Sunday, September 20, 2009

Windy City Headtrip

So here I am in Chicago to participate as one of 15 "fellows" in the Stone Summer Theory Institute, an annual weeklong seminar led by Jim Elkins at the School of the Art Institute. Not my usual cup of fish, but this year's theme is "What Do Artists Know?" which more-or-less translates into "How can art be taught?" which has always been a thorn in my brain, but much more so since I started teaching intro studio painting at West LA College last year. Somehow I got stashed in the same SAIC condo where I stayed last time I visited - everyone else is in a hotel, so I figure its some kind of quarantine since I believe I'm the only non-career academic and self-identified artiste in the lot. That's the view from my 24th floor picture window, and this is my attempt to modify the early morning lighting situation. Eat your heart out Olafur Eliasson!

The actual wingding doesn't officially kick off until the morning (leaving me plenty of time to finish the 1500 pages of required readings!) but there was an introductory lecture and dinner. In between I bought some groceries, got caught in a rainstorm (Member those homies? No fear, El Nino's a-comin!) and wandered around the Art Institute taking pictures of artworks involving detached heads. My subconscious' way of gearing up for the colloquium I guess! More soon.

Images: Henri Leopold Lévy The Death of Orpheus c. 1870 (detail), Géricault Head of a Guillotined Man, 1818/19 Gustave Caillebotte Calf's Head and Ox Tongue c. 1882, Henry Fuseli Head of a Damned Soul from Dante's "Inferno" 1770/78, Guido Reni Salome with the Head of Saint John the Baptist c. 1639/42 (detail), Sky-Clad (Digambara) Jina Seated in Meditation (Dhyanamudra) India, Uttar Pradesh 10th/11th Century


ghaines said...

Give those academics hell Harvey! Your assessment re the segregation in accommodations is probably correct. Are you the only 'fellow' there who actually creates art, as opposed to studying it from the security of a tenure track desk?

Re the theme at hand, the main purpose of advanced degree art (and music, theater, lit, etc) programs has nothing to do with producing working artists; it's purpose is to supply the next generation of art teachers (college and secondary school) and to justify the existence of said arts programs. A PhD in art is inevitable, as Mr. Elkins argues, because the darwinian stakes that govern university tenure and departmental survival keep escalating. Did the panel address concerns about the massive glut of arts programs created in the last 30 years, or recent competition from digital media and online education, or the struggles of studio arts programs at major universities (and private ones - see Art Center) to survive in the face of recent budget cuts and reduced enrollment? PhD equals serious scholarship and a commitment to academia (rather than to the practice of any type of art) which may help professors and departments survive academic reviews and budget allocations but it's a distinctly different kind of cultural output.

Arts departments often don't pull in the big bucks from alumni donations, endowments or research grants - lucre that brick and mortar Universities need to sustain themselves. This may not be the case at an institution such as SAIC but at major universities arts are subsidized by other disciplines - medicine, science, business, law. I'm all for subsidizing necessary aspects of society (arts, mass transit, health care) and the growth of art academia perhaps is partially a result of the lack of public (federal and state) support in the US. PhD students also count for higher FTE (full time enrollment) value - value that's redeemable for $$ in academia. Establishing a PhD program within a university may help generate funds for struggling art departments but I'm not sure how. How does one obtain research funds for a studio art doctorate? Is there grant money available? What exactly does a studio art PhD dissertation look like? How long until they offer PhDs in cartooning and graffitti studies at the University of Phoenix?

Have a good time in Chi-town DougH!

Mrs. Homegrown said...

Love the head shots, Mr. Harvey.