Is De-Skilling Killing Your Arts Education?

July 30, 2014 9:53 PM

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Is De-Skilling Killing Your Arts Education?

In 1974, when I was a freshman art student at a small Midwestern liberal arts college in Wisconsin, I wanted to learn to draw the human figure. One untenured professor took me under his wing and encouraged that process, but the department chair, an alcoholic abstract painter, stumbled into the studio late one evening while I was studying a plaster head that showed the muscles of the face. He slowly looked at me, then at the head. "This is not art!" he screamed, lifting the cast high and smashing it on the cement at his feet. Pleased with his stirring defense of Western Civilization, he staggered out the door.

Over the years my representational painting colleagues have expressed many similar stories, some funny in retrospect, coming as they do from the lucky few who successfully survived the vicissitudes of our academic art institutions. My experience was by no means an isolated incident for me. Other pro...

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