Carmen Castorena, Advanced Ceramics
Slip-dipped clothing and found object assemblage
Ana Sofia Camargo Montenegro, Sculpture II
Lost Wax Casting, Photo documentation of interactive object
Ana Sofia Camargo Montenegro, Sculpture II
Slipcast multiples installation
As a teacher, three goals guide me in the classroom: fostering play and experimentation into the creative process; using writing and research as tools for creative growth and self-evaluation; and building an open and inclusive community. These goals are achieved by using a variety of methodologies to engage students in technical and conceptual content. This approach creates an environment where students feel supported and encouraged as they develop their technical abilities, creative voices, and independence in the classroom.
Throughout all levels of my studio classes, I encourage students to embrace play, experimentation, and failure as essential components of the creative process. When a student is afraid of failure, their creative potential is limited to known and safe outcomes. When a student feels at liberty to play freely as they work, the limits of their chosen medium can be pushed, stretched, and redefined. With this in mind, I urge students to test all of their wild ideas, while encouraging purposeful methodology as they experiment. From the first day of class, I frame failure as an essential component of creative problem solving—one that builds resiliency, expands material understanding, and guides future inquiry. This playful and iterative approach helps break down the fear of failure, enabling student to be receptive to feedback and willing to restart pieces that are not working. Technically challenging assignments include practice components in which students create studies or experiments before moving on to more complex tasks. In open-ended assignments, students write detailed project proposals, outlining the testing and research needed before beginning the piece. Successes and failures alike are celebrated and shared as prompts for discussion, reflection, and growth.
Material knowledge and technical skills are the foundation from which more complex aesthetic and conceptual concerns begin to grow. In my classes, discussions about material, process, and form quickly evolve into questions about metaphor, imagery, and meaning. Turning outside the classroom for examples, I introduce students to a spectrum of historical and contemporary artists as inspiration and starting points for new assignments. In both formal lectures and casual conversations, I am conscious of including the work of artists from marginalized or underrepresented populations, as well as those from the familiar canon. I ask the students to spend time looking at, writing about, and presenting the work of other artists in order to exercise their critical and aesthetic judgment. Learning through example, students can begin to see how art reflects the experiences of those outside their own sphere, to define their own areas of research and interest, and to discover how to use their artwork to ask challenging questions about identity, culture, politics, history, and the environment. As students tackle increasingly complex content in their own work, I ask them to write artist statements and self-evaluations. In these documents, students turn their critical skills inward to articulate their intent, reflect on their process, and assess the relative success or failure of their work. In this way, students build the ability to think independently as they evaluate their own creative process and its outcomes, as well as the work of others.
My classroom is a community space where collaboration and inclusivity are valued over competition. I learn about the differing abilities, backgrounds, and interests of my students by listening closely to their perspectives, and ask them to give each other the same respect. During informal critiques and brainstorming sessions, students are encouraged to ask each other for help while projects are in-progress, sharing their discoveries and failures as a group. I take a similar approach during demonstrations, asking the students to think through new processes or technical skills along with me, rather than immediately explaining the possible solutions. In this manner, collaborative thinking and asking peers for help are framed as positive experiences that enable growth. Students invested in their creative community are eager to work productively on their own projects, as well as to support each other in taking artistic risks. Through these various strategies, students in my classroom construct a creative practice that embraces problem solving through experimentation, that is research-based and self-reflective, and that capitalizes on building community through shared knowledge.