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archaic/school enviroment

updated tue 27 oct 98


Donn Buchfinck on wed 21 oct 98

Oh Vince

I was going to let this go, but I just can not.
My beef with the acedemic world is not based on a bad experience
it is based on the history of the programs and their curriculum.
I was lucky, I had Ken Ferguson as a teacher, and in my memory I have only
good thoughts of him, and how he taught. He was/is a major influence in how I
approach the making of my art. I had Chris Staley In Grad school, any one who
ever took him is a workshop can attest to how great a teacher he is, except
for the fact that you get this obi wan konobie/darth vader shift when goto
grad school there, but he is a great roll model for how to be totally
immersed into ones own work. At Penn St. I also had Dave Dontigny, the man
who built the Penn St. program to begin with, the Creator of the Supermud
conferences, which NCECA is a sad comparison, but I digress

What bothers me is that Graduate school has become a SPORT to tear down
not just in clay but in a lot of other departments not just art
I believe when we get done dissecting down WHY we make/write something and
reference out every little bit of every little detail, we loose ourselves, who
we are is destroyed, crippled, paralyzed.

do not get me wrong I love to make pots and paint and sculpture and build
kilns, but I do not like destructive teachers and curriculum

look at the history of that great school ALFRED

Old graduates:

Karen Karnes
Daniel Rhodes

These first two only went for one year
please correct me if I'm wrong here

Val Cushing
Ken Ferguson
Victor Babu
Robert Turner
Ted Randall I think he went there also please correct me if I 'm wrong

I'm doing a great discervice to those people who graduated at that time and I
forgot their names, please fill me in.

So we have this group of people here

the graduate program that these people attended is nothing like what they are
putting people through nowadays
they did not tear down or get the students to break down every little move
they made
I do not doubt that it was difficult, and demands were made of the students,
but I would think the program was designed to help a student create a life in

truly I will accept any and all comments from/about these people

I look at the variation of the art these people make/made
and I look at what is being produced today
I feel a great loss
a loss of the true self, replaced with a formula taken from the schools for
artists to work from to create art.
or truly gifted sensitive people who are paralyzed by the experience
you have to wonder about programs where an artist has to decompress from, a
program that doesn't start to treat a grad student as a peer.

What I am saying is that things have to change, It takes a concerted effort,
it takes people seeing there is a problem.

teaching is about relationships, for me helping a student get in touch with
his/her creativity is a journey, some of the time I can see where the student
is going, because I have been there before, but I am care full not to have the
student coop my concepts and ideas.

Even the schools that have the curriculum I detest are good for some students,
bad for others.

When I write, I get very intense, my writing is a facet of how I am, lets just
say the dark side has a tendency to show up in my writings. I feel strongly
about what I write, but my writing is not 100 % me, for me it is a poor way
for me to communicate my feelings, I communicate verbaly much better, And I
talk better than I write, thank God.

What I have said Time and Time again is that a person looking to go to school
should investigate the programs they are going to enter, talk to the people
who are in the program, and people who are out in the world, this goes for
apprentiships also. Find a place that can support you as a peer for the rest
of you life.

Donn Buchfinck

Ray Carlton on thu 22 oct 98

I need to put my oar in here and say that school training of any sort is
only the slimmest of slim intro to what we who have practised the craft for
many years have come to regard as a lifetimes work. From these institutions
come young [some not so young] people pumped up with all sorts of
preconceptions as to how good their work is only to be dumped on the scrap
heap after a year or two in the real world trying to support themselves as
a clay artist. Occaisionly one does sees work that looks promising from a
student and their light shines brightly. The challenge for these people is
to keep that light going. I feel that the education of potters tends to
turn out students with formula work which is a mirror image of those who
taught and studied with them.

I believe that a student needs to be indentured to a master craftsperson
for a period of at least 5 years to learn from the inside about what it
really means to be a craft potter or artist or whatever you wish to call
it. A students work is always nothing more than students work. Anyuone who
says it is anything more is doing a disservice to the student. The great
works of the ancients were made by artists who were the product of
traditions going back perhaps a thousand years and that is why they are
revered so highly today. These artists worked in the pottery from the time
they were small children. They lived breathed pottery from birth to death
for hundreds of generations. It is no wonder that they created the the most
wonderful works of art ever created.

It amuses me, the arrogance of potters today. what have we learned in our
tradition of pottery that goes back three, five or even twenty five years??

cheers Ray Carlton

McMahons Creek Victoria Australia

douglas gray on fri 23 oct 98

I must admit this topic has realy struck a cord in me. As I read the responses,
I realize that there must be an exception to every concrete example given. For
instance, I find it almost laughable to hear that college professors make such
good money. I read an article a couple of weeks ago that projected the average
income for Americans based on the level of education they receved and my salary
(which is about average for my position in SC) is right in line with that
someone with a highschool education. It makes me wonder why I have three
degrees, or why my wife, who has four degrees, makes even less than I do. I
have seen no evidence that teaching will make you rich. But then, that's not
why I got into teaching in the first place.

I've also seen very little evidence that college professors have all this extra
free time on their hands, or that money issues are beneath notice, or that
learning begins and ends at the front gate of the campus...

