Goals, plans, structures, accountability, faith…
A couple of decades ago I worked as a sessional lecturer for the University of Saskatchewan, teaching visual arts in a multi-disciplinary introduction to fine arts course required for first year elementary education students, with eight or nine sections each year and up to 35 students in a section, more than 200 students each term. Because I was a sessional and not a real professor with real-professor privileges, I had no desk to call my own. Three times each week I carried in my backpack over the University Bridge everything required to give slide lectures and hands-on demonstrations, and to grade and return three assignments per term to each student.
Then one brief shining winter an unusually enlightened Associate Dean offered those of us who taught this course a better deal. For that year only, he could appoint us as eight-month term faculty instead of as sessionals. We’d be members of the Faculty Association. We’d have minimal benefits. We’d have access to some research funds. We’d have offices.
I loved that office. It was in a temporary trailer, with flimsy dividers between me and the nearest other term faculty member’s office, far away from any colleagues. All winter a cold wind whistled in around the building’s metal door. I had a phone and a place to grade assignments and write lectures. For eight glorious months I carried nothing on my back except my coat.
And I discovered the lure of having a ready-made role. As long as I stayed in the office, marking papers and reading books that might be useful for class content and wondering if a student would show up for office hours, I knew who I was. I didn’t have to create my identity out of nothing; there was no purpose to invent or work of my heart to be disdained. There would be no art either.
We all need to earn a living. We all have demands on our time. How do we go on making art anyway? We need awareness. We need goals, plans, structures, accountability, faith. We need support.
Soon I’m going to re-open and launch my private artist mentoring program. If you’d like to get advance notice so you can decide if my brand of long-time experience and keeping faith is the kind of support you need in your artist’s life, just put your email in the box on the right to receive blog posts. You’ll be the first to hear.
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