Art Education: Christopher Kennedy
Topic: Art Education
Prompt: Working within a $10,000 budget, how would you recommend for a young/emerging artist to spend their time and money as an alternative to a traditional (expensive and competitive) graduate education?
Education generally will turn people into specialists and fools. That merely in terms of developing a gift for living, it might be better for them to take the road and not be university educated.(Filliou, 1970, pg. 42) 1
In a 1967 letter to Allan Kaprow, artist Robert Filliou shares some of his thoughts on the institution of education and the young artist. He explains the tension between what we are, what we want to be, and what others presume we should be often places us in a state of confusion and self-doubt. As we search for acceptance Filliou argues we engage in kind of “economics of prostitution” – selling our youth to gain recognition from an art establishment. Those who refuse to “sell-out” are pushed to the fringes, while those who “make-it” generally loose their capacity for creative imagination. The university often asks us to choose either/or, rather than open a space for something new and perhaps unknown to emerge. In response, Filliou proposes an Institute of Permanent Creation to provide a time/space for artists to develop tools for self-awareness, and to “sharpen one’s gift for living”. Here students are teachers, teachers are students; there are no grades, no tuition or diploma, but rather artists and students alike act as catalyzers to build creative skills necessary for economic survival, and also a “gift for living” artfully.
Perhaps we need to imagine our own Institutes of Permanent Creation as an alternative to the cult of school – a small farm, an independent art space, a club for enthusiasts, a pop-up restaurant, or geodesic dome on wheels. A place to experiment with what art can be, to take risks, make mistakes, and follow one’s intuition. These spaces can only thrive if we remember how to love ourselves fully and become accountable to the places we live – including all the complications of power and identity, of class and privilege that are located across a particular history and culture. My advice: you have everything you need already, it’s just a matter of finding what John Cage says is your “mushroom” – the thing that brings you intense passion, terror and joy all at once. Keep searching for your mushroom, find others you respect and join them in their search. Build networks of solidarity as you careen toward the forest floor. And when you’re ready – school will still be there, waiting to take your money – but at least now you’ll be ready to use education as much as it may use you.
Author: Christopher Lee Kennedy is a teaching artist and curator who lives/works in Greensboro, NC. He is currently playing inside a living museum and artist residency program called Elsewhere and just completed a PhD in education studies from the University of North Carolina. For more works/projects visit: http://christopherleekennedy.com/
- Filliou, R. (1970). Letters to Allan Kaprow. In K. Konig (Ed.),Teaching and learning as performing arts, <(pp. 41-46). New York, NY: Verlag Gebr. Konig. ↩
Chris, so nice to see you pop up in unexpected places! I just learned about The Luminary when applying for FLOAT 2014 (keeping my fingers crossed!).
For me, the longstanding benefit of graduate school and sustained involvement as an alum has been the steadily growing group of peers who share complementary artistic and philosophic sensibilities. Creating the same sense of community, shared effort, and sustained inquiry is certainly possible at places like Elsewhere but requires lots of faith, grit and vision. Someone has to follow that hunch to see where it leads. Entering a school program is a form of contract that requires a great deal of commitment: financial, emotional, temporal, and spatial. How do we form contracts with ourselves or communities of artists that carry this same weight of responsibility? The commitment factor is the key.
The idea of an Institute of Permanent Creation is lovely. There are some foundational skills that can be shared by others who have set such sites in motion. Is proposing a workshop/retreat/skill-building endeavor along these lines jumping back into the cult of school?
I agree, we all have everything we need already, waiting until you are “good enough”, or “credentialed”, or even worse, until your idea has become “perfect” is the sure death of any artistic endeavor. We learn by following those hunches, feeding them, throwing them out into the world, gathering insight from others, and adjusting accordingly.
You got me thinking this morning, thanks!