Beyond Picasso, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Matisse, and their fellow compatriots, each of whom spent the better part of his painting life in southern France, there are artists of a new breed here now. They are young. They are ready for adventure. There are, for this group, no boundaries.
Kirt Wood, the Academic Director at Savannah College of Art and Design’s France campus, spent time with me before heading back to the states for the holidays. New to the position in the of fall 2013, he talked about a generation of young artists and how SCAD is teaching them to think differently.
The Lacoste School of the Arts, founded by American artist, Bernard Pfriem in 1970, became Savannah College of Art and Design’s French campus in 2002. Today SCAD Lacoste, perched on a hilltop in this medieval village near the ruins of the chateaux of the Marquis de Sade, offers students far more than historic studios and teaching spaces. Over eight weeks’ time, students partake in an integrated course of study that combines cultural expeditions with technical skill development, collaborative problem solving, and independent investigation.
1. Today’s students want true life experience. Living amidst monuments and following the paths of renowned artists is more than enough to set their hair on fire. If by day they lay eyes on the Pont du Gard, the highest of all aqueduct bridges, built by the Romans in 1 A.D., by nightfall they have made multiple drawings of it, dialogued about its possible construction, and begun integrating their experiences as new symbols in their portfolios or as launch pads for their emerging ideas. 2. Every experience must have personal meaning or relevance. Being in the field works for young people, and making pictorial representations or 3-D models gives form to their ideas. 3. This generation needs to be closely connected to their mentors. They find comfort in small classes and are eager to learn from role models. 4.College students today can juggle multiple variables and move gracefully from one area of curriculum to another.
1. At SCAD Lacoste students work in cohorts. This fall there were fashion-merchandising students collaborating with painting majors; painting majors partnered with future architects. Each one brought a particular set of talents and technical skills to the fore. Together they looked at the complexity of a problem and aimed for an array of solutions. 2. Social connections are at the heart of students’ lives. Making professional connections, marketing their work, and recognizing that expanding their networks are key to sustaining themselves in the Arts. Every SCAD student creates a website and writes a blog. While they are bettering their techniques in their major, they are learning to think strategically and communicate clearly. 3. Immersion and exposure are the soul of the program.
This experience is akin to being “on the job” and goes above and beyond learning from traditional resources. 5. Future artists need to ensure their financial survival. At SCAD’s student exposition it was evident that displaying, marketing, talking about, and ultimately selling one’s artwork to the public was part of their college training.
Kirt Wood showed me that much that is true about Art education for school age children is equally viable for twenty-something year olds. When learning is meaningful and inspires students to create whole cloth from strands of thread, it works for all ages. Setting high standards results in high caliber outcomes. Helping students to perceive and work through relationships leads to novel solutions.The artful thinking that originates in childhood can actually last a lifetime.
Just recently I met a young lady at a weekend brocante or flea market. She and her family had worked together to craft wooden stars for the holidays. It was clear that she felt a sense of pride and ownership in her project. She had been empowered to set her own price and talk to us about her work. My husband and I decided which ones to purchase, and after she completed the transaction, she graciously offered us an extra star as her gift. We were impressed.
Not only must we teach our children well when they are young, but we must continue to build on that momentum and spirit as they advance into adulthood. Thank you Kirt Wood, for sharing your energy and insights. I am most grateful.
Nancy Harris Frohlich