Teaching with Contemporary Art

Home Away

Tosa Mitsuoki, “Autumn Maples with Poem Slips”, c.1675. Image: artic.edu

I wonder what it means when you feel at home somewhere else?

Six years ago I spent a few weeks during the month of July at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s TICA program. The workshops, working lunches, visiting artists, studio space and brand new dorms with huge glass windows looking out on the city was a perfect setting for what I was engaged with at the time- working on a series of figurative drawings that incorporated changing light and translucency. Even to this day I am still expanding the series.

Perhaps what I miss most about those few weeks was the time I spent afterward at the Art Institute of Chicago itself. For days, literally, I spent full afternoons inside the Art Institute’s museum walls drinking in dozens upon dozens of works, especially in the Asian Art and Contemporary Art collections. I sketched, wrote, thought (a lot) and allowed the images before me to fuel my thinking for the upcoming summer and next school year.

It was during that time I noticed something which hadn’t happened to me in any other gallery or museum. I felt at home. I felt accepted in the space and somehow closer to these works (of course, in part, due to the amount of time I gave myself) as an artist and teacher than, say, to works I’d seen many times at the Met. Given the time to look into them I was able to slow down and really see. I think about works like Tosa Mitsuoki’s Autumn Maples with Poem Slips, which I recently discovered online, and am reminded of how those afternoons even played a role influencing an installation I put together for plumgoneperhapsfar years later at the Garnerville Arts Center here in New York.

I guess what I’m trying to say is this…

Summer is coming and it’s the perfect time to discover where else is home. Once you find this place, it will make good sense to slow down and allow it to work on you the way the Art Institute worked on me. As educators, as artists, giving ourselves time and space in places like this feeds us and rejuvenates us.

Yes. Summer is almost here.


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