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Many of you have trashed the education of the 60s but I urge you not to
generalize. I received my college education in the 60s and 70s and have
taught on a variety of levels from third grade on up. My undergraduate
degree was in Art Education. This was a handicap when applying to M.F.A.
programs with some schools sticking their nose in the air. A few others
however looked beyond the transcript and examined the portfolio which
resulted in a good teaching fellowship to help through the lean graduate
years. All in all a strong education which opened my mind and helped me
develop a strong critical eye.
I have been involved as an undergrad, graduate, or postgrad student in five
different universities. The critiques I went through at all levels varied
quite a bit but were never malicious. I cannot remember one instructor who
appeared on a power trip. I often disagreed with their comments but they
were simply people coming from a particular point of view and the critiques
were merely a sounding board for their ideas and mine. At one point with my
graduate committee I made a list of the comments that I thought each of the
faculty would make about my work ahead of time. When they did not say
anything that was not on my list then I knew for sure that I was my own
person making my own critical decisions. The sense of freedom was
In my own studio classes critiques vary widely depending upon the dynamics
of the particular group and the objectives of the work that we are doing. I
try to see myself as just a more experienced colleague and I try to instill
in the students the sense that they are not competing with one another but
learning from one another. Sometimes I pair the students up and send them
off to talk to each other about the work they are doing with them coming
back to the group later to discuss the issues that came up. Sometimes I
have them look at all of the work and make notes about things they would
like to discuss. Sometimes I do the crit myself in order for the class to
get a sense of the level of my expectations. I try to adjust my strategies
to the needs of the particular group of students at a given time. I also do
a lot of one on one work with the students trying to get a sense of their
viewpoint, their intent, before I leap into judgement. In some classes I
collect comment cards each week and read through them, responding to some
privately through campus mail and to others by including their issues in
the next class discussion.
Teaching is a creative activity and the situation with each student is
constantly in flux. It is up to the teachers to be alert and sensitive to
the needs as they change.
Professor of Art
Green Mountain College