School of Art
From the Artistic Director
Artists need other serious artists if they are going to exceed their individual possibilities. For almost every artist, conviction without meaningful dialogue has critical limitations. That genuine exchange among serious artists is precisely what I have aimed for in developing the Chautauqua School of Art over the past 29 summers. Everything about the structure of the program—the faculty invited to participate, the students selected, even the layout of the studios—is geared toward that end.
Describing an underlying sensibility held by a diverse group of students and faculty is difficult. However, there are common threads in terms of the artists, young and old, who have associated themselves with this program. One unifying characteristic is a belief in stepping outside the confining box of what one already knows.
Consistently the artists here have had faith in both tradition and in discovery. At the same time, they have believed that tradition for its own sake, as well as novelty for its own sake, are hollow – each devoid of meaning without the other. Matisse once wrote that “When an artist doesn’t know how to prepare for the time of flowering, by work which bears little resemblance to the final result, he has a short future.”
Matisse also said that “When an artist who has arrived fails to get back to the soil from time to time, he begins to go around in circles, repeating, until by this very repetition, curiosity is extinguished.” These two notions form the core of what the artists at the Chautauqua School of Art attempt to bring together during two intensive months every summer.
The School of Art offers serious young artists a chance to give themselves over to a sustained period of exploration. The emphasis is on a period of study in depth with a limited number of selected instructors and a close-knit group of students. Repeatedly students have commented that one thing they realize during the summer is that it takes several weeks of intense involvement for the work, the ideas and the experience to ferment, and by the second half of the summer things really begin to come together. For this reason, the program does not compromise the length of the session, nor does it permit part-time study.
The studio program is enhanced by a variety of outstanding visiting artists who contribute to the overall experience, and students may sign up for critiques with any of the 20 or more full-time faculty and visiting artists who participate in the program during the course of the summer. However, beyond critiques, the focus is on concentrated study with the resident faculty. “I learned more about art and myself in two months here than in two years in college,” is a statement heard repeatedly at the end of the summer. This is because the concerns here are different – the emphasis is on continuity of experience and rigorous exploration and study in the students’ major areas, where they are usually working from 9 a.m. until midnight. Students and faculty live on the grounds of the Institution. They get to know one another well. They eat together, work together in the studios every day, talk with one another about their work whenever they’re out of the studios – there is a communal nature to the collaborative dialogue that develops – a sense of common struggle and shared experience.
The faculty at Chautauqua, though often nationally recognized and always highly respected, is selected, before anything else, because of their deep-rooted conviction that art is a lifelong process of education—a rigorous grounding combined with persevering exploration. It is this conviction that provides art students with a genuine educational experience in the midst of an extremely complex art world—an experience that, while not alienating students from that world, allows for the kind of commitment, awareness and authenticity to also see beyond it. In the end, students often find a connection, support one another on a deep level, and collectively exceed their individual possibilities.
Advisory Council to the Artistic Director
- Denise Bibro, Director, Denise Bibro Fine Art
- Michael Gitlitz, Director, Marlborough Gallery
- Judy Glantzman, Artist, rep. Betty Cunningham Gallery, NYC
- Glenn Goldberg, Artist, rep. Jason McCoy, NYC
- Louis Grachos, Executive Director Austin Museum of Art
- Donald Kuspit, Distinguished University Professor, SUNY Stonybrook
- Sharon Louden, Artist, rep. Patrick Heide Contemporary, London
- Barbara Rose, Art Critic/Historian
- Robert Storr, Dean, Yale School of Art
- Stephen Westfall, Artist/Critic, Art In America
- Julian Zugazagoitia, Director, Nelson-Atkins Museum