It is a long-held trope that you learn when you teach. And it happens to be true. Beginning with forming the content of a class or curriculum, one has to assess a body of knowledge, decide how it can be best related to an audience, choose the most relevant information and discard the least. That process alone is educational, especially if the circumstances for each class change, forcing you to re-evaluate your area of expertise with each outing.
If you are teaching at a place like Haystack, where the students come from a broad range of experiences and skills and ages, teaching becomes a kind of triage. Each student needs a variant of the basic information as he or she has a singular agenda. Because the class is twelve days long, there is time to ask and answer the questions that are most meaningful to each student, assessing and hopefully communicating the right instruction and encouragement. That means that you are teaching, in the case of this group, fifteen different classes after the first few hours together. It’s amazing and gratifying to see the different directions that fifteen people can take one assignment.
What surprised me the most is that Words of Wisdom, or WOW for short, came out of my mouth, unbidden and unplanned. When talking about the roles of intuition and intention in making art, I said, “Trust your intuition, but don’t rely on it.” WOW. I just love the formulation of a philosophical notion that would fit on a bumper sticker. I had never articulated this idea before, certainly never so succinctly, but it reflects a line of thought that I had followed over a period of time. The mythology of the muse in art vs. hard work and perseverance has always been a mystery. It took a student’s question to reveal a point of clarity that I had come to without realizing it.
I also learned that kindness works, generosity always comes back around, nature is a balm, and creativity is boundless when nurtured, pushed and celebrated. The images here are some of the responses to assignments. We were careful to keep in mind that we were making expressions of ideas, not finished objects. Still, these and many, many more, stood on their own as provocative, enchanting, strong objects.