"Learning is not attained by chance," wrote Abigail Adams in 1780, "it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence." Sounds like your typical art student, does it not? In any case, below, five classes from around the art-school-o-sphere, February 2010:
"EcoArt," Carnegie Mellon University School of Art
For an art class guaranteed to have a future (even if the planet doesn’t), there’s "EcoArt," taught by artist Bob Bingham with the assistance of an ecologist from the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy. "EcoArt" got its start in 2004, when Carnegie Mellon received a grant to promote "environmental literacy" on campus, and Bingham’s long-running "Advanced Environmental Sculpture" course was recolored a deeper shade of Green. In the past, students did actual field work in Pittsburgh’s Schenley Park, removing invasive species of plants before producing "small quiet, ‘ecoart gestures’" in the same terrain.
These days, "EcoArt" involves the creation of collaborative projects in the natural environment, including "raingardens" designed to promote water retention in empty lots. Among the readings are Ecovention and Fragile Ecologies, both exhibition catalogues for past shows of "EcoArt." Touchstone artists include Joseph Beuys, Mark Dion, Herbert Dreiseitl, Newton and Helen Harrison, Hundertwasser, Ana Mendieta, Buster Simpson, Alan Sonfist and Meg Webster -- but Bingham says that the class changes a lot with each iteration: "I teach in a great university and school of art that allows me to change it up."
"Equestrian Trophy Design," Virginia Commonwealth University Qatar
Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond has had an outpost in the United Arab Emirates since 1998, allowing students to take advantage of opportunities in the Arab world. What opportunities, you ask? How about a class on "Equestrian Trophy Design"? Last year, VCUQ students lent their talents to an award-design contest for some of the emirate’s more distinguished horseracing events, with student Noura Mohammed Al-Khulaifi contributing the winning cup design for the Qatar Prix de l’ Arc de Triomphe ("inspired by the Qatari Flag and Rocco French style," she said) and Yang Soon Ju triumphing with a design for the Qatar Arabian World Cup (which brought together the "Greek water vessel for the body, a coat of arms and pearl for the shell and a racing horse with the jockey to crown this trophy").
Helmed by Muqeem Khan and Matt Woolman, the course promises "to guide students from ideation to the finalization phase of design," and attracts students from all over the Arabian Peninsula, and the world. Khan is an experienced digital designer (he’s worked on Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, George of the Jungle and Flubber), and also teaches classes in digital art for those students less drawn to Qatari equestrian culture. His work, and work by his VCUQ students, can be seen at www.muqeemkhan.com
"Sacred and Profane II," San Francisco Art Institute
This spring, SFAI’s photo department explores "a broad range of sacred, mythic, and profane images in a cross-cultural framework" via this course, which is helmed by artist Linda Connor, celebrated for her affecting, sepia-toned photos of sacred sites from all over the world. The course description promises, suggestively, that "students will create a detailed body of work conceived in relationship to contemporary art and within the history of human expression" -- good to know we’re not trying to jump outside the history of human expression (that would be "Sacred and Profane III," presumably).
"Inside an Exhibition: National Design Triennial," School of Visual Arts
SVA’s snappy new "Design Criticism" program -- a two-year degree dubbed "D-Crit" -- promises a real insider experience with this course, which revolves around the upcoming "Why Design Now?" triennial at the Cooper-Hewitt, May 14, 2010-Jan. 9, 2011. Taught by Cooper-Hewitt curator Matilda McQuaid, who is co-organizing the survey (with Ellen Lupton, Cara McCarty and Cynthia Smith), "Inside" promises explore the hot-button issue of social responsibility (the show is sponsored by corporate behemoth General Electric, so good luck with that) as well as get a real feel for "the special work that goes into preparing an exhibition of this subject and scale." Curiously, the coursework also includes "writing an exhibition review of the Triennial," an exercise in critical thinking that should prove interesting, given that the person doing the grading is also putting together the show to be reviewed.
"Manga Comics," Pratt Institute
Taught by accomplished cartoonist Mark "the Z-Man" Zeimann, who also teaches "Comic Book Illustration" and "Editorial Illustration" at Pratt’s Center for Continuing and Professional Studies, this Friday-night course guides enrollees in the ins-and-outs of "Pens and papers used, different types of characters, story lines, page format, panel layout and motion/action lines, facial features of Manga, and the color palette." Notably absent from this list -- at least for the purely casual observer of Manga -- is "tentacle erotica."