This was the first full week for me of the Fall semester and it was full, full! I had all of my seminars at school and my first Storyboard class that I teach at Uarts. It was also the first First Friday of the school year so it was a busy time in the old town last night with all of the galleries open and a lot of shows full of the swirls of teachers, students, friends, foes, critics and more racing cross town gallery to gallery, openings all over Center City and Old City. It was also just one of the most gorgeous days of the year and the first day that really felt like Fall and everybody was in high spirits and a good mood.
PAFA students sunning themselves like lizards--or Ultraman
The incoming class at Uarts seems like a good one, we had a good first day and the atmosphere was very jovial and the energy was good. I look forward to seeing the results of the first assignment which tells me a lot about who, what and where each student is on their path to being a pro artist. Each year the school moves to include more and more digital requirements from the teacher and students, I have to post a lot of material on-line. This is one of the biggest differences between PAFA and Uarts. I get very little communication or class resources on-line at PAFA, but as a teacher at Uarts I have to do quite a bit to the students through the Digication portal. I even started a blog for my class this year to post assignments, resources etc. There are still teachers at PAFA I can't email in 2013!
I also met the new head of the MFA Program Clint Jukkala this week and I will have a studio visit from him next week. Right away at the meeting with the MFA 2's he was asking for our comments and feedback and people were giving him some including me. He seemed open and receptive to what we had to say, some even wanted to get rid of grading altogether including Clint. I think he will have a lot of hard work to do on the program and maybe his biggest fight might not be with teachers or students but maybe the board of directors of the school. I could be wrong but that's my guess. There are a lot of things that need to be improved and that will require a great deal of $$$$$ and maybe some radical surgery. I hope they can do these things as the schools standing and so many things important to the education outcome would greatly improve, at the same time I don't feel the school should try to be YALE, it should try to be PAFA. It was the first art school and IMHO should still be if not the best, in the top 10 in the world. Having been a student for a long while now and a teacher even longer and a professional more than twice as long as booth, I have very strong feelings on art eduction as a whole, the Industrial Education Complex as I call it.
I feel the system is nearly broken in many ways, especially because of the cost and the fact too many students graduate with a ratio of debt to skills that is spectacularly tragic. That translates into almost no hope to make a living as an artist for the bulk of students in school. Its not all on the school or the teachers, it is primarily the responsibility of the student to demand that they get the service ( skills and learning) they need to have the best chance to make a living as an artist, no matter what their discipline may be.
A group of my MFA buddies all gathered together to hit the galleries for First Friday, starting a Gross McCleaf and ending up at Rodger lapelle and then having some grub before we headed home with heads chock-full of art and soar feet. It's funny how you pass groups of students as we criss-cross galleries. There were some galleries that were just too crowded, so I'd peak in and pop out, or frankly just had work I didn't enjoy of find interesting. There was a lot of competent work, but overall there wasn't a lot I found that tickled my fancy or gave me a charge. The work I think I found the most enjoyable were the work at Gross McCleaf by Ann Lofquist.
I think she is one of the best landscape painters working today, the paint handling, the quality of light and atmosphere she has in her work are fantastic. In a genere that is probably the most overpopulated with painters her landscape paintings really stand out and in with the best of the tonalists like Emil Carlson and Lanthrop. Gross McCleaf also represents the work of any of the faculty at PAFA like Scott Noel and Douglas Martenson but also many of the best regional painters in general. At Rodger LaPelle my buddy Bannister McKenzie was in a group show.
Over at Locks Gallery there was a big show of Liz Osborne's work and the show was so packed I just peaked in for a second. We visited the Schmidtdean Gallery that has work by one of my favorite teachers and people at PAFA Michael Gallagher. One of the owners Chrispopher was really nice and came out and took time talking to us about many of the artists in the gallery. There is definitely a hierarchy to the Center City galleries like Locks or Schmidt-Dean which feel much more Chelsea, very contemporary and modernist and the galleries in Old City like F.A.N and my gallery Rodger LaPelle, they feel more Soho. The best thing is that unlike NYC, the Philly art walk is very walkable. Still by the end of the night, and a long day at school which included Mike Gallagher's class and a film on Brian Eno I was beat when I got home. But it was great fun to hang with my fellow PAFites and enjoy art, laughs and eats, the art pyramid and a great way to really kick off the Fall semester.