I did undergraduate and graduate school in the 80s and 90s. I think
the 80s were a transition time (at least in the institutions I
attended and per my experiences) in regards to critiques.
There were certain teachers I avoided because of their critique
methods. Other teachers made critiques a learning experience without
Horror story #1
Professor x taught the class how to stretch a canvas the first week
of Painting I. After that, the only time I saw him was about once a
week when he sauntered through the basement where we worked.
The saunters lasted about 20 minutes. Each student received less
than 5 minutes of instruction.
At the end of the semester the advanced students (it was a combined
class) chose work from the beginners and placed them on display for a
critique. Professor x asked the first beginning student "Is your
painting a work of art?" This was followed by a long silence as the
student tried to decide which way to answer best. As the student
hemmed and hawed, stuttered and moaned, ;the rest of us sat with
queasy stomachs thinking "How would I answer?" At that moment I
decided if he asks me I'll say "No. Mine is not art, because I didn't know
what I was doing. It didn't work out the way I wanted it to. It was
more like practice."
The first student finally said, "Yes, it is art." We all held our
breath. Professor x said . . . . . . . . . ."Okay."
Then he went to the next student. "is your painting a work of art?"
That student didn't wait nearly as long to respond. "Yes."
A long line of yeses occurred until he came to me. I decided to
stick by my original answer. I didn't learn from my peers.
The advanced student who had chosen my work for the critique fell off
her art stool. "WHAT DO YOU MEAN IT'S NOT ART. YES IT'S ART. IT'S
A GREAT PAINTING." Professor x asked why I was taking painting
classes. Many advanced people cast critical looks at me. I
responded that I was taking Painting I to learn to paint, and that
I hadn't learned much.
I received a B in the class.
Horror Story #2
This isn't a story, but in all my studio classes I tried to hide the
fact that I was an art ed student. Acknowledging that fact was
pretty much a death sentence in relation to how you would be treated
I also hated it when professors would say, "Well, you are going to
have to make up your mind. You can either create or teach, but you
can't do both." I'll never be a major force in the art world, but
that doesn't mean I'm going to stop creating.
Whew, I'm out of breath. (Is that possible on a computer?)
This is a fascinating topic Terry. Will your research include ways
to make crits better? Successful methods teachers at all levels use?
University of Central Arkansas