This year's faculty opening last month also had a low student turn-out, especially given that it was on campus and just down the hallway from the studios, and that it introduced our newest faculty member, Brian Harper, in Ceramics. I used to go to all of my artist-professors' openings, in both undergraduate and graduate schools, sometimes out of curiosity, many times out of respect, maybe even sometimes out of the "brownie-points" awarded for such gestures. Whatever the reason, seeing a body of work created by my professors was big in understanding their aesthetics, the temperament of their criticisms, their processes, and their concepts and how they resolved them. It used to be that when we, as students, attended exhibition openings of our professors' works, it was about that hunger or hope for refreshment, about absorbing motivation from those veteran artists who we worked so closely with; those who could lift my day by acknowledging my creative efforts with a positive comment or who could send me in a downward spiral by not recognizing my efforts or any of the successes they might have contained. Attending their openings, or even just seeing their exhibitions after-the-fact, was ultimately because I wanted to see growth in their work as badly as they pushed for growth in mine.
Many students look at us, their professors, and sometimes forget, or are not aware, that we are practicing professional artists. They also maybe don't realize that the miliue they have chosen to inhabit is the very one we've existed in for, in some cases, decades. The road they're traveling is the very road we've traveled, and to be engaged in that journey is such an enriching learning experience, both personally and professionally; to not engage fully in that journey is an underappreciation of the value of that education.
I jokingly said in class a day or so ago that I would award extra credit for those who went to see my exhibit. My students chuckled at that suggestion. After class I though it was a little sad that I was, although jokingly on one level and truthfully on another, trying to buy them into going to see my exhibit. Have times changed so much? Has curiosity become so narrow that it doesn't expand outside of ourselves to include the creative efforts of our colleagues and peers? Have our worlds become too complex and unrewarding to include the celebrations of others? What is the paradigm, and how do we shift it to something that is more inclusive and encompassing?