OBSERVE EXPLORE COLLABORATE
“I am driven back upon my undeveloped senses, where the important thing is not to name the flower but to look at it—look at it—until the yellowness and the minute grains of pollen at the tips of the pistils completely enter one’s consciousness and become it’s naming; and afterward, one may wish to christen the flower with a two-note whistle.” 
Look at art! Observe! Take in the entire scene. Look at each other’s art! Really look at your own art! In slide format, in books, in video, and most of all, in real life. And, to look at work, students often have to research. This may include bringing in examples of artists, giving presentations, and drawing comparisons. Critique! Be informed! Through learning about others, we learn about ourselves. Explore personal interests, motivations, and influences. Write! Effective communication equals better art. These processes are mutually influential and deepen our understanding of art making.
As a teacher, I hope to facilitate the quest for learning through close observation, active exploration, and collaborative critiques. The most instrumental activity in every classroom should be the making of art. I actively encourage experimentation with concepts and materials, and aim to improve conceptual, technical, and professional skills.
The goals for my foundation level students are to learn ways to closely observe the world, interpret specific details, and integrate their ideas with the materials introduced in each assignment. Building their researching, brainstorming, and creative and technical problem-solving skills is imperative, and is actively accomplished through learning the fundamentals and principles of design, developing critical thinking, and exploring various materials and processes.
Advanced students continue to build their conceptual, technical, and critiquing skills. For example, the class reads a variety of sculpture-related philosophy, like Heiddegger’s essay, “Building Dwelling Thinking,” when discussing site-specific work and how we understand and move through space. They also have the opportunity to create a focused series, enabling students to more fully consider materials, process, meaning, and message.
Class time should include lively, engaging discussion about the introductory reading to new project topics. Regardless of what I teach, at least one project would involve collaboration in groups of 2-3. Larger groups would be permissible, but smaller groups often work better due to the semester’s time constraints. Effective collaboration is a skill that should be developed and an experience that is well worth the negotiation. Group sessions yield incredible insights— everyone has differing viewpoints. And just as salient, each participant has the opportunity to accept or reject ideas, to give and take.
Beginning each project, the students introduce their ideas to the entire class. After the initial discussion, individual appointments work well throughout the production process, while final critiques involve everyone. I start class periods with either a demonstration of a technique or introduction of a concept relevant to the project. Guest artists and lecturers are also welcome. What is the artist’s intent and what is the best way to get the idea across? For critiques, I also encourage students to consider the placement of their work. How does site influence the work? Moving beyond the classroom is an attractive challenge when possible relationships between artwork and site are explored.
Accounting for different skill levels and modes of learning is imperative. Work is graded more on individual advancement than in comparison between students. They are often at different conceptual and technical skill levels. Grading, and my enthrallment with teaching, comes from seeing the leaps each student makes throughout the semester and throughout the year.
I am energized and inspired by students and their ideas. Through observation and discussion, my views are continually broadened, making me a better mentor and artist. In her observation of the flower, even Molly Gloss knows that relationships ultimately teach.
 Molly Gloss, Wild Life, 1st Ed, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2000, 199.