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Albright College’s four full - time art professors teach everything from painting to photography to filmmaking. And when they’re not in the classroom, these accomplished artists continue to explore new creative territory that brings them both personal satisfaction and professional recognition.
“Most people don’t realize it, but our creative production is our research,” says Kristen Woodward, associate professor and art department chair. “When you’re in literature or the English department you publish papers. When you’re in biology or chemistry you run experiments and you publish your findings. And when we exhibit our work it’s recognized by the College as a professional practice.”
Creating and exhibiting work outside the classroom enables these working artists to give their students insights into the wider world of art that they couldn’t get anywhere else. And that’s good for the students — future teachers and aspiring artists themselves.
“I don’t think of myself as a painter or a sculptor or a photographer, I think of myself as an artist who’s a creative person,” says Tom Watcke. “I look for ways for students to create works of art while engaging in a dialogue with themselves about how to solve problems creatively.”
Watcke, a professor of art, teaches sculpture, drawing, photography and painting. His focus on creative problem solving is at the heart of one classroom exercise in which he asks his students to work with some unusual limitations.
“I’ll have them roll a die eight times,” he explains. “Each number corresponds to a schematic I made, and they’re required to make a work of art based on those eight rolls. The criteria could be very odd, as far as subject matter, materials and length of time are concerned, and when they first get this assignment most students are perplexed. It’s a way of getting them to be flexible and to find solutions.”
Over the years, Watcke has held more than 15 solo exhibitions of his photography, sculptures, drawings and paintings, and he’s been in more than 25 group exhibitions. In 2001 he was awarded Albright’s Dr. Henry P. and M. Paige Laughlin Annual Distinguished Faculty Award for Teaching.
Today much of his work incorporates manipulated photographic images that he uses to provide commentary on political and social issues. For a recent faculty show at the Freedman Gallery, for instance, he created a large installation in remembrance of everyone who had lost their lives in the war in Iraq up to that point. The piece took up an entire wall, and viewers were invited to express their own thoughts and feelings in a book that accompanied the exhibit.
While Watcke occasionally sells his work, he’s more likely to give it to local organizations to help them raise money. “When I donate something it tends to be specific to what the organization is about,” he says, citing a piece he gave the Humane Society. “It was a photographic work that had to do with the fact that animals and people may be different, but we’re all living, breathing entities, and we’re all part of this planet.”
When Kristen Woodward’s students come to see her they can’t be sure just where her office ends and where her studio begins. And that’s just the way she wants it.
“I have a studio at home, but
I also like to have some things
going here,” says Woodward,
associate professor and chair of
the department. “I feel that it’s
important for students to see that
I remain a practicing, working,
exhibiting artist, and that I face
the same kind of issues that they
Woodward teaches drawing, painting and printmaking, as well as interdisciplinary courses on Latin American graphic art and women in the
Woodward has received numerous awards and accolades for her work. In the past few years alone she’s earned Albright’s Dr. Henry P. and M. Paige Laughlin Annual Distinguished Faculty Award for Teaching; a Merit Award at the Mid-Atlantic National Juried Art Exhibition, d’Art Center, Norfolk, Va.; and Best in Show at the Hoyt Institute of Fine Arts’ national juried exhibition in New Castle, Pa.
Some people find Woodward’s work — which she shows at seven to 10 exhibitions a year — to be provocative and even controversial. Her submission for a group print show at Clemson University consisted of silicone intaglio images printed on maps of Iraq. Her solo show at Penn State Berks, opening in late February, is composed primarily of paintings on paper gun targets and other “found” paper such as lottery tickets and luggage tags.
Woodward doesn’t work with the intention of selling her pieces. For her, sales simply don’t matter. “You really have to believe in what you’re doing and believe it’s important, even if it doesn’t have a dollar sign next to it,” she says. “So being in a college environment that rewards creative production without necessarily emphasizing a marketable product has been a driving force for me.”
Exhibiting her work at numerous venues allows Woodward to convey some real-world lessons to her students, particularly in a 400-level course called“Professional Practices.” The course addresses such topics as placing a value on your work, promoting yourself, where to exhibit, how to work with galleries and commissioned work, and what should and should not be in a contract.
