Sunday October 9, 2005

What's wrong with Miami university arts programs?

Yes, Miami is attracting more and more art fairs with every year. We have the collectors, and an ever growing population of interesting artists and art bloggers.

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.

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  1. The Daily Sketch    Mon Oct 10, 11:49 AM #  

    I am in complete and total agreement. The only place I would even consider taking a class would be SFAC. The universities are too disconnected with reality and at least I can support SFAC while having some fun.

  2. [F] A R T    Mon Oct 10, 07:19 PM #  

    i don’t understand…”why would anyone want to be taught how to think in the terms that the contemporary art scene thinks in”?

  3. alesh    Mon Oct 10, 10:42 PM #  

    this is a dialog, matt. unlike journalists, nobody’s getting paid to write this blog. so yes, it’s my opinion, based on my observations. anyone who has conflicting observations should add them to the conversation.

    is it unreasonable to expect that a school’s web site would be an acurate reflection of their values and priorities?

  4. j-MAN    Mon Oct 10, 11:38 PM #  

    The difference in the school i am attending now and the school i did my undergrad (fiu) is that there is around 12 different departments i can attend classes in, instead of the 5 FIU had to offer. Lucily i interacted with some great proffessors at FIU, which got me where i am now.

    I am actually wondering what the solution can be, because there is always a shortage of money.

    in reaction to : ”....Miami can give all those artfair-goers something to stick around for after the first week in December…..”
    Omni Art was a good attempt that happend during art-basel. Hopefully next year they will get more funding and a better show.

  5. Bank Owners    Tue Oct 11, 06:00 AM #  

    We have no chance in the race/tribe run.

  6. art prof    Tue Oct 11, 12:13 PM #  

    What a surprise. We demand a quality education…yet we pay our teachers so little…

    Professors are being replaced by part-time, underpaid adjuncts. The school saves money. And the curriculum deteriorates.

    You get what you pay for.

  7. matt    Tue Oct 11, 09:31 PM #  

    re: alesh

    sure alesh. i’m sure you chose your university (if you even went to one) by their web site (that’s if you’re 30 or under). what a weak and slothful argument.

    i’m not going to judge your blog by the standards of a blog b/c that’s equative to judging a wad of gum on a sidewalk – i.e. it’s just an opinion (oh, is that it?) but how you can criticize a university by their web site and “general impressions” – besides being psychic and taking a gamble – is obviously poor thinking.

    so the art scene, art classes, sources for journalism, the new arts center, the roads, exotic python owners are all not up to par. thanks for the fantastic laundry list, i wish everyone could have such low goals in life.

    criticalmouth.com.

  8. alesh    Wed Oct 12, 12:18 AM #  

    you’re right, matt: i didn’t ATTEND each of the universities i’ve discussed. but i HAVE talked to people who’ve attended them. it’s my blog, and all i can offer is my impression. i welcome evidence to the contrary.

    sure, looking at a university’s web site is not a particularly reliable way to determine what’s important to them. but is that really me fault? if PAINTING accounts for 50% of a school’s curriculum and 90% of their web site is that my fault?

  9. Franklin    Wed Oct 12, 10:39 PM #  

    Firstly, please don’t judge my school by our website. It stinks. We know it. We can’t do anything about it.

    I’ve given this a lot of thought already, in the form of a post called This Art School Ain’t Big Enough for the Two of Us. It may not be possible to get every kind of artist the skills that each one needs within a four-year generalized program. (It may not be possible to learn art, anyway, but that’s a different issue.) By default, the strength of the department equals the strengths of the faculty, which is why you have good painting instruction at AI and UM, and good photography at FIU. That’s fine, actually, because the methods being taught are only part of the equation – there’s also just getting that art bug, which is platform-independent, as it were.

    You might also consider whether “how to think in the terms that the contemporary art scene thinks in, [and] how to navigate that world” is a philosophical concern or a commercial one. I would argue that it’s the latter disguised as the former, and that such concerns are quite easy to emulate, if not parody. Thus there are some solid philosophies that need to be addressed within a curriculum, as well as some smart business practices, but conflating them is a recipe for cynicism.

