Is Teaching Art Making Art?

I am almost finished with my first semester as an Adjunct Professor of Art History, and I find myself preparing for class in ALL of my spare time, instead of finishing the drawing that’s laying on my worktable, or planning my next painting, or even organizing my studio. Yes, I am only teaching one class, but I still have a full-time job too, and not a lot of leisure time.

So I wonder: if I have effectively stopped making art in order to teach art, can I consider teaching an art form?

Harriet Powers' Story Quilts

Harriet Powers’ Story Quilts

Teaching has brought home to me how hard my own teachers were working all of those years while I took them for granted.  And it reminds me how amazing all art is, and how wonderful my dedicated students are when they bravely speak up in class to give their newly-formed opinions about the art at which we’re looking.

During this semester, while I’ve been teaching the History of Women in the Arts, I have been delighted to be able to show Jackie Winsor’s work (lovely, caring, and ground-breaking teacher of mine from SVA), and Yayoi Kusama’s installations (like the Fireflies on the Water which enthralled me at the Whitney).

Yayoi Kusama in the Fireflies

Yayoi Kusama in the Fireflies

In addition, I learned so much while teaching: about Renaissance artists Artemisia Gentileschi and Sofonisba Anguissola; about Harriet Powers, who started her life as a slave and ended as an acclaimed quilt artist, and Faith Ringgold, who continues quilt story-telling to this day.  I learned about Ana Mendieta, who made beautiful and poignant ephemeral art before her untimely death.  I learned that Louise Bourgeois is always good for a chuckle AND a serious discussion.

Sofonisba Anguissola

Sofonisba Anguissola

I learned a lot about teaching, too:  If my students miss a class, it’s not personal to me.  If they don’t laugh at my jokes, it is.  I know it is impossible to cover everything I want to talk about. It is difficult to end right on time when I am lecturing and encouraging discussion. When in doubt, ask a question.  When in personal crisis, show the PBS Art21 video about Janine Antoni, Kara Walker, or Cindy Sherman.

I am grateful to be able to say that Three Rivers Community College has offered me the same class for next spring.  I’m also hoping for a new class to teach this fall.  It’s rewarding and addicting.  I will miss my students when the term is over.

And I’m planning on making art this summer.  Really.