There’s a mountain of evidence that arts education is valuable, even transformational, for all sorts of students, from young children
to inmates at Rikers
. It has been shown to improve emotional regulation, teamwork, and academic performance. Under the right circumstances, it can even act as a catalyst for social justice.
But flip the script: How does teaching influence teachers? Whether it’s critiquing an MFA painting class, giving a museum tour to a group of six graders, or leading a drawing workshop for developmentally disabled adults, working artists are often at the front lines of arts education. Many see teaching as a valuable practice, beyond simply a means of financial support. It may even shape how they approach their art practices. Below, six artists weigh in with the lessons they’ve learned from their work as educators.
Be More Adventurous
“Looking at the wild, inventive things my students created visually affected me,” says
, who became an artist to watch with her 3D painted reliefs of images culled from Instagram and makeup tutorials. Beavers taught in the New York public schools, first as a teaching fellow and later as an art teacher for elementary and middle school students. “Having ideas for my work percolating behind the scenes of the day-to-day of being an art teacher allowed me to be less precious about my ideas and more adventurous,” Beavers writes in an email. “I started thinking: Why not try it and see what happens?” It’s no surprise Beavers’s work is boundary-pushing and ambitious as she toys with the limits of painting as a medium.
Don’t Privilege One Practice over Another
Teaching has trained
to not privilege one practice over another. “Sculpture, painting, photography, video—I approach them with the same interest and attention,” she writes via email. “I look for the best artists in every field so I can tell my students about them. I think young artists should be vampires.” Minter, who has been teaching for around 30 years, is currently a professor at the School of Visual Arts in New York. Best known for her photorealistic paintings that evoke the fashion industry at a slant, the artist wasn’t initially so confident about her ability to engage her students. “Some of the students were the same age I was at the time, so why would they listen to me?” Her virtuosity provided the answer: “I showed a lot of technical tricks, and they paid attention!” “Pretty/Dirty
,” a retrospective spanning four decades of Minter’s career in video, photography, and painting, is currently on view at the Brooklyn Museum