  10. ......!    Wed Oct 12, 11:17 PM #  

    i wholeheartedly agree with [F]art, why learn to be idiotic.. either way franklin is partially right in regards to the underlying philosophy of commercial prerogatives BUT it’s not that simple and in making art that revolves around discourse we counter the complacency of looking for approval or being a dried-out art professor for an uncountable amount of years, while struggling to stay alive and approved of. in any case, the resource of fiu’s library beats your diagnose, because of it, the possibility of being well informed can circumvent the slack-ass notion of only learning what your taught.

  11. dubs    Wed Oct 12, 11:17 PM #  

    that headline looks a lot like the one seen on ignore’s web site.

  12. ......!    Wed Oct 12, 11:46 PM #  

    what’s ignore’s website?

  13. Franklin    Thu Oct 13, 06:49 AM #  

    in making art that revolves around discourse we counter the complacency of looking for approval

    Unfortunately, that’s platform-independent, too. You’re describing a pedagogical problem in which the teacher wants the student to adhere to some kind of orthodoxy, and you can find the phenomenon among all kinds of teachers from the most traditional to the most anti-traditional. Yes, the library helps get out of that, but only if the student uses it. That kind of self-motivation is just crucial, and that definitely can’t be taught.

  14. alesh    Thu Oct 13, 10:44 AM #  

    Franklin~

    I’m putting the Art and Culture Center’s web site together with textpattern and some duct tape. It’s taken about three weeks. Conclusion: any organization that cares what the outside world thinks of them has no excuse for having a website that projects priorities other then what that organization holds.

    Universities extra hurdles because (i guess?) some departments had independent web sites at some point that were integrated (rather crudely) into the main site. University politics plays into this, too, no doubt. But I’m sticking to my above claim.

    In the case of IFAC (the art institute of miami), that wasn’t a particular problem, because the page I linked to was just a list of curriculum that art students take. Insofar as the list is accurate, we can use it to make judgements about the school. If you have 3 painting courses for every digital art class, then the school cares much more about painting then digital art. Speaking of which,

    Computer Basics – CS1101
    This required course explores basic computer concepts and terminology pertaining to hardware, software, and the Internet. It focuses on developing documents, formatting, editing, printing styles, master documents and mail mergers. The course introduces the student to word processing (Microsoft Word) and data management and analysis (Microsoft Excel). Later in the course, the student is introduced to Microsoft PowerPoint and learns how to create, edit, and present slides for presentations. Prerequisites: None

    This course about doing a mail merge in microsoft word and “terminology pertaining to hardware, software, and the internet” is required ???? What about the 99% of students who learned that stuff when they were 12?

    Also, if you’re trying to teach “the art bug” to your university-level art majors, i dare say you’re preaching to the choir.

    But whatever: my main point revolves around the contemporary artists link. There is something in the work of almost everyone on that list that seems like it should be teachable, but appears conspiculously ignored in all the art schools i’m talking about. If you think that something is a “commercial concern,” maybe I need to try to pin it down a little better, but my impression is that it has more to do with a way of thinking about art very broadly.

    I did address business practices, and you’re correct that “conflating them is a recipe for cynicism.” For the record, I regard the teaching of contemporary approaches to art as much more important then the business of art, though I think they’re both important.

    .....!~

    the resource of fiu’s library beats your diagnose, because of it, the possibility of being well informed can circumvent the slack-ass notion of only learning what your taught.

    Huh? You’re telling me that FIU’s art program doesn’t need to be any good because a willing student can apply themselves and supplement their education by reading books from the library?? That’s so stupid it's funny. If it were true, why would you need to have classes at all? Why not just have the library?

    (By the way, I assume that they’re talking about this ignore magazine story. Funny that UM and FIU are both having serious problems with their journalism departments.)

  15. Franklin    Thu Oct 13, 02:22 PM #  

    any organization that cares what the outside world thinks of them has no excuse for having a website that projects priorities other then what that organization holds.

    The choir hears you loud and clear.

    There is something in the work of almost everyone on that list that seems like it should be teachable, but appears conspiculously ignored in all the art schools i’m talking about.

