Pass the Olives

A Jumble of Opinions on Living, Thinking, Reading, and Making Things

Practical Knowledge

Q. If I read your comment correctly, it seems to suggest that conventional subjects actually seldom try to assess their transfer of learning to students’ everyday life for longer period of time.
A. At the college level, the professors often consider this mundane. Their job is to raise standards and teach pure knowledge. If they need an example in business, for example, they go to a major corporation or Harvard Business School Case Studies, not to a local corporation where the students would get a lot of attention and more hands on learning.
In another example I learned of last week, an IT person told me she was trying to work with a college where they were using a technology that 90% of the world had stopped using years ago. They insisted on using it because it was pure and based on the original concepts of whatever. Only in a college would this logic be acceptable—that outdated technology was better because it was pure, based on essential principles someone had established a decade before. A decade in iT is a millennium anywhere else.
When I was a child, it never occurred to me that people wrote books. I never thought of where they came from even though I was an avid reader. They were all library books so I guess I thought they had always had existed. Now we have author tours and artists in the schools. My granddaughters think nothing of writing their own books (short and not always complete).
I argued this point repeatedly with a colleague in Manhattan who ran a semester in New York program for artists. The students had a studio (paid for by financial aid) and did internships with artists. He insisted on getting internships with “top” artists, which I would call “currently fashionable.” The problem was that these internships resulted in being the underling to the underling and spotting the artist across the warehouse-sized studio, maybe making contact once or twice a month. In order to afford such a studio an artist had to have a huge market, and then enough staff to produce it all. It was far above the level that a college graduate could hope to achieve—partly because they were in college and not painting.
One of my students who enrolled in the program insisted on doing an internship with a painter whose work she admired. The artist was actively showing and had a gallery on 57th Street but she wasn’t fashionable and didn’t have work in the major museum collections yet. But my student learned first-hand how to manage all the business aspects of being an artist and accompanied the artist to openings, parties, interviews with potential purchasers, and dinner with the artist’s dealer.
The artist was at a professional level much closer to my student’s so the learning could be applied immediately. My student also refused to move into the college’s studio space because she had a small studio at home and preferred to work with no distractions and all night if she felt like it without having to be out on the streets of the city at 3:00 in the morning. She brought her paintings to the college studio for critiques.
My colleague said my student wasn’t meeting the right people. Do you know what it means to have a recommendation from _____? Well, none of his students ever became famous and most didn’t have enough paintings done when they graduated to even think about asking for a recommendation to a dealer. They were too busy meeting people to learn how to find a studio they could afford when they graduated.
My student (not because she was mine but that’s the most convenient way to identify her) was able to use her practical connections to get a shared studio in a neighborhood of artists like herself and become an active self-supporting artist—as much as artists are ever self-supporting. She was still working as a waiter but in the 1980s almost every artist in NY was working as a waiter.
The important thing was that she had a studio in a community of artists, a host of connections at her level of development, and the skills and confidence to use them.

Categories: Pass the Olives: Opinions

Tags: , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *