hey, this is a send out to those who know what this semester was for me. A taste of small, private art school. I sent this to my professors and some other uppers in the school. It's a reminder as well to never be afraid to take action and don't always think those above you in the system are right. Disclaimer: there are my personal views and do not intend to reflect any opinion, bad or good, of the education provided at KCAI.
One of the greatest advantages of the Kansas City Art Institute over other institutions is the close faculty to student ratio, and how it allows for close relationships and an individualized program. Throughout the course of this semester, Fall 2006, and especially during my final review and evaluation I felt unheard and incredibly insulted personally and professionally. I am writing this letter to make up for my not being prepared to defend myself and my work in my review. I have worked harder and accomplished more this semester than ever before, in school and life.
College is a journey, within which a lot of changing and growing takes place. I never would have arrived at this significant point in my work had it not been for the previous three years at KCAI. As I grow, continuing to make the same work feels dishonest and forced, regardless of outside opinions. The conflict I felt between the work the department wanted me to make and the work that I wanted to make left me confused and frustrated. This frustration with the department as well as my work led me to a point where my only goal was graduation so I could get on with my life. However, with the help of friends, family, and mentors, I realized my other options and ways of using this school and my education to help me become the person and citizen I wanted to be. I realized there is a lot of work to be done beyond your major. I am a Community Arts and Service Learning student, a Youthfriend volunteer, an intern with Susan Lordi Marker, an intern at the Don Bosco Senior Center, as well as incredibly immersed in liberal arts. Also within this semester I have been through the grueling application process, and further, been accepted and nominated, for the Peace Corps in Morocco. I think it incredibly unfortunate that in part of my senior review and evaluation I have been accused of being anything less than professional or unable to bring my work to an audience, as that is exactly what I have focused on this year.
After much deliberation and investigation, I decided to master the techniques and processes I find most valuable, weaving and the study of fiber properties. Within the simple, ancient act of weaving I realized my connection to my own culture and history. My work comes from a place before Modernism, before the split between the artist and everyday life. It is only a very modern perspective of art that the concept behind the piece is more important than the piece itself. While this perspective is characteristic of our time, I find it trite and prejudiced. I think the following quote from Lonely Planet Morocco describes my quest best, “... the artistic scene in Morocco is an enigmatic blend of love and duty . . . artisans are not afforded the same luxury of passion as artists of the Western world whose craft is their voice. Here, the Moroccan artisan is a survivor first and creator second and craftsmanship is not viewed as an art but as a trade. This is not to minimize the emotional value of the work – most artisans are practicing crafts that have been the core of their family identity for generations and they are deeply proud to continue that legacy.” These scarves are gifts for very specific people in my life. Half of this project is the making, the other half is the giving. I am so excited for that moment when the recipients of my gifts receive them, knowing they will look at them entirely differently from those of the art world. My series is the concluding work of a four year journey, leading to the “real world,” but more importantly, where I want to be in that world.
My work is utilitarian, well crafted and beautiful. Art for me at this point must serve a purpose. I have felt from this department a pressure to have more meaning and concept behind the work than actual, tangible work. From that standpoint, my work might reference a Tallit, rectangular Jewish prayer shawls, received and worn at certain important events, and how I feel about my own Jewish identity, never having worn one. Or a Hijab, the covering many Muslim women wear over their heads and how I feel about the possibility of being required to wear one while working in Morocco. While my work might evoke such feelings, these thoughts are not the work; the work is tangible, simple, but profound. Just because I am no longer suffering doesn’t make me less of an artist capable of making important and meaningful work. Just because these scarves don’t have faces and figures on them doesn’t mean they don’t possess my identity.
In response to my review, I feel I have been unfairly evaluated on several accounts. Firstly, as I have previously discussed, my work is not only utilitarian and beautiful, but also quite meaningful if you take the time to understand my approach to art. While I agree that scarves could be made at home, I hope I have now conveyed to you that my series is much, much more than “just scarves.” While each project is an exploration of color, texture, and fiber combinations, and they happened to be composed in a format that will be used to keep necks warm, what they represent goes beyond their function. However, their meaning is not meant for an audience in the conventional “art world” sense.
Another area in which I believe I have been unfairly reviewed is my professionalism, in particular, documentation of my work. I requested to not be required to include slides of my work for two simple and valid reasons: I could not afford it and I had no need for slides. While I am quite capable of making slides, as I have entered in and been selected for various shows and competitions which require them, at this point in my life and in the foreseeable future, I have no need for them. I am entirely capable of any and all of the requirements of a professional portfolio, all of which I learned how to do outside the Fiber Department. I approached ----- with my issues with slides, and he personally encouraged me to defy the requirements and do what I wanted, and yet my grade was still lowered because of their absence. This is a very important series to me and I have been documenting every step I take, from raw material, to the dyeing process, measurements and calculations, the actual weaving, etc. the process of this series is the most important point of documentation.
I do apologize for my lack of communication to the department as to what I was doing. The reason for that was my previous bad experiences with doing so. In the past when I have tried to share my process with different faculty members, they continuously tried to change my ideas before I was even finished forming them. My experience has been that members of this department involve themselves much too personally to be of any objective help. While I have had to work alone without much guidance, I have completed more work this semester than ever before; I am constantly in an investigative study, research and making. I don’t pretend to have it all figured out, and I don’t know exactly what my senior show will look like, but I wholeheartedly believe in the work I am doing. Allow me the time to keep working through it and I will.
While my plans for after graduation may not be conventional for an art student, I will be using my fiber art education in many great ways. I have felt so disrespected and unsupported, essentially, tossed to the side this semester and I hope my last semester will be different. So I ask you, please put aside for a moment your own definition of art and what you think I should do and what the work isn’t, and actually listen and look at what it is. I listened to every opinion given for three years, I have my own now, and confidence enough in myself to know what is right for me.
Thank you for your time,