    If I were redesiging the curriculum, I’d implement a course each in installation art, video, performance, computer-driven art, and enivronmental art. There are reasons why that won’t happen at our particular institution that have nothing to do with the instructors. I’m sorry for not saying more, but this is my job we’re talking about here.

    But would even that address your concerns? Are you looking for something that teaches theory as theory, apart from media? That might be legitimate, but looking at that list of artists, how would you teach those classes and what would they be called?

  16. Miami Harold    Thu Oct 13, 03:10 PM #  

    “Theory as theory” sounds like it belongs
    in an aesthetics course.
    When I’m king of the world,
    art students will study aesthetics
    (taught by professors of philosophy)
    if only for the sole purpose
    of providing them (the artists)
    with an intellectual undercoating
    when they’re heaping scorn on the world.
    Do any of the art schools noted in these exchanges
    teach aesthetics?
    If not, is there any talk of this,
    or history of attempts to do so?

  17. alesh    Thu Oct 13, 05:52 PM #  

    Like I said, Franklin, my problem isn’t with any one particular teacher (although there are some pretty bad ones scattered around); it’s whoever’s responsible for the mix of teachers (department heads?). Courses in video art, computer art, etc would be very helpful (though FIU and AI have some), but yes, that misses the point.

    If I were teaching a class, I would start by looking at Olafur Eliasson, Cai Guo-Qiang, On Kawara (who has a book in that series even though he’s not on the page), and maybe Gillian Wearing. Then I would try to get students to see what direction that work suggests, and try to help them create work that would fit in that category (“media” doesn’t really apply). I’m sure theory would be involved, but it wouldn’t be a theory class, exactly.

    And actually, I think teaching some rigorous aesthetics to art majors would be beneficial, too. I’m sure it’s touched on in something they take, but more would help. Does anyone know of a philosophy department that offers an “aesthetics for artists” type of survey course?

  18. Franklin    Thu Oct 13, 09:32 PM #  

    ...and try to help them create work that would fit in that category...

    What do you mean by “that category”? Careful, here, because this is the crux of the issue. If you mean “something that looks like contemporary art,” you’re advocating a style, and I totally oppose that. When I get advanced students, I tell them that I don’t care what they do, what style it’s in, or even whether it looks like what they did last week. It just has to be good, ambitious, and worked to its logical conclusion. Whether it’s a rehash of traditionalism or the wet glint off of the bleeding edge, usually the whole room can tell if it’s working and what would improve it.

    In a foundation class, it’s fine to advocate a style; you have to, actually. We have a class, one, called Contemporary Modes of Expression, in which we do pretty much what you describe. For the kid who wants to do landscape paintings, it’s adequate. For the kid who wants to emulate Cai Guo-Qiang, it’s probably not. Here’s the deal: the curriculum that adquately takes care of my future lanscapist and my future performance/body artist hasn’t been invented yet, which is the point of my post linked above. You could argue that given what’s going on in the art market, we should be encouraging non-traditional modes, but I would counter that that is itself a commercial decision. Who cares what the market (which market?) is doing when I have a student in front of me who wants to do XYZ? If he wants XYZ, we’re doing XYZ – we’re both going to become experts at XYZ as best as we can.

    I think schools, collectively, have an idea that they’re forming the future of art. It’s bullshit – the future of art doesn’t exist apart from people making work that they care about, and it is really not up to me to decide that for anyone. The best we can do is provide a skill base and some encouragement. The problem with the art schools down here is simply that all of them are too small. If we had a big school, we could get a big range of skills represented on campus and let students drift where they will, according to their desires. How do we get a big school going? I wish I knew.

  19. Kathleen    Fri Oct 14, 11:32 AM #  

    Aesthetics should be taught to art students by philosophy profs and it should not be an “aesthetics for artists”. Science students have to grapple with difficult-to-comprehend classes all the time; they are expected to because their field demands the knowledge/skill.

    To create a special “for artists” class is to further romanticize the Artist as a special being, who is more emotional and intuitive than professional and considered.

    What happens when aesthetics is treated as a side-dish subject (or an aesthetics for dummies course) is that those artists will invariably get their butts kicked in discussion by those few other artists who have done more serious study on the topic.

