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Teaching art in a contemporary art museum
mclamoca

MCLA Art Labs at MASS MoCA

Painter and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) Professor of Art Gregory Scheckler talks about his students’ experiences at MCLA’s temporary drawing and painting labs in MASS MoCA’s Building 13.


What is it like to teach college art classes at a contemporary art museum? This year, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts teachers and students are finding out.

As a professor, the opportunity to teach at the museum is a welcome change. Teaching needs revision and refreshment, so why not do that at one of the world’s best contemporary art museums? The overall goals of making more and better art, and gaining critical knowledge, good practice, and technical skills, are, of course, the same as before. The museum environment changes the mood, amplifies it. The art practices are growing more serious, as well as more fun.

For example, I teach a visual arts composition course called Form and Composition. In the course, we review various approaches to understanding and composing imagery. When we reach mid-20th century approaches , we have the largest installation of Sol Lewitt wall drawings to inform the conversation, right outside our classroom door .

Nothing, and I mean nothing, brings art techniques and ideas into more clear focus than seeing work in real life.

Housing such immense projects means that MASS MoCA has a certain bold, sexy quality. It’s refreshing to be constantly reminded of our creative freedoms, to be in the thick of artistic ingenuity in all of its contemporary forms, witness to the great diversity that is the imagination of the arts at work.

Just what exactly will inspire us?

It’s hard to tell. I keep feeling drawn to the rusted-out buildings, which house Stephen Vitiello’s sound installation,  All Those Vanished Engines.

Photo Courtesy Gregory Scheckler

Students have their own favorites. MCLA Junior Ciara Genera, who has found that working at MASS MoCA makes her “feel like a real artist,” discovered inspiration from Xu Bing’s mammoth sculptures. As she put it,  “Xu Bing’s Phoenix blew me away!”

Photo credit: Keifer Gammel

Photo Courtesy Keifer Gammel

MCLA Senior Alberto Roman found technical insight in the “immense texture and roughness” of Anselm Kiefer’s paintings.

Anselm Kiefer at MASS MoCA

Some students find the context of the museum to be a creative driver. MCLA senior Shelagh Conley notes that being “at the museum allows me to work without distractions. We are surrounded by artwork. It is all that my mind is focused on.” Similarly, senior Stephanie VanBramer finds that the experience has pushed her and her “artwork to the next level”.

The students are right, of course. On a regular college campus, when you leave a studio or art lab, you move into a world of  classrooms, and quads. At the museum, when we leave the art labs, we move through galleries. Our quad is the upside-down trees of Natalie Jeremijenko’s Tree Logic.

Posted October 7, 2013 by MASS MoCA
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