Monday, May 5, 2014

Jack-in-the-Pulpit Studio: The Future of this Small Art Teaching Studio

In the next three months I hope to purchase the property next door to me with the intent of creating a small one-room schoolhouse setting with gardens for teaching art. The new Jack-in-the-Pulpit Studio will be approximately 18 feet by 19 feet and will be surrounded by gardens of native and hybridized plants.  Classes will be held to a maximum of eight to ten students, depending on table arrangement. Jack-in-the-Pulpit will not be offering children's classes or camps - only classes for adults (and the occasional interested teenager). Some may ask what is the profit of such a small art school that is so limited in its offerings?

I created the educational department and ran the art classes at the Como Zoo and Conservatory from 1994 - 2004.  I raised over $500,000 in grants for arts and environmental classes. We ran camps and had more children's classes (and birthday parties) than can be counted. I understand the fiscal realities of the large art centers that seem to be popping up in every Twin City suburb - to make a go of it you have to have children's classes, have large beginner classes, receive grants and still need the support of your municipality.  Yet again, Jack-in-the-Pulpit Studio will not be offering children's classes, will not have large classes, or write for operational or program grants from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council or anyone else.

Why will Jack-in-the-Pulpit not run like most other community art schools/centers in the Twin Cities?  Quite frankly, I find this model of creating arts opportunities onerous.  It is a treadmill that drives one down back alleys and dead ends in order to keep the money flowing.  It is a non-stop revolving calendar of events and activities that needs to be fed.  It is a model based on financing that neither provides a living for teaching artists or takes students much beyond hobbydom. Once your programming gets on this treadmill it needs to grow to keep up with the overhead - or else live off of someone else's largess. In the latter case, largess often comes with stipulations and is not sustainable for the long term.

Jack-in-the-Pulpit looks to circumvent this treadmill by focusing on only a few media and genres of art.  It will focus on only one essential audience: adult learners.  The purpose is to be personal, to shift with the individuals who are coming to learn art, to meet the students where they are at.  Two examples of this is:
- This winter some students taking watercolor class realized how important drawing skills are and asked for a class on drawing.  The class began two weeks after the watercolor class had completed
-  This summer, the Wednesday Watercolor - Whatever class will allow students who cannot afford the weekly fee to barter for the class - a pot of soup, or whatever, for an evenings lesson

I will write more later about the individual and creativity and how to best foster this. But, I wanted to take this time to put out there in writing what I am interested in doing with Jack-in-the-Pulpit Studio, my approach to programming, and my hopes for the future.  I hope to take this project down a different road than what has been seen in the Twin Cities arts education scene: nothing large, something personal and responsive in a beautiful natural environment.  

Stay tuned, see what happens. If nothing else, it will be interesting.