    As for theory classes; I’d think that those folks who are most upset by the purported continued reign of post-modernism would be keen on actually offering a theory-only class. It would be a more functional way to discuss what is actually happening in contemporary art than relying upon everyone’s generally poor understanding of recent and historical theories in art history.

  20. Steve Klotz    Fri Oct 14, 01:37 PM #  

    There were several paint-stained art majors in my undergraduate intro aesthetics course, and while they weren’t among the most vocal or insightful students, they tolerated it well enough. The course was required, even though (as one kid wryly noted), their art teacher wasn’t convinced of its value: he was quoted, “How would I know what ‘good’ or ‘bad’ art is? I’m just an artist, not a philosopher!”

    The professor found that mildly amusing, but he was stoned most of the time and found everything mildly amusing.

    No music, dance, or theater students took the class, by the way. This might have been because those departments did not require an aesthetics course, or, more likely, because the 90 minute class began at 8:30 am.

    There were zero artists in the graduate school aesthetics course I took. There were damn few philosophy students, either. How much of that shit could anybody stomach, even philosophy majors? And as remote your chances were to find a job waving your philosophy degree in an employer’s grill, do you suppose your strong background in aes-fucking-thetics would get you any farther?

    But looking back then, and looking around now, I think it a worthwhile endeavor for artists to at least have exposure to aesthetic analysis. That mysterious symbiotic linkage between intellect and creative strengthens when teased and challenged, and chances are the end result—the art— will benefit. I think.

  21. alesh    Fri Oct 14, 03:12 PM #  

    Franklin~

    I don’t know what I mean by “that category.” The artists I’m talking about took the “having dinner with a friend can be art” ideas of the 60’s and 70’s and expanded on them in often breathtaking ways. I would think that the work of the artists i’m talking about could be similarly expanded on. Telling advanced students they can do whatever they want is great, but many, many, many students are interested in this stuff and want/need some guidance. The root issues of much of this work are very difficult to get a handle on, but someone out there should be able to put together a class that begins to do that (heck, just getting a sufficiently interested and knowledgable teacher and some (SIaK) students talking about it would be a good start).

    Getting students to try to make “something that looks like contemporary art” doesn’t seem any worse then getting them to try to make a painting in a realist style, but ultimately the goal would be to foster the right approach. “Contemporary-looking” art can be good or bad just like painting. And yes, when it’s good the whole room can tell (though sometimes the room may not realize right away just how good it is).

    You could argue that given what’s going on in the art market, we should be encouraging non-traditional modes, but I would counter that that is itself a commercial decision.

    I’m talking about making a particular type of education available, not pushing anyone into it. And don’t worry so much about the “market,” i’m talking about what’s going on in art, period, not the art market.

    Phaidon is making a lot of money selling those books, and art students are buying lots of them. It’s not really that they want to imitate that work; they’re inspired by it, and they want to follow in that tradition. I have good reason to believe lots of them want that; so we have an unmet demand. The “school X’s art department is too small to fill those needs” may work for some schools, but there’s more then that going on.

    Kathleen~

    I sort of tossed that off; I don’t know how an “aesthetics for artists” would differ from an “aesthetics for philosophers” class. The latter probably starts with Plato and then talks about how subsequent thinkers modified his basic thinking (Kant?); maybe the former would start with recent thinking on the subject, then work backwards? Personally, I’d be much more interested in a class like that.

    Steve~

    Maybe. But you know, the ethics survey I took in college seemed to suggest that any ethical theory was on some pretty loose footing, and that doing anything you wanted was a perfectly defensible position – maybe not a message you want anyone in particular to take too seriously. Are you sure the “teach aesthetics to artists” idea is any more promising then teaching hedonism/utilitarianism/existentialism to, say, cops?

  22. Steve Klotz    Fri Oct 14, 04:17 PM #  

    Alesh—

    First, stop “tossing off.” Kathleen was spot on about “Aesthetics for Dummies.” That’s treating art students like football players, sans the steroids.

