)
Upon telling people that I was going to be the "visiting artist" for an Art Appreciation class at the Citadel, I was greeted with several similar responses. "They teach art there?" Who knew!
So, for my visit, I prepared a powerpoint presentation about my work. Mainly composed of images, it also contained references to several artists that currently influence what I do, and a few key elements about the "type" of sculpture I make (site-specific/installation/etc.).Their professor introduced me as a more "conceptual" artist, for what I assumed was because I do not work in classic materials and my forms are non-representational. I thought that was kind of interesting, especially considering the fact that in one of my very first slides I described my work as "form-driven rather than concept-driven." My "lecture" was preceded by a lecture on sculpture... a very broad overview of what sculpture is and a handful of artists who make it. The students were much more interested in the HOW than the WHY... which is right up my alley. They asked some good questions and I had fun answering them.
Then we jumped right into some fun, hands-on activities. I brought with me three blow torches, some bailing wire, and all the fixings necessary to hold a complete brazing workshop. Brazing (the joining of 2 metal wires with melted brass) is one of the first skills taught in an introductory college sculpture class, and it is a technique that I use extensively in my model-making. I helped each student (24 in each class... 48 total) make at least one successful braze, which anyone can tell you is not in the leas bit an easy task.
I must admit, I had a really great time! This experience has proved to be extremely valuable... having to get up in front of a room full of strangers and talk about my work has gotten me to contemplate and to process what it is I'm doing with this "art" and why. I really enjoy the classroom environment, and can see myself doing more of this in the future, be it as a visiting artist again, an instructor of sorts, or even as a college professor. Who knows!