What I have seen evidence of is an increase in business, computer engineering,
law school and medical students, and a steady decrease in the number of students
an all areas of the humanities. I have seen a national trend to regularly fund
athletics and student activities (outside of the lcass room activities) at the
expense of study in the arts and music.

These may just be excusses, but the problem is far more complex than any one
individual teacher or student. Don made a comment about the "lack of
accountability, lack of responsibility, out of touch instruction". While I can
see examples of this I can also see a movement towards accountability, at all
levels of higher education, even to the point that funding is based on
accountability issues.

I think I would have to agree with Vince on this issue in that the
accountability question should be applied to students as well. Having a bad
teacher does not mean that learning can't take place. Pardon another strickly
personal "for instance"...I had a teacher who on the surface didn't seem to
teach me a thing, rarely spoke to me during the semester, never did
demonstations, never gave lectures, nothing...but what I learned from that
teacher is that I can be self motivated. I can find the answers to my own
questions, I can decide my own direction, I can determine my own aesthetic. So
consequently I learned more from that bad experience than I ever thought
possible. In fact, it may have been the best life long lesson I've ever

I think it has a great deal to do with expectations and motivation on both
parts, the teacher and the student. And it is important to find that good match
Donn has been refering to in his posts. I could go on at length about the
strength of the university programs I have seen, but ultimately the individual
seeking the education will have to decide whether that good match is college or
an apprenticeship. David's comments about the difference between the two
expereinces are right on and should serve as a starting point for making that

I've also been troubled by Kathy's bad experience in trying to get colleges to
apply life experience to a particular degree. I think that there is a trend to
do more of this, unfortunately it will take time for this change to occur. I
can see why there is a difficulty though and it goes back to that accountibility
issue. When a college hands out a degree they are basically providing
documentation that this student knows the following information/skills etc. The
diploma is a legal document and as such has a certain legal significance. There
are cases now of students suing the institutions from which they graduated
becasue they either didn't get the education needed to secure a job or because
the information was outdated by the time they graduated. Colleges and
Universities are taking these cases very seriously and consequently are making
sure that the basics are covered and that they can be accountably for providing
certain specific services and educational experiences.

I don't know what the answeres are. Kathy mentioned some models and
methodologies that could be applied from the public education systems. I for
one would be very interested in hearing more about these.

I can help but think, though, that most of these problems result from one basic
inescapable charactersitic of the human condition...that we are by nature
involved in an inefficient and illogical thing we call life. It never seems
that you have the right information at the right time to make the right
decision. Or how many times have you spent days, months, or years of your life
pursuing some goal only to find out that it was not the right goal for you. How
many relationships have you heard about that end because they individuals were
not right for each other. We live in a far less than perfect world, where
growing and learning and achieving are far from being effecient, effective and
imidiately gratifying experiences. So what is one to do, give up on the whole
thing? Of course not, we make the best of bad situations, we learn from our
mistakes and we move on. And as trite as that may sound, it seems to me to be a
much more realistic perspective than to assume that everything you do will turn
out rosy and perfect the first time trough. Last time I checked my life was
nothing like the 30 minute "dramadies" they show on television.

Enough of personal philosophy, there is work to be done. And I wouldn't want
anyone to think I sit around typing on the computer all day because i have
nothing better to do.

again, respectfully
doug (making his last comments on this issue, hopefully)

============================================================================ =)
Douglas E. Gray, Assistant Professor of Art
P.O. Box 100547
Department of Fine Arts and Mass Communication
Francis Marion University
Florence, South Carolina 29501-0547

Reid Harvey on sat 24 oct 98

from: Reid Harvey

I'm with you Ray on much of what you say:

>From these institutions come young [some not so young] people pumped up >with a

I'll never forget what an art instructor, in a painting class, told me,
umpteen years ago, when I first started art school. He said he was doing
his best to train himself to do very realistic work. This, he said,
would enable him to broaden his capabilities. He never said that
students should acquire this same ability, and I for one would certainly
have rebelled if he had. But because of him I've always admired the
painter or sculptor who desires the capability of being realistic. I do
not believe art schools should push this on their students, that would
be anathema to making art! The necessary freedom would be lost. But I do
believe the bright lights are those that acquire some virtuosity.

>I believe that a student needs to be indentured to a master craftsperson
>for a period of at least 5 years to learn from the inside about what it
>really means to be a craft potter or artist or whatever you wish to call

I also agree with Ray that apprenticeship has great virtues. But
unfortunately its necessary to apprentice to a mentor, someone who
really takes the interests of the apprentice to heart. It's really hard
to find these people. Sometimes we think we've found them and become
apprentices, only to find out years later that there are big gaps in our
understanding and skill.

douglas gray on mon 26 oct 98

My apologies for the last post I sent regarding this topic. It was not my
intention to denounce the efforts of public school teachers or professional
studio artist. I have a great respect for the demands of each of these
professions, for the skill, effort and the long long hours required. And I
acknowledge the inadequate compensation that, unfortunately, most in these
professions receive.



============================================================================ =)
Douglas E. Gray, Assistant Professor of Art
P.O. Box 100547
Department of Fine Arts and Mass Communication
Francis Marion University
Florence, South Carolina 29501-0547