    Second, if that’s what you came away with from your survey ethics course, then either you were stoned the entire time, or the instructor should be publicly horsewhipped. Or both. Philosopher-flogging sounds like the next great spectator sport. And maybe you’re STILL stoned, ‘cuz what the hell else explains the connection between teaching aesthetics to artists and teaching existentialism to officers? Artists create objects with aesthetic value; what would cops do with their Being and Nothingness?

    One of the bright lights who graduated with me actually became a cop; in fact, he continued on and earned an MA in philosophy, too. He’s on record saying his degrees in philosophy greatly informed his work as a police officer. He made a lot of dirt-dumb statements as an undergraduate, too.

  23. Miami Harold    Fri Oct 14, 04:32 PM #  

    Franklin’s modest comment,
    “The best we can do is provide a skill base
    and some encouragement,”
    is an excellent, realistic appraisal of the art of teaching.
    It echoes the approach taken by accomplished writers
    when they teach Creative Writing.
    It’s what coaches say about their players.
    It’s—dare we say it in a nihilistic age—“true”?!?

  24. ......!    Fri Oct 14, 09:45 PM #  

    alesh,

    relax.

    about the fiu library as a wonderful resource, it simply is, as it provides access to anyone in its student body to a most complete recital of information beyond the scope of specific agendas.

    if you’re not an fiu student you can still see what they’ve got by going to the library page and browse (use specific spelling as the database isn’t that well organized) and if YOU ARE an fiu student, or have an i.d. for this school, don’t hesitate and connect from home by using the number on the back side of the fiu student i.d.

    oh, and alesh if you were to use this resource, since you’re advocating for some sort of installation/media/theory art class, you could then broaden your perspective and be abl to name some less known artists and theorititians that would better address the art making issue rather than the market circuit, of which Cai Guo-Qiang and Olafur Eliasson are a definite part.

  25. Franklin    Fri Oct 14, 10:48 PM #  

    Miami Harold, thank you.

    Alesh, when you said “how to navigate that world” in the original post, I figured you meant something different than “how to think in the terms that the contemporary art scene thinks in,” but you may not have. Sorry if I misunderstood you. It sounded like you were talking about the business end of things, which I agree should be dealt with, but as a concern separated from philosophy. We agree on that as well.

    I’m curious about the basis for your concern here. If anything, it seems that the local scene favors contemporary modes, and the alleged lack of opportunities to study them doesn’t stop interested parties from developing their work accordingly and receiving acclaim, sometimes at astonishingly early points in their careers. Is there some developmental bottleneck that’s causing frustrated installation artists to succumb to desparate, misled lives as painters, simply because of their teachers’ backgrounds? That doesn’t sound right. It’s certainly not what I see when I hit the openings down here.

  26. darby bannard    Sun Oct 16, 04:54 PM #  

    Someone told me about this discussion so I thought I should add a comment.

    We have a video art series at UM, which is well attended, and taught by local video artist Kyle Trowbridge. You may be interested to know that it was entirely the idea and creation of the painting area, long before anyone else had any interest. I was not that involved but I certainly supported it.

    We have also recently hired a dynamite sculptor, Billie Lynn, a postmodernist by any measure, currently showing at Miami Dade and who certainly can teach installation art or any of the current modes with great skill and expects to as she continues here.

    As for creating an area or a major in these studies, anyone who has had any experience in university administration knows that getting it done is like salmon swimming upstream. Just getting the equipment and approval for those video courses alone was a mighty job.

    Finally, I am puzzled how, beyond the obvious “skill set” matters, one can teach these things in the first place. Most postmodernist work I have seen seems technically very rudimentary, completely “do it yourself” and pretty much off the pages of the recent art mags. If I get a new grad student in painting it takes one look at the work and 5 minutes of talk to know exactly what has to be done to get the artist moving toiward and refining his or her goals, but is is beyond me how instruction would even enter into the evolution of most postmodernist work.

  27. alesh    Sun Oct 16, 06:38 PM #  

    Franklin~
    the local scene favors contemporary modes, and the alleged lack of opportunities to study them doesn’t stop interested parties from developing their work accordingly and receiving acclaim

    There are lots of painters at the Coconut Grove art fair, too. Do you see that as an argument against painting programs?

