3, February 2017 § 2 Comments
“When we ask about the relationship of a liberal education to citizenship, we are asking a question with a long history in the Western philosophical tradition. We are drawing on Socrates’ concept of ‘the examined life,’ on Aristotle’s notions of reflective citizenship, and above all on Greek and Roman Stoic notions of an education that is ‘liberal’ in that it liberates the mind from bondage of habit and custom, producing people who can function with sensitivity and alertness as citizens of the whole world.” –Martha Nussbaum, Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education, 1998
Seven Liberal Arts: Francesco Pesellino: 1422-1457 Florence
While hoping to find a way to take a much needed sabbatical many years ago I made some phone calls in search for a person to take over my job for a semester. I talked to a woman who taught at a well known academy in the States, someone who I felt could teach drawing and painting simultaneously as I had been doing for years at the Aegean Center. I gave her the outline of the program; a three month course, in Greece, teaching 20 hours a week, covering the gamut from printmaking to oil painting. She brushed aside my inquiry but not because she felt the weight of long hours of teaching, or because the responsibilities were onerous, but because she would need to teach drawing and painting concurrently. She said that a student needed a full year of basic drawing, followed by a full year of figure drawing before they should be allowed to touch a brush. When I explained that being a single semester abroad program prevented us from spreading out the curriculum in this way she dumbfounded me with her response. “Well”‘ she said, “I consider myself a fascist when it comes to art instruction”. I thanked her for her time and promptly hung up.
In relating this story to students I often wondered whether the fascist intent was sanctioned by her academy or if it was just her own perverse mindset. I have unfortunately seen and heard of teachers who felt their method was uniquely correct and had no tolerance for other viewpoints. In art classes the slavish adherence to what is fashionable and a blindness to tradition can narrow students responses. As teachers we must all ensure that our students learn the basic skills that will serve them in future no matter which direction the art world takes. I am deeply committed to obtaining and practicing these skills, but to be a self proclaimed fascist in order to attain that objective is repugnant. Recently I contemplated her response again and thought about it in context to the current political climate. It still horrifies me and I still fight against the dictates that her statement implies.
The Liberal Arts were conceived to educate citizens who could uphold the highest ideals of the Greek and Roman cultures. Rhetoric, grammar, logic comprised the trivium and to these were added the quadrivium of arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy. Over the course of the centuries a liberal arts education has come to means something broader but it still indicates a course of study which seeks to inculcate a student to uphold the fundamental underpinning of a democratic society. The arts, especially the visual arts, play a role in embedding memory, culture and history into the minds of citizens. The museum plays its part as well as the galleries, publications and criticism. The arts aspire to imagination, forward thinking, to uphold aesthetic ideals and keep sensitivity alert. This perhaps is why the first thing many dictators do is imprison the artists and poets. But art can also be fashioned into propaganda and can in itself become weighted down with rules and dictates. And apparently teaching art can become fascistic as well.
If we are to remain an open society we need to teach the creative process and embody it as well in our teaching. I try to foster a creative environment in the studio along with emphasizing the discipline that learning an art form demands. Strangely, many art students do not feel creative. The striving to make something of merit often stifles the urge to begin. Creativity requires a certain amount of mess, of boredom, of play and practice in order to perform its magical alchemy. Rigid hierarchical formulae do not help to promote its appearance. We cannot be creative if we are being taught that conforming is the most important requirement. This is why so many students feel that being creative is a rare gift rather than a natural outcome of their nature, too many years spent in graded, monitored, tested classrooms can kill off the ability to create. Often beginning students are intensely creative before fear and compliance knock them back into simply performing for others.
