Week 2 “The Artist’s Role”

Purpose:  Start to dissect the role of the artist, personal values and artistic practice as a research method.

Lesson Outcomes
  • Hone individual assessments and perspectives on the role of an artist within a wider societal context, and illustrate those contributions to their peers.
  • Gain insight about art, the artist, and the contemporary art world and assess the mechanisms and practices of art’s role in society regarding political, sociological, and philosophical theories of art, culture, class distinction and cultural capital.
  • Be able to dissect the structure of their artistic practice and its consequence in dialogue with the art world.
  • Engage and cultivate habits of critical self-reflection upon their practical experiences in the visual arts sector, informing their agency, influence, and civic responsibilities.

  • Assignment Review (10 minutes)
    Reflection Journals, first journal specifically – show prompt on Goals, Project Plan/Outline
    Course Blog Partnership Area (how to categorize – show online)
    Give details on poster presentation requirements, purpose and blog handout
    Ask students if timelines are working, contact has been made, and any further information if partnerships are not running as expected

Reading Discussion & Activities

What is an artist?  (20 minutes)

Warm up and framing. Only instruction is “Draw an artist.”  Gallery walk. Discussion questions: what is depicted? How many females are represented in the collective drawings? How many Males? People of color? What age? How many people drew one person? How many people drew a community? How many are iconic figures? What did you think about when you were drawing?

“Role of the Artist” ReadingS:
  • Ann Hamilton Making Not Knowing from Learning Mind: Experience Into Art p.66-73
  • Excerpts from AKADEMIE X:  Lessons in Art + Life 2015 (7 pages)
  • James Elkins (Ed) What do Artists Know? 2012 (3 pages)
  • Michael Schwab (Ed) Experimental Systems: Future Knowledge in Artistic Research 2013 (Not required)

Group Discussion (15 minutes)

1.      As a group, come up with 5 different words (or combination of up to 3 words serving as a point) that would succinctly recount Hamilton’s description of the artists role, or work method?.
Possible answers:  counterweight to power, responsible, not ignorant, engagement and response, recognizing, permissive “not knowing”, trust, empathy, knowledge in suspension, practice, life of making, questions more than answers, active state meandering, not-acting action, good for nothing!, Art just is, acts of resistance, resist measurement, categorically in-between, dialogue, acts that amplify, butterfly effect, change, revolution, imagination, possibility, experiment, seekers with no past, etc..

2.     From the various excerpts, what types of roles do the artists articulate as their purpose or reason or habitual practices of or for ‘making’?

Personal Values Reflection (20 minutes) time permitting

1.     1 minute written reflection on personal frame of reference, 1 minute written reflection on how you came into art.

2.     Share frame of reference/values reflection with a partner, hear each others stories/backgrounds and how it influences their vision on art.

3.     Inventory and reflection on personal values. Where do your values come from? How do they influence your day to day activities?

4.     Discussion on values: what are the values of an artist? What is society’s value of art? How do your values influence your interpretations of art? Do you see yourself as an artist? Why or why not? What is your place in the art world?

5.     Looking ahead to your placement: free-write exercise to surface embedded assumptions. Ask students what are you anticipating might happen during your placement?

** Students hand back values inventory, free-write, and other activities. Items will be returned to them for reflection and final thoughts at the end of their placement

Break from 10:55-11:10am


Secret envelope exercise (20 minutes)

Distribute, administer and collect envelopes with leading question of the artists’ role in society.

Framing: The purpose of this activity is to reflect on the ideas about the relationship between the artist, local art community, and society presented in the readings and to form some initial impressions and opinions on these ideas in relation to their own creative practices. It is intended to be a snap shot of this moment in time – a spontaneous written response that can be reviewed and reflected upon again at the end of the term.  Responses will be turned in but not graded.  On a piece of paper, please answer these questions as openly and honestly as possible.  Once you are finished answering it, please put it in the envelope.  At this point in time and informed by your experiences and studies, what would you define as the artists’ role in society?

The role of the artist in society (ego, id, super-ego)

1.  How do you feel dominant ideologies define the artist and the artists’ role in society?
2.  What do you as an artist yourself, experience and feel the role of the artist in society is?
3.  In your highest ideals, what do you believe/wish for the role of the artist in society to be?


(20 minutes) lecture to prepare students on differences between gallery types for next week’s reading discussion.  Will go through Vancouver gallery community to illustrate, namely:  Public, Commercial, Artist Run, Membership, Community, Private, Project Spaces, etc…


You are to come up with three goals for yourself in regards to the project to be posted in your Connect Journal due September 25th (before class, by 9am).

1.     PERSONAL – How might this experience inform my identity as an artist and/or arts professional? What personal characteristics do I hope to better understand and develop through this experience?

2.     ACADEMIC – What histories, theories or models do I hope to learn more about? What knowledge do I hope to gain about studio practice?

3.     PROFESSIONAL – What skills do I hope to gain through this experience that will help me in my art (or future) career? How can I ensure this experience allows me to gain the skills I need to embark on a career in the arts?