Share Document is a collection of writings on design, edited by Clifton Burt and Nicole Lavelle, and published by Ampersand on the occasion of Design Week Portland 2013. The book is available for purchase here. With big thanks to the editors and contributors, we’re sharing the essays that were published last year here on the blog.
Ten Lessons Graphic Designers Learn That Every Artist Should Understand
By Jen Delos Reyes
I have spent the past five years co-directing an MFA program at Portland State University focused on art and social practice. The program is based on a foundation of access, community, collaboration and engagement. It values and acknowledges multiple forms of knowledge, and embraces an interdisciplinary approach to contemporary art. The mantra of the program could easily be that art and social practice starts and ends not in rarefied spaces, but out in the world. The program educates and activates students to develop and utilize their artistic skills to engage in society. It is the kind of learning that creates engaged citizens.
I believe that the fairly recent interest in and proliferation of art programs that focus on what is being referred to as either art and social practice, public practice, or community arts is in part because these programs propose not only alternate forms of sustainability for an art practice outside of market constraints, but promote the multitude of ways artists can function in the world. However the majority of these programs are at the graduate MFA level only, which is highly problematic.
I believe that an artist’s relationship to and placement in society should not be an area of specialization, or afterthought, but instead a core component of the education of all artists. Because I believe that all artists need to contemplate and consider context, publics, and relationships, I have recently been making the argument that art and social practice needs to be taught at a foundations level. As much as artists are pushed to develop craft and hone in on concepts, they should be thinking about context, publics, and social function. This should be the basis of all art education today.