As an artist and educator, I am eager to continue learning throughout my career and to share my expertise and passion for the arts with my students. I strive to keep a sense of curiosity in my practice and approach each new class with an open mind and the necessary flexibility to meet the individual student's needs. With this fluidity, I can create an inclusive and collaborative studio environment for students to work through concepts in a free and comfortable space.
I always ensure that my expectations are evident at the start of every class. Through clear project guidelines and grading rubrics, I hold students accountable for their dedication, participation, and studio practice. My goal is to create an atmosphere that supports each student to thrive as an individual with the appropriate rigor and discipline to hold them accountable for their work ethic and critical decisions.
Through mentorship, I can guide students along their journey in exploring the limits of their communication and representation of their work. I aim to facilitate interdisciplinary practices across different studio disciplines and technologies. An example of this is an assignment I provide in Ceramics One, titled "Same but Different". Students are asked to create a mold and slip-cast ten ceramic forms of the same object. They must intentionally alter the meaning of each piece through its surface treatment by any means they think best fits their concept other than with traditional glaze. This project introduces a new medium and process while inviting the students to explore how different methods, displays, and materials change the context of their work.
Allowing students to expand their creative arsenal by having a broader understanding and access to diverse mediums, practices, and inspirations enables them to experiment with the meanings they bring to their work. I encourage students to explore and take risks to instill a sense of play and curiosity as they develop their artistic voices.
I strive to cultivate a dialogue in the studio about relevant conceptual theories, art history, and contemporary art. I structure these conversations through guiding questions, prompts, slides, and other resources that allow students to feel more comfortable talking about art and the processes they are learning.
Furthermore, I do not believe that a fear of failure should be condoned in the studio. On the contrary, students should be motivated and encouraged to experiment and take risks in their practice. When provided the support and the critical feedback necessary to learn and succeed from their decisions, the entire class benefits from such conversations.
It is essential to provide students with influential materials through artists' talks, exhibitions, and resources like Art 21. I use these resources to reference art history and expand upon critical theories in the studio. While instructing in Dillon, Montana, a town of 4,000 and well removed from any surrounding city of considerable size, students did not have access to exhibitions, talks, or much of a greater art community. Instead, I held class discussions in the campus gallery, zoomed into art talks, presented virtual exhibitions, and played relevant art videos during work days to help provide outside inspiration.
Such tools can also represent artists from historically underrepresented demographics to broaden the breadth of artists students have to gain inspiration from. In our diverse culture, it is of the utmost importance to facilitate a studio environment that is inclusive and supportive to allow students of all ages, genders, sexualities, race, beliefs, and socioeconomic statuses to thrive together and create a community within the studio. One way I do this is by assigning projects that invite students to investigate their identity and cultural backgrounds. I encourage the fortitude of students when they show interest in exploring their identities.
I always make a conscious effort to help ensure introverted students do not go unnoticed. As a soft-spoken person, I encourage quieter students to find their voices in their work and class discussions. I do this by finding the extra time to connect with them in one-on-one conversations and structuring critiques to be less intimidating through partnering, games, and having prepared talking prompts.
As an educator, my passion influences the energy of an entire class. It is one of the most important facets I can contribute. The student appreciation for this enthusiasm can be seen again and again in my evaluations in comments like, "This class is by far one of the best I've been in at Western. Steph was so passionate about every single art piece that her students thought of. She made the class environment comfortable, fun, and everyone respected each other." No matter what happens outside the classroom, I can create a safe and vibrant studio for individuals to thrive and be with the material and their aspirations.
Each student is influenced by different means, and while I expect them to approach their studio practice with drive and ambition, I also hold myself accountable to provide guidance in their professional art endeavors. I aim to impart a strong work ethic and technical proficiency to evolving artists and help them find a balance in their practice so as to not lose the joy of creating.
By providing an inclusive and diverse studio environment and mentorship to explore their creative influences, students of all avenues can succeed in becoming independent makers. With my passion for my artwork and the art community, I aim to help aspiring artists develop into participating and influential members of today's evolving art world.