Foundation Art Instructor
The Art Institute of Portland
The greatest joy and satisfaction comes from doing what you love, while appreciating the hard work it takes to get there. Renata Hoeckel , Foundation Art Instructor , The Art Institute of Portland
Was there a defining moment when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?
A seismic shift happened the first day of my first art history course, taught by a legendary professor. I’d heard his lectures were inspiring, but I had no idea until the lights dimmed and slides appeared on the vast screen behind him. By the second week, I thought this is what I want to do.
How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience?
Before I was an educator, I worked in the art industry at a large auction house, for a non-profit organization that commissions public art projects, and as a researcher and curator at museums and galleries. That experience gave me a unique perspective on the rigors of working in the industry. I tell students that the journey to becoming a professional begins here. I encourage them to behave as though they’re working for a client. When the work gets tough, I remind them that similar challenges await them in their careers—but the personal and professional rewards are immeasurable.
What class assignment exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring?
No stodgy, out-of-touch art history lecture courses here! I want students to draw connections to what it means to be an artist throughout history; how past artists’ experiences and struggles relate to their own fields of study. Rather than a traditional final exam or research paper, I give students a role-playing final project in which they create a “job application.” Students play the part of an artist from a period we study in class who’s applying for a lucrative commission. They design a presentation for a panel of “interviewers” (the class) that includes a discussion of four artworks that best represent their expertise; create a curriculum vitae highlighting their experience; and write a cover letter with detailed analyses of two works of art they’ve researched.
In what way do you inspire students to push themselves beyond their own perceived limits?
For many students, this is their very first class presentation. Some of them don’t think they can do it. There’s also the challenge of trying to role-play an artist who lived as long as 500 years ago. Finally, the class critiques the presentations...students are often apprehensive about shared feedback, even when it’s constructive. I meet with each student after their presentation, and I see a sense of accomplishment in many of them; they’ve overcome an obstacle, maybe the fear of presenting in front of an audience, and they’ve gotten a glimpse of what awaits them after graduation.
How does collaboration contribute to students’ success—particularly when students from various programs work together?
I sometimes ask students to talk with each other and reflect on how their programs relate to a particular work of art or concept we’re discussing in class. For example, in my Modern Art course, we discussed Louis Sullivan’s famous quip, “Form follows function.” I ask students to address how that applies to specific class artwork, then think about how they might apply it to their own work. Time after time, in their exchange of ideas, students are surprised how much their peers from other disciplines have in common.
What’s the most important thing you impart to students to help them succeed in class and the real world?
Embrace Foundation and the liberal arts as essential to your success as a designer. The deep, critical thinking and analytical skills you garner will give you an edge.
Anything else you’d like to share?
The greatest joy and satisfaction comes from doing what you love, while appreciating the hard work it takes to get there.