Interdisciplinary. Community. Advocacy. Humor.
Apologies for the hiatus in blogging my visit to San Francisco; I had to spend some time in Yorkshire discussing a project which I hope to present here in the very near future.
My second day in San Francisco was spent at the American Craft Council/California College of the Arts symposium called "Craft Forward-ing", an event aimed at students and new graduates with a view to giving them an introduction to the world of business and suggesting ways of actually making money out of craft practice. This objective should be borne in mind...
I walked to the venue from Fisherman's Wharf, following the map to the optimistically-named "Creative District", an area of derelict industrial units under elevated roads. The CCA campus where the event was held is in a converted Greyhound bus depot, and an excellent conversion it is, but the only other signs of creativity in the creative district - apart from the creative use of the word "creative" in the name - was the warehouse given over to "Adobe", and I am not sure that doesn't count as "tech"! To get to the campus, I had to walk through swarms - actually dozens - of street-people aimlessly pushing the shopping-trolleys which house their worldly goods. They must be used to "creatives" wandering about; not one of them acknowledged my presence in any way. I am almost ashamed to say that their lack of attention came as a relief.
When I got to the venue, I met Curtis Arima (from CCA), Brigitte and Chris (from the ACC).
In brief, only Brigitte Martin and Philip Wood addressed the issue proposed by the theme of the symposium, discussing ways in which they had progressed from education into business. Brigitte talked about the need for PASSION and the importance of being focused on the business aspects as much as anything else. Philip - a very fine and well-known furniture-maker - talked a bit about how his online retail website Citizen:Citizen worked but got a bit lost in the nebulous politics of it all. Additionally, he never really detailed what had made him change from maker to manager/curator. Citizen:Citizen, however, offers an interesting look at ways in which an artist may seek to market small-run multiples in addition to their existing practice.
The other two speakers were an organisation called "Future Farmers" - Amy Franceschini and Michael Swaine - and Tanya Aguiniga. Both of these speakers were interesting in their own way, talking about their post-art school practices but neither of them offered anything terribly useful to the theme, both of them detailing practices which were either subsidised or which they admitted lost them money. Future Farmers, in particular, were miles from the point and presented us with a fragment of a 1920s Czech play...
On one hand, it was unfortunate that there were not more students in the audience - which seemed to be made up of large numbers of ACC and CCA people -and that the audience halved over lunchtime. The day was of interest to me as an educator and should have been of interest to students in their final years of study. I am not clear why some of the speakers were chosen: Brigitte, obviously, because she runs Crafthaus, Philip because of Citizen:Citizen, but the others... well, I can think to name Boris Bally off the top of my head as being more suitable and if he were too busy or too expensive, there have got to be more.
Perhaps oddest of all was that the reception afterwards was held in a gallery which works as a real-world version of Citizen:Citizen, working with artists to get them to make multiples and selling them. Why wasn't a representative of that gallery invited to speak?
Apart from getting to hang out with Curtis and Brigitte, perhaps the highlight of the day was finally meeting the author of "Ask Hariette", Hariette Estelle Berman. Charming, funny, cheeky, outspoken. Everything you would expect!
That evening I went out for something to eat on my own, wandering about in Chinatown and the Italian quarter, taking photographs. I think that this tailor's shop could learn something from the people at the symposium:
This is an actual window-display for what appears to be a tailor who is - somehow - still in business!
It is strange how symposia change the way you think about things for a while. I also noticed this:
A Chihully knock-off! We all know the problems that Boris Bally and 2Roses have had with counterfeiting and that would have been a good topic for the day's discussion too.
Ended up having a coffee and some ice-cream before visiting City Lights bookshop and browsing through the endless editions of "Howl"!
I am happy to come in and talk with students and alum about what has worked for me. I actually think it is in the few years after school when this information can be absorbed the most. It is a BIG topic and certainly there is no single way to go, but sharing experiences proves to be very helpful
I am SO pleased that this kicked off such constructive events!
One step leads to another Harriete. While Craftforwarding may not have been the Valhalla of business symposiums, it has led us all here. What Dauvit, Curtis and Alexandra are discussing is extraordinary.
We are really happy to see Curtis comment here as we were very curious about the perspective of the people on the front lines of arts education. Our perspective is from the business side, which tends to be bluntly expedient. We will confess that we are somewhat skeptical of attempting to teach towards an ethereal concept of "success". While people have varying definitions of what constitutes "success", our pragmatic common sense tells us that if you can't pay your rent, who are you kidding?
All said though we think Curtis nails it squarely: "Being exposed to different models of success will help new grads understand potential paths for themselves."
ABSOLUTELY. And it really doesn't have to be metals students. It should be a multi media approach.
So odd to think that what you are trying to do is exactly what was supposed to happen at Craft Forwarding.....
If we can get some funds maybe you can give a workshop...?
Your ideas to "supplement art education with business practices.... that would also allow current students" and alumni to survive after school is a great idea. The first years after school are the most challenging for a young person to get headed in the right direction. You may be able to get money from the alumni office for some programming.
Not sure that I can stretch my arms any further...but let me know how I can help.
Great topic of conversation sorry I could not come in earlier.
Priorities.... great point....This is where it gets complicated. Each individual has a different idea of success, there for different priorities. We saw this at the symposium, for some it is selling work, some building community, others pushing the boundaries of what craft and art can do. In building a curriculum it is challenging to go in to depth of business practices in the classroom when each student has different priorities and ideas of success, all the while teaching techniques and design strategies, pushing concepts, and helping students find artistic voice. Traditionally the main priority of an art school is to help push students to expand their artistic abilities and to help move the field of art forward. This is why in class room setting instructors tend to touch upon several ideas about business, there for allowing students to pursue more information on their own. I do agree this is not enough, and students need more prepared for success post-graduation. Students are overwhelmed with the amount of information given to them during their classrooms. Panel discussions and forums with groups may be a good solution. Being exposed to different models of success will help new grads understand potential paths for themselves.
Thank you Ali for your honest assessment and ideas for the future. Your contributions to classroom discussions have always been insightful. Thank you for helping the program at CCA to continue to grow
I think your ideas are wonderful and we should have more conversations on how to implement them. The CCA Jewelry/Metal Arts Group I would like to start, may be a way we can supplement art education with business practices quickly, without the complications of changing courses and curriculum. This would also allow workshops and presentation for not just current students but alum, helping us to keep the strong community we have and share vital information. Having success be a priority... Interested in helping me?
Alexandra, thank you for a very thoughtful and specific answer. Looks like you just wrote a curriculum outline to us.
As to budget limitations - there have always been budget limitations. The real question is "what are the priorities"? The real answer is that business acumen has been given a low priority.
Time to change priorities.
A compulsory production run would be an excellent idea. I am going to discuss this with my own faculty team this week! We do teach casting and the like but nothing specifically about the process of creating runs from scratch. Students are free to make production work if they choose but it is not compulsory. Such an obvious and good idea.
You're going to do very well Alexandra, and we are much encouraged that people like you are coming into the arts. As an arts student who expressed an open desire for more business education, why do you feel you were not provided more of it during the time you spent at CCA?
BTW, we have a very high regard for CCA and think that it is one of the top notch arts schools in the US.
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