Sunday October 9, 2005
There is something lacking, though, in Miami’s university fine arts programs. They appear to be staffed with old-fashinoned, old-thinking professors who are concerned with teaching their students how to draw well, but not how to think in the terms that the contemporary art scene thinks in, nor how to navigate that world. There are contemporary artists, and the way art is taught in our local universities is oblivious not just to their work, but seemingly to their very thinking process, their approach, and their work’s relationship to its audience. Let’s look at some specific schools (it should be mentioned that university web sites are a disgraceful mess pretty much worldwide; we shall try not to hold the incoherence of our local universities’ sites against them).
FIU’s art program is often regarded as the best in the city. And in fact, there are lots of wonderful art teachers there; note this (illegible and unclickable) list. Bill Burke, Manny Torres, and of course Peggy Nolan come to mind right away. The problem is that, on ballance, the pervasive view is backwards, ignoring the last 25 years of art history; a little of that is great, but it needs to be matched with some truly contemporary, theorist perspectives. The FIU photography department’s touchstone is William Eggleston. How, then, do you deal with a student who’s references are Thomas Ruff or Cindy Sherman (who are hardly cutting edge)? Not well. The result is that artists headed to a place on the international art scene may be abetted by the FIU art program, but they will have to work hard to get their money’s worth from their education.
The University of Miami art department deserves mention. Led by the esteemed Darby Bannard, they have what you would expect: a department that leans heavily on painting, and considers a lab with 16 Macs to be the height of state-of-the-art, with nary a trace of video art, computer art, or sound art.
We have the Art Institute, where “visual art” is largely synonymous with “painting.” We have FAU, where the home page of the art department looks like this. Finally, we have New World, which actually has something called “Electronic Intermedia” in its Areas of Concentration. Then again, “Graphic Design” is also an area, so maybe electronic intermedia is a website building class?
Overall, the scene is bleak. If the contemporary artists studying in Miami are going to break new ground on the international art scene, they will be doing it in spite of, not because of, their education. And meanwhile we are probably loosing artists to schools in other places, and failing to attract the students we need to insure that Miami can give all those artfair-goers something to stick around for after the first week in December.
Naturally, a good caveat here is that we have no idea what we’re talking about here. This is based on general impressions, anecdotal conversations, and scrutiny of the schools’ web sites. If anyone has evidence to the contrary, feel free to leave comments or submit counter-arguments.comments powered by Disqus