    Darby~
    I appreciate your frustration, and Franklin’s, with university administration. I’ve made it as clear as I can that my problem is with administration, not with the individual teachers.

    I’m glad you’re trying to push your school forward. If any of this is going to improve, the desire for change has to come from multiple parties; potential students are directly concerned, but of course the teachers at the actual university have much more access to the decision-makers.

    I’m interested in the video program you mentioned; the UM art school appears to include a “Graphic Design/Multimedia” area and a “Photography/Digital Imaging” area, yet Kyle Trowbridge appears to be a painter, and is listed under the painting area . . . which section do the video courses fall under? I would also be interested in the relationship of the painting department, and, say, the “Graphic Design/Multimedia” department. I’ve found that students who might be interested in persuing fields of study that span different areas have difficulty, because the structure allows for very little communication between these aresa.

    Billie Lynn is very interesting, but again, if only sculpture students are exposed to her then something is being lost.

    I am not sure that “postmodernist work” really captures what artists in my phaidon “contemporary artists” link are doing, especially since postmodernism is most associated with the 80’s.

    Let me go back to the four artists I singled out before: Olafur Eliasson, Cai Guo-Qiang, On Kawara, and Gillian Wearing. Clearly (?), these four artists belong into some category (a more specific category then “pomo”), though I’m not sure what I’d call it. Is their work “technically very rudimentary, completely ‘do it yourself’ and pretty much off the pages of the recent art mags”? No. Those characterizations may apply to some who imitate them, but good painters get imitated by bad painters, too. The solution is to teach painting better (or get the bad painters to stop).

    So the question comes back to “how would you teach it?” I’m not a teacher, but it doesn’t really seem that hopeless to me. I would think that looking at what’s been done, more carefully would be a good start. I would think that In the Making would make an excellent textbook; the chapters in that book break down some areas that would clearly need to be covered (which may not apply to, say, painting). Mainly, though, this type of art would benefit from critiques just as much as any other, and critiques are maybe the most important aspect of art school?

  28. darby bannard    Sun Oct 16, 07:15 PM #  

    It is not even administration, but a faulty academic system and a lack of accountability which allows the bad side of people to get out and make things not work . Changing things for the better in academia is always a huge effort with very little reward, if any.

    Kyle teaches a “multimedia” course which is a video art course under a graphic design number, one of those monsters made by committee. I don’t know where he is listed as a painter; that may be left over from his time here in graduate school – I have no idea – but he is a full-time lecturer who in fact works with us in painting/printmaking. Don’t try to figure it out; I can’t.

    Students here take courses wherever they want to despite their major interest. That’s not a problem.The curriculum certainly needs an overhaul but, as I said, who in the world would even think to undertake such a thing.

    I don’t know the artists you invoke, so I don’t know how to answer you there.

    What I said before was only an observation and by no means had any real experience behind it. When I have had occasion to instruct students working in what might generally be called pomo methods and modes I have found that the most striking single characteristic was their lack of imagination or even willingness to apply imagination. I could usually come up with a dozen ideas to make their work more interesting – on their terms, not mine – and they would always like the ideas and then forget them and go back to exactly what they were doing, or not doing, before.

    But of course my experience and my observations are limited so I am not going to make any positive assertions.

  29. Franklin    Mon Oct 17, 07:06 AM #  

    The Coconut Grove Art Fair indicates a need for the wholesale destruction of painting programs everywhere, but that doesn’t prove anything one way or the other. It also doesn’t answer my question about the basis for your concers.

  30. dig    Mon Oct 17, 08:07 PM #  

    textpattern seems to be a WordPress cousin and open source. great link.

    Art Schools should teach that—the merits of Open Source/Free Culture. And don’t spend a semester ‘teaching’ basic computer skills.

    new World’s art department has a new dean; though, Miami-Dade’s influence is still debilitatingly strong.

  31. :!!    Mon Oct 17, 09:50 PM #  

    Alesh,
    are there any art schools that you think are doing it right? by my calculation there are very few and none are local – the only problem is I can tell what comes first getting the great students into your school and them teaching them well and right or teaching the students well and then they turn into good students. I think It might be a combination of both. There are plenty of bad students that come out of “good” MFA programs and their work is not worth much and there are the great artists that also come out of them. It seems like all a school can do is teach one half studio and then the other half a mix of history and theory. all the schools that look good on paper seem to do this in their own way. Yale,

  32. :!!x2    Mon Oct 17, 09:54 PM #  

    sorry for the dubble post the first god fu$#ed.

