Passion is contagious. Aaron Smith , Adjunct Faculty , The Art Institute of San Antonio, a branch of The Art Institute of Houston
What would you say is the defining moment in your life when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?
I began my academic career in the field of archaeology, having been fascinated by the study of ancient cultures for as long as I can remember. My slight shift to the world of art history came when I held my first artifact—a small, hand-carved figurine from ancient Egypt. Observing its intricate detail, this fragile form sparked my desire to know more about the creation, context, and artistic value of the object itself. Through experiencing more works of art, my wider understanding of the interconnection between history, religion, literature, and art started to come into focus. Interest grew into passion, and passion is something worth sharing. Passion is contagious.
Is there a class assignment that exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring? Similarly, how does your approach inspire each student to push themselves beyond their own perceived limits?
During the first half of the term, students are given a series of weekly assignments that introduce them to the process of creating a formal analysis. These activities are designed to both introduce HOW to describe works of art and to investigate and apply WHY their cultural context is significant. Throughout this process, students develop the necessary skills that enable them to talk about art and appropriately apply these skills in the analysis of their own creative endeavors.
What role does collaboration contribute to students' success, especially when students from other programs contribute to the same project?
Student collaboration is an essential part of the course, from daily classroom discussion to their final group project. Every student brings with them a unique frame of reference through which they experience the world, and every interaction they have can help them critically evaluate their point of view, learn from the experiences of others, and grow to find deeper value in the works they create.
In your opinion, what is the single most important thing you impart to your students to help them succeed in your class and in the real world? Alternatively, what is the most critical advice you would offer any student as he / she embarks on a creative career?
You are never expected to walk out of the classroom loving every work of art and every art movement, but it is expected that you come in with an open mind willing to understand their value and significance. If you give it a chance, you might discover that everything is often more than it might first appear.