The teaching I now do extends a classroom career that began at San Francisco State University (SFSU), where I oversaw the Inter-Arts Center’s (IAC) art education MA program. At the IAC, I was part of a program emphasizing “interdisciplinarity” across arts practices, among academic disciplines, and between the university and the world outside. Strategies of innovative collaboration within and among institutions were critical in this work. Later I assumed an arts deanship at De Anza College, during which I worked to introduce the “Learning Community” model for the entire college. In Learning Communities students enrolled in clusters of related courses (with titles like “Families and Migration” or “Earth and Environment”) to make studies relevant to lived experience. My De Anza work with veteran educators taught me more about teaching than any prior experience. Notably, at both SFSU and De Anza I was a key faculty member in digital media studies, expertise that factored heavily in my recruitment to Irvine.
At the UC Irvine Department of Art (formerly Studio Art, renamed 2102), I’ve worked with BA and MFA students, concentrating the last several years on our new “Visual Culture” series, which I originated and designed. These large undergraduate classes (350-450 enrollments) address critical thinking, identity performance, and globalization in what is for me a project of student empowerment and citizenship education. Receiving the department’s highest student evaluations for this work, I often am asked to address fellow faculty on innovative teaching methods.
My administrative endeavors as a chair, dean, and research director have been informed by my PhD work in educational leadership. As an artist/writer committed to critical pedagogy, I left the familiarity of the art world for a time to surround myself with K-12 teachers and principals. This “education” instilled in me the necessity of dialogue and collaboration in negotiating bureaucratic power relationships. In other words, I recognized how lofty ideals of democratic “theory” actually play out in practice. I learned that consensus requires conversation and that there is no substitute for face-to-face interaction.
These are tough economic times for our university. We should be able to articulate the benefits of creative enterprise: as engine of innovation, economic force, collaborative laboratory, historical record, philosophical model, community organizer, political instigator, emotional window, or therapeutic tool.