    Alesh,
    are there any art schools that you think are doing it right? by my calculation there are very few and none are local – the only problem is I can tell what comes first getting the great students into your school and them teaching them well and right or teaching the students well and then they turn into good students. I think It might be a combination of both. There are plenty of bad students that come out of “good” MFA programs and their work is not worth much and there are the great artists that also come out of them. It seems like all a school can do is teach one half studio and then the other half a mix of history and theory. all the schools that look good on paper seem to do this in their own way. Yale, RISD, School of the Art Institute, SVA, Columbia. (just to name a few) I would regard them all as on the top of the top. And if you go to their web sites I notice something in common- their web sites are all a billion times better the the crap from South Florida. If you can’t even get you web site up running and looking good how can you possibly think that your graphic design department is worth the power to run their G5s? University of Miami THIS MEANS YOU. your site is an ugly version of a site for 1995 all you need is animated flames and your on the worst of the web.

    darby bannard,

    I do like some of your paintings but you should be embarrassed to admit that you don’t know the artists mentioned. I wouldn’t be offended by an artist working in a bubble but your a professor so you shouldn’t stop learning what if a student asked you about them what are you going to do tell them to look it up?

  33. j-MAN    Tue Oct 18, 12:06 PM #  

    I agree.
    I did not expect that Mr Bannard is an art professor, because he didnt know the artist that Alesh suggested before.
    I understand that we cant know everybody, but i think art teachers have some responsibilty to know whats going on nowadays ( or the last 10 years!)

  34. alesh    Tue Oct 18, 01:19 PM #  

    Darby~
    The curriculum certainly needs an overhaul but, as I said, who in the world would even think to undertake such a thing.

    Now there you’ve got me. University politics makes it very difficult to change things, I realized that when i started writing. To some extent that is a good thing, but not in this case. I think that change happens when enough parties voice their desire for it, in this case, those parties might include teachers, potential, present, and past students, donors to the school, and maybe some administrative staff. When enough of these groups come to agree with some segment of what I’m saying (some already seem to), things will start to change. Slowly.

    As for “pomo students” (again, i’m a little vague re what exactly you mean by that, but nontheless), it’s likely that they aren’t (wern’t) very good artists. It’s also possible you didn’t “get” what they were trying to do. It’s simply impossible for me to tell. But it seems that better education would be an answer to either problem.

    Franklin~
    Huh? Bad painting at CGAF means we programs that teach how to paint well = bad contemporary art in Design District galleries means we need programs that teach how to make contemporary art well. Actually, regardless of the quality, the analogy works – artists are interested in making contemporary art, so schools should make an effort to teach it. Right?

    Dig~
    I linked above to rhizone.org. There are great discussions there about computer art, which relate to open source and related topics. Worth a visit (they require membership for full access to their archives, though).

    2x!!~
    I agree that there are some schools that are doing this right. I’m not sure whether i’d include all the ones you name (i named two in my post), but it stands to reason that the bigger the school the more likely we are to know about it. On the other hand, i’m not convinced that (as Fraknlin states) a school needs to be big to have a program like I describe, though it may be true.

  35. Franklin    Tue Oct 18, 03:44 PM #  

    So if I understand you right, the basis of your concerns here is bad contemporary art in the Deisgn District.

    And sure, we should teach students whatever they are interested in, within an intelligent curriculum. Darby has a point, though – a lot of this is riding on the student, and the distribution of talent among artists working in contemporary modes is about the same as every other kind of mode.

  36. alesh    Tue Oct 18, 04:41 PM #  

    w/r/t distribution of talent, I agree (although the talented ones may be more difficult to spot in contemporary art).

    My point is that if contemporary art is being made, good or bad, then it indicates an interest, and suggests that a program is in order.