I stay in my job with pleasure, it keeps me involved in my passions and engaged with young clever minds. I teach drawing and painting but I also feel my job is to awaken students to their own nascent creativity. To engage in the creative process is to grow as a person and as a citizen of the world. Within the beautiful environment of the Center with its multicultural milieu, with imaginative and intellectual activities and trusting relationships the creative is allowed to emerge. :Jane Morris Pack
“Those persons, whom nature has endowed with genius and virtue, should be rendered by liberal education worthy to receive, and able to guard the sacred deposit of the rights and liberties of their fellow citizens; and . . . they should be called to that charge without regard to wealth, birth or other accidental condition or circumstance.” –Thomas Jefferson, 1779
9, December 2009 § Leave a comment
THE AEGEAN CENTER FOR THE FINE ARTS
Tuesday, December 8, 6:30 p.m.
Creative Writing Director – Jeffrey Carson
Aegean Center Director – John Pack
Dessert at The Villa Rospigliosi
We waited for evenings that offered Roquefort
And when they came, we hoarded pears in our pockets
Until with table knife we could spread that tangy blue
Across the slippery slice of pear we had prepared
For this very moment: dessert at the villa.
8, October 2008 § Leave a comment
The Aegean Center is back on Paros and well into our first week of classes, having just returned from an exhilarating month in Italy. Curious about what we do there? Read Jeffrey Carson’s article in the September Paros Life. Pictured above is drawing and painting student Silina Pandelidou trying her hand at glass blowing at a workshop in Murano.
In other news, this semester’s digital photography students are the first to enjoy our brand new Piezography Lab. Set in a beautifully illuminated space just around the corner from our main building, the lab is equipped with state of the art systems for image processing and printing. Thanks to the generosity of Jon Cone, we are able to supply our students with the very best ink available for producing black and white images of the highest quality and permanence. For more information on Jon Cone and Piezography, click here.
11, May 2008 § Leave a comment
It is always busy at the Aegean Center for the Fine Arts, but the Spring 2008 session at the Center has been particularly animated. There have been visiting artists, guests, alumni, readings, performances and presentations. Here is a short post to recap some of the events of the session so far and some of the activities to come.
Starting in mid-March, 2005-2006 alumni Maria-Elena and Gabriel’s former tutor Brett arrived. Maria-Elena gave a stirring solo performance for an assembled audience of faculty, students and friends of the center.
Also in March, visiting professors Peter Abbs and Lisa Dart made their regular visit to the “Academy” (as Peter likes to call the Aegean Center) and gave a joint poetry reading featuring recent and older works. Peter also read poems to be featured in John and Peter’s upcoming exhibition The Greater Journey in Canterbury this September.
Greek Easter came late (April 27) and with it the arrival of many guests. Close Aegean Center friend John Van Buren was the first to arrive bringing with him some welcome warm, spring weather. John enjoyed works in progress in the studios, sat in on vocal performances from the ensemble, and ate his fair share of delicious tzatziki. John also brought two old friends to the Center, Wyoming Poet Laureate and musician David Romtvedt and ceramist and gallery director Margot Brown, David’s wife. David gave two performances, one a selection of poems and the other a musical performance. Playing his button accordion and accompanied by Margot on percussion, David gave an interesting and rousing performance of various folks music of the Americas. Margot gave a presentation of her artwork, as well as pieces from artists represented at her gallery.
During the same week visiting photographer Marion Patterson, a student and colleague of Ansel Adams, gave an enthralling presentation of her life as a photographer, and displayed the work featured in her book Grains of Sand. After the presentation Marian graciously went out with photo students to and together they shot photographs of the Paros landscape.
Other visitors were 2001-2002 alumni Anne-Meade and spring 2002 alumni Arial. Next week will see a presentation by philosopher Warwick Fox. Later in May the Center will feature poets Christopher Merrill, director of the Iowa University’s International Writers’ Program, and Adrianne Kalfpoulou. Aegean Center alum and exhibiting photographer Holly Lynton will come to show her work as well.
Meanwhile, the students are all hard at work as the session is beginning to wind down. Next up, the vocal perfomances (ensemble and solo), followed by the Student Reading, to be followed by the Student Exhibition, concluding this wonderfully busy and animated spring session.
-by Jun-Pierre Shiozawa
11, May 2008 § Leave a comment
On April 29, The Aegean Center hosted a poetry reading featuring visiting artists Betsy Bonner and Alicia Stallings.