Thursday, April 25, 2013

Creating Authentic Community Through Art Classes

Last night, a session of my Mixed Media course ended.  I am feeling reflective and am experiencing some pangs of loss as this season ends.

Teaching and attending an in person art class is a unique experience.  It is a vulnerable process for both the students and the teacher because we see one another while our work is still "in process."  Brene Brown says that connection requires vulnerability.  I do believe that through allowing ourselves to be vulnerable in our class we are also allowing for true connectivity and the formation of a community.

One of my primary beliefs is that one way to grow as artists and human beings is to start where we are and to be brave enough to try new ideas or to keep going with the ideas we already have.    As we grow, we often experience awkward stages of imperfection, vulnerability and risk.  It is most helpful, when going through those phases, to have the support of an authentic community.

Specific praise helps to foster an authentic community.  Specific praise is a form of critique.  It is looking closely at the work of another person in the class and finding specific and positive things to say about the work.  We often ask questions while we are in this process.  Through this intentional process of looking deeply at the work of another, learning their process and finding specific things to offer encouragement about, we become more adept at noticing details of artwork and also more talented at speaking specific praise into our day to day life.  We begin to take on a new way of seeing artwork and the world, as we notice the efforts and perspectives of others on a deeper level.

Hearing specific praise also allows us to see ourselves and our work from a different perspective.  As artists we can get caught up in our own internal dialog.  The offering of a different way to think about our work can break through our self-talk and help us become more graceful with ourselves as we go through our growing pain stages.  We discover that while we might have been ready to dismiss something about our work, others can see value that we might have missed.

Speaking specific praise into the lives of others feels good. Each time we have spent a session sharing specific praise the group has bonded on a deeper level and we feel invested in the well-being of one another.  This authentic community is not an accident but is as purposeful a creation as our art pieces are.

As I prepare for my next classes I do so with great expectation and I look forward to helping to foster a deeper sense of community as well as teaching art techniques.

I am offering two courses.  One in Mixed Media and the other is Intricate Doodles.  More information is available here.  I am available to answer your questions at

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