    Incidentally, we’re using the terms “contemporary art,” “theorist art,” and “pomo art,” and neither quite captures what I’m after, which is a subset of contemporary art. I don’t really know what the correct term is, so i’m identifying it with examples.

  37. darby bannard    Thu Oct 20, 05:37 PM #  

    :!!x2, I misspoke when i said I “did not know” the artists. What I meant was literally I did not “know” them, that I was not familiar enough with their work nor did I care about it enough to to get into any fruitful discussion.

    On Kawara has been around longer than I have, and I have seen Wearing’s work in person and the other two at least in reproduction. Nothing I have seen has impressed me much. I am not interested in visual art that does not concern itself primarily with visual expression. There is no reason why I should. I am a painter and I teach painting.

    Alesh, indeed, the “pomo” students I was referring to were not very good students. There was not much of a problem “getting’ what they were doing because there was very little to “get”, which in my opinion is usually the case with this kind of art, and if there was something to get it was to be had instantly. The notion that the kind of art exemplified by the artists you mention is hard to “get” has always struck me as ludicrous. It is usually simple and obvious to an extreme.

  38. :!!x2    Thu Oct 20, 06:34 PM #  

    darby bannard,
    Well, I feel a little better then I was afraid that you had no clue who the are/were. and I can understand you not needing to deal with them regularly because you paint in a different style. So now my main question is why is UM’s Art school web site so poor? I really am thinking of submitting it to worst of the web. There are broken links words that ought to be linked outdated information and design that belittles every student and Alumni for the art school and especially the Graphic Design Kids. I really feel embarrassed is a student made that – I would fail them.

  39. darby bannard    Fri Oct 21, 01:40 PM #  

    :!!x2 – I don’t know what you mean by “had no clue who the are/were”, but anyone who loves art has to keep looking, however frustrating and futile it may be at times. There is nothing I like more than being bowled over by something I expect nothing from. It happens all too seldom, verging on never. Sometimes I feel as if i am looking at exactly the same thing in slightly different form over and over again. That is discouraging.

    I think your assessment of our web site is extreme. It’s not that bad. It is deliberately very straightforward, plain and prosaic; no one around here is fond of gif gimmicks and the kind of tricky stuff that clutters up so many artist’s & gallery sites, because it is aimed at high school kids and parents, not art world sophisticates.

    It could be a lot better. We don’t keep it up very well, for sure. This is an organizational problem, and right now we have organizational problems up the wazoo.

  40. jordan    Sat Oct 22, 05:47 AM #  

    i aim for the middle and i can’t seem to get there and since i paint , i’m lame – as is the MIU web page at this point.

  41. :!!x2    Fri Nov 4, 11:46 AM #  

    I guess what I was pointing out is that UM (and a lot of other “art schools” in South Florida have websites that are grossly out of date and some like UM even have dead links and a design that looks like the generic web design that AOL used to give away for FREE! You don’t need to make it flash or even flashy, although I wouldn’t count it out but you do need to make it well designed and it you can accomplish this then every former Graphic Design Alumnus’ degree gets hurt – not to mention what it does to attract new students of any quality. it wouldn’t even be that hard to redesign it just have a design competition and let the best design get implemented. or maybe you could just get the communication school do it for you since you seem to be having so many problems and their web site looks professional- all be it a little corporate.

  42. jordan    Sat Nov 5, 07:04 AM #  

    Well Alesh, more people care about culo than painting, photography, and art in general. Thus one must make culo art. Culoisimo. Coolo-isi-most-like-you know.

  43. mek    Sat Nov 5, 07:19 AM #  

    i am a SVA grad and my husb is a UM grad and we have thoroughly discussed our backgrounds and experiences and believe me, it was apples to oranges. It is a shame that the florida schools continue to be so removed from any sort of influence elsewhere, and do tend to stay in a comfortable bubble. It is very obvious when you come from somewhere else and start to compare. And it does explain the art shown here that is generally in a time warp. it is sad really. incidentally, my husb was to go to RISD but could not afford in the long run, and UM offered him scholarship so there you go.

  44. :!!x2    Sun Nov 6, 04:14 PM #  

    do you think you could elaborate ont he differences between ///um and SVA that your aluding to? I would find them useful and UM might too. Thanks