Without education, Fine art would be just fine

Lucas Deon (Luke) Spivey, Bird on a Road, 1992

As a UW School of Art alumnus, it was my dismay and the chagrin of countless others, to learn that the UW SOA phased out it's Art Education program long before we were able to attend it. The only two schools in the Seattle area that certify to teach with an endorsement in Secondary (High School) Art are Seattle University and Seattle Pacific University. The UW School of Art has also phased out its undergraduate programs in Interior Design, Printmaking, Metals and Fibers - the last three all within my term there. The steady funeral march of programs gave a somber feeling to the school and, to me, is indicative of many college art institutions' desire to leave craft and education and pull more towards design and "Fine Art".

This trend towards design and Fine Arts makes money sense; design is more lucrative than education, Fine Art more than craft (strangely, this last distinction is often determined solely by the asking price). But the net gain for our arts community is a wash at best; without decent, dare I say extensive and engaged, K-12 arts education, our college students show up with less knowledge and skills to apply themselves to what programs are still left.

How can we support college arts knowledge without a strong foundation in Junior and Senior High Schools? UW and other institutions that lack Arts Education programs cannot sustainably hoist up an arts community into thin air; not without ...

Tim Rollins and K.O.S., The Bricks, 1982-83

Enter Tim Rollins and his Kids of Survival, now showing at the Frye Art Museum. By ratcheting up their instruction, Tim Rollins and other art teachers have reeled in the slack and released art-educated teens into the world. For Rollins, the journey towards the front-lines of contemporary art began in the early 80's at Intermediate School 52 in the South Bronx. Soon Rollins and the K.O.S. began "demanding that their work be engaged first as fine art". One such project, The Bricks, was a series of reclaimed urban detritus depicting an environment that curator Ian Berry says "was literally on fire". (how?)

Arts Corps curating the Frye, I Wish I Knew Who I Was Before I Was Me, 2010

The K.O.S. show has been paired with a three-pointed effort called the Seattle Project. Arts Corps has a music and arts venture called I Wish I Knew Who I Was Before I Was Me, allowing youth to curate work from the Frye's collection. The Center School has fluffed the Frye's gift shop with new merch designed by and for youth (adults can wear them too). And Path With Art's exhibit Public Belongings is a film and photo duet eroding the myth of equal access in public art - who can truly access the art in our city, at what times, with which pathways and under what class privileges?

Isaac Layman?, Intellectual Property, 2010

Which leads into Intellectual Property: a collection of grabbings from art "intellectuals" brought into Seattle University's Hedreen Gallery for viewers to rifle through; this exemplifies the SU College of Education's commitment to art access and art education. So far, artists Matthew Offenbacher and Isaac Layman have ransacked the studies of Open Satellite and Hedreen Curator Yoko Ott and SU Art History Professor Ken Allan and delivered two bookcases of art publications and several potted plants to the public. This Robin Hood-ery continues until March and is a continuing gift to Seattle's youth et al. by providing access to an otherwise private art library.

Open access to art libraries, sculpture parks and suggested donations at museums are crucial steps towards an art-educated city. Seattle tops the list of literate U.S. cities; and when we make art-literacy a priority I hope we employ it to our youth as well.

Tim Rollins + K.O.S., Amerika (after Franz Kafka), 1984-85