“They’re some of the things you usually have to learn along the way because they aren’t traditionally taught in school,” Woodward says. One of the most important lessons of all, she notes, is how to deal with rejection. “Dealing with rejection is such an important part of being an artist. If a certain venue rejects your work it doesn’t necessarily reflect the quality of the work, it just means that it wasn’t the right fit.”
As a student in a Brooklyn high school, Richard Hamwi felt a love for art that blossomed into a passion for teaching. Today he’s renowned for both.
Richard Hamwi, “Blue Mountain Lake,” 2007, watercolor and ink collage
Hamwi, assistant professor of art, works with watercolors and inks to create collages inspired by landscapes and other elements of nature. His work is at once stunning and delicate, and it’s earned him national acclaim.
Hamwi held his first one-person exhibit at the Parsons-Dreyfuss Gallery in New York City in 1976. Since then his works have been added to a number of important permanent collections, including the National Museum of American Art at the Smithsonian Institution, the Phillips Collection, and the Italian Permanent Mission to the United Nations. He’s held more than 30 solo exhibitions, and his work has been part of an impressive number of juried group exhibitions as well.
While he’ll occasionally sell a piece from an exhibition, that’s usually not his goal. “If I work for commission or plan to sell a piece it limits my creativity,” he says,“so I normally don’t work with that intention.”
At Albright, Hamwi teaches courses in drawing, design, watercolor painting and art education. He strives to inspire younger artists to follow in his artistic footsteps as both a practicing artist and a teacher of the arts.
“I feel that it should be a natural transition from being a good artist to teaching art,” Hamwi says. “Training to become an art teacher is beneficial to an artist relative to their art work, so I’m inclined to encourage art students to pursue teaching as a career. It’s as though you’re planting a seed that perpetuates others, and that’s very gratifying.
“One important principle I try to convey is that a good teacher always emphasizes the process, never the product,” he adds. “It should not be the goal of an art lesson to do a project that has a particular look; it’s more important for the students to enjoy what they’re doing.”
You may not see Gary Adlestein’s films at your local multiplex, but you will see them winning awards at museums, film festivals and exhibitions all across the country. And, thanks to Adlestein’s intimate knowledge of the process, students who’ve taken his filmmaking courses have a thorough understanding of how the big-budget productions showing at that multiplex were made.
Gary Adlestein, “Gaudi” (2006), Film
Adlestein co-produced his first film in 1975 and has made another 45 or so films and videos since. These personal and experimental projects have earned him unique credentials for teaching the art of filmmaking at Albright. “Working on films and videos enables me to present filmmaking from the inside,” says Adlestein, associate professor of English and art.
Adlestein’s work has been screened at many prestigious venues throughout the United States, including the Pacific Film Archives at the University of California – Berkley, Chicago Filmmakers, the Portland Museum of Art, the L.A. Film Forum and the Millennium Film Workshop in New York City.
He’s received a number of Director’s Citations and Director’s Choice awards at various film and video festivals around the country. Most recently, a work titled Gaudi won a Director’s Choice award for the 2007 Black Maria Film and Video Festival, which traveled to numerous venues. Adlestein says that the high point of his exhibition experience came in 2000 with a one-person (in-person) screening of his films and videos at the Museum of Modern Art.
Adlestein’s filmmaking classes are offered through the Art Department because, as he sees it, filmmaking is a visual art form that’s inseparable from painting, drawing, sculpture and photography.
One of his objectives in class is to develop his students’ appreciation of what they’re really seeing when they view a film. “I enjoy getting them to understand that there’s much more to a film than what they’re seeing on the screen. It’s quite rewarding when it clicks, when they become aware of the editing process,” he says. “Just the realization that the two people in a scene may not have been at the same table or even in the same city when they were filmed can be a revelation.”
Adlestein is also a member of Albright’s English Department, where he teaches contemporary poetry and 19th century English romantic poetry. Outside of class he serves as program director for Berks Filmmakers Inc., which he co-founded in 1975 to help showcase experimental films and videos.
|[ click here to read the web extra, "Art Becomes the Home"
by Marian Frances Wolbers, instructor in ESL ]
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