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04 December 2012 @ 08:57 pm
Tuesday Night Lecture Series Panel: Artist in the 21st Century  

Tonight we finally had the panel that we've been working on all semester in my art history seminar.  A group of students and faculty from SJSU addressed questions related to the theme of contemporary artist: What is life like for the twenty-first century artist?  What kind of training does he/she need?  What is his/her role in society? 

We weren't sure what kind of crowd we'd get - or, indeed, if we'd have anyone showing up at all.  But we were pleasantly surprised to find a full house waiting to hear and participate in the discussion. 

We started off by talking about what the graduate students/faculty had found useful in their art education - and for those still in school, what did they want to learn?  Responses were varied, but the following themes kept popping up:
- Artists wanted to improve their art world vocabulary and their understanding of art theory so that they could better communicate their thought process and ideas to the public.
- School also allowed access to facilities that were otherwise difficult for artists to find; many of the grad students were coming  back to either learn about new mediums as well as improve the ones they'd been using in their practice.

Another topic that inspired lively debate was the importance of the object (versus the idea).  One artist admitted that he had been experimenting with computers, which does not always lead to a physical object.  He found that the materials were second to concept; there was no hierarchy assigned to objects, everything was simply different paths leading to exploration.  Another claimed that the object was obsolete.  One of the teachers sorta smoothed things over with the simplified explanation that the medium allows the concept to come across, so the nature of the project is determined by the ideas. Some ideas don't need a physical object, while others certainly do.

Later, one of the panelists claimed that art schools fail you if you only learn art.  In the twenty-first century, student artists need to learn something about marketing if they plan to compete in the contemporary art world; they need to learn to write and to express themselves, too.  Artists have to be able to speak and to present themselves in a professional way.  Simply improving technical skills isn't enough - although on the flip side, some schools really need to focus on developing those skills since a lot of artists are being churned out who simply don't have what it takes to compete.  The moderator prodded this idea by asking if public schools have a duty (or the ability) to deter students from the art world?  Should an educator tell a student he or she isn't good enough?  After all, the individual should have the freedom to choose his or her destiny in a public institution...in theory, at least.

There was a bit of a divide on the issue of audience.  Some of the artists thought that the artist should be free to express whatever, and the appropriate audience would find their work if they just put it out there.  It wasn't worth "sacrificing" the vision if one was only pandering to an audience.  Another person drew the line more firmly in the sand: if art communicates literally to a designated audience, it's design rather than art.  But if you don't have a predetermined audience in mind, the artist must still be communicating..which implies an other audience out there, right?  This leads into the issue of whether the  artist creates for an other/outsider, or do they create for catharsis and themselves?

It was definitely an interesting talk...although like most of the discussion panels I've attended, it was all bouncing ideas and not much in the way of concrete resolution.  That's all right.  I don't think there's anything certain in the ever-changing modern art world, so the panel seemed just fine - a good way to wind up this semester and this seminar.

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