This book is for those of you who want a holistic art education that includes how to be more fully present, both with yourself and with others. The term “holistic” means that the parts of a given system are intimately interconnected, that they are understandable only in relation to the whole system. How can you talk about making a new project without talking about labor conditions? How can you talk about labor conditions without talking about payment? It’s time to address your artistic labor, your budgets, your storage units, your gifts, and your well-being. Throughout this book, we will continue to state that art is a system of relationships.
You hold in your hands the work of two friends and collaborators. We are Susan Jahoda and Caroline Woolard, two art educators based in New York City, who teach at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and at the University of Hartford, Connecticut, respectively. Susan has been teaching visual art classes in higher education for forty years and Caroline has been teaching for nine years. We work together because we have shared commitments to teaching, to collectivity, to solidarity economies, and to artmaking. We aim to cultivate intellectual and emotional vulnerability alongside our work as educators. We both feel most alive in reading groups, collectives, and in dialog with people whose perspectives are different from our own, and we aim to bring this into our classrooms.
We have been collaborating for seven years as members of the collective BFAMFAPhD. The collective got its name by combining all of the degrees that a person could accumulate in undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral programs: a BFA, an MFA, and a PhD. In 2014, we (Susan and Caroline), along with Vicky Virgin and Agnes Szanyi, as well as former BFAMFAPhD collective member Blair Murphy, published Artists Report Back to raise awareness about art student debt, to suggest how established artists and recent arts graduates might advocate for one another, and to propose cultural equity initiatives to recognize and strengthen solidarity art economies in the United States. We have taken the last five years to focus on this book. We have been developing this material in our classes, which range widely, from foundations BFA classes to MFA thesis classes, including skill-based photography and sculpture courses, professional practices courses, as well as interdisciplinary seminars. Many people have worked on this book with us. See Acknowledgements for more. This book includes a compilation of the references, activities, and assignments that have worked best for us, as well as a framework for thinking about the production and circulation of projects.
When we write “we” throughout this book, we are referring specifically to the two of us, Susan and Caroline, and not the general or royal “we.” When we write “you,” we are addressing you, the reader. We imagine that you, the reader, are an artist, an art student, a studio art teacher, and/or a person in a self-organized learning space. We hope that you can open the book and find something to adapt to your context.Download Introduction as a PDF