It has been a long time since I have had to write a statement on my teaching philosophy; probably in the neighborhood of 25 years ago and it was the application that got me the job I currently hold as the sculpture professor here at Eastern Illinois University. I used to know all the answers but now I’m not so sure. 

Safety. Terminology. Operational Procedures. Technology. Additive/Construction Techniques. Craftsmanship. Modeling. Replacement/Casting. Time Arts. Historical Context. Professional Practices. Theory. Pedagogy. Opportunity. Experience. Thinking skills (all of them). Budgets. Equipment maintenance. Service. Community. Trust. Support. Encouragement. Graduation. Safety. Letters of Reference. 

Wow! I’ve never really tried to list all the things that go on in my classrooms and studios, but that is what goes on constantly. The studio itself is large and complex. There are no technical staff nor GAs. Just me. The facility is well equipped and the instruction is pretty basic but the reading and resource library I’ve developed over the years can answer most questions in my absence. The video library I’ve built is filled with historical and technical information about sculpture.  Current art magazines and journals help alleviate the isolation of east central Illinois. Janitorial services are pretty slim and we all try to keep the space tidy but with the numbers using the studio and lack of storage, I’m afraid the space is pretty cluttered. Constant safety reminders keep the students working amid the messes. It may not look productive or healthy but we do turn out a lot of work.

I regret that the paragraph above is not really a statement but it does describe my program pretty accurately. From the first day of freshman classes in 3-D Foundations I do my best to let the students know they need to acquire the habits, professional attitude and skills of an artist. Time management, attendance at art and arts related events, keeping current by reading and visiting galleries, participating in workshops and exhibitions, competing for grants and awards, and following my lead when it comes to service and community involvement. These are the things I teach my students. Some of it happens formally in the classroom and studio. Other learning comes from taking advantage of opportunities I present to them. It is always about the student making their curriculum vitae stronger. Sure, a liberal arts education and good grades are important but the breadth and depth of an artist’s vitae is more relevant. Combine that with an exhibition record with kickass images of their work, and a history of awards and other professional accomplishments and the student has a chance at a career in the visual arts.

I try to get them to understand the passion you have to have to survive. It is not an easy word to describe but couple it with the concept of exaggeration and they begin to see the complexity of the world they want to work in. 

I do my best to lead by example and I hold nothing back. They are all invited to share in the experiences and compete with me at any level and in any medium. Nothing is too small to ignore or too grand to be intimidating. It is about participating.

I think my students trust me when I tell them it is all about them, not me. After twenty-five years it’s still working. A sculpture alumni show with a catalog and funds to install 5-8 large-scale sculptures on campus is up next. It will also be my silver anniversary of working at EIU. It should make for a nice retirement party and another notch in my students’ vitae.