25 February 2014

The Academy Program: What if You Never Had to Take an Art Class Again?

The Academy Program (at Glen Kessler Studio) begins in April 2014, in Rockville, Maryland and is currently enrolling students. It offers a structured, comprehensive curriculum to fine artists who are looking to advance their skill from the fundamentals to mastery level over three years, with weekly meetings. The program aims to provide a guided and unified studio art experience, foundation in art history and theory, as well as professional experience for artists, who might otherwise be trying to attain these goals by taking classes at different institutions without an organized curriculum at hand.

"By its conclusion students will have a profound mastery of painting techniques, a knowledge of anatomy, perspective, art history and art theory, and have developed a thesis body of work that can catapult them to a professional career in the arts," says program founder Glen Kessler, a classically trained professional artist with teaching experience and an understanding of contemporary methods.

Classes will be held in Kessler's studio at Capitol Arts Network (12276 Wilkins Ave, Rockville, MD 20852), a nonprofit arts center offering artist residencies and art classes. 

1. How many students and instructors can participate?

Each section has between 4-6 students.  It's important that that number stay low, so each student can receive nearly individual attention throughout the course.

I will hire as many instructors as we need to satisfy demand for classes. The first round of instructors I am in the process of hiring are some of the finest painters and teachers in this area. Each possesses the unique combination of master-level technical skill and an appreciation of how to use that skill in the service of contemporarily relevant artwork.

In addition to myself, classically trained at the New York Academy of Art but passionately interested in modern art (see my work at www.GlenKessler.com), I can tell you about one other instructor who has been hired to start later this year, Marjorie Forgues. Marjorie has studied and worked alongside some of the greatest technical artists of our era: Robert Liberace, Nelson Shanks, Ray Kaskey. I am very pleased to have her on board (see her work at www.MarjorieAndJessica.com).
2. Is it a fine arts program? Is there a specific style, in which the students will be taught?

It is primarily an oil painting program, and realism is our focus, at least at the beginning. The course builds from the basics of rendering, through historical painting methods, to anatomy and perspective, literal and metaphorical storytelling, and finally, to a thesis body of work. 

We cover art history and art theory as well, so that students will have a firm understanding of where they come from, and where they are now in the grand history of art-making.

In the end, students are free to paint however and whatever they like, but with the great resources of knowledge and confidence that this course endows them.

3. How does it compare with an accredited program?

This program does not purport to offer a degree or any sort of certification. It is about the accumulation of knowledge. The Academy Program is a natural evolution of my observations about teaching adults in this area.

This idea arose from the observation that most of the open-enrollment painting students I have seen cobble together lessons in a random, piecemeal fashion over years (and years) of study with a number of instructors, in a number of different classes, and with varying levels of satisfaction. Progress can be slow, since most simply repeat the same success and failures over and over again.

Wouldn't it be nice to have someone arrange all the necessary information into a single curriculum with no holes and no overlapping? Everything building from square one up to master level? 

Comprehensive and efficient. That's The Academy Program.

4. What is the scope of the connection with Capitol Arts Network?

The course will take place in a large studio I have rented at the Capitol Arts Network (CAN) building at 12276 Wilkins Avenue, in the Twinbrook area, in Rockville, MD. It is not a CAN-run event, but rather a product of the Glen Kessler Studio, whose operations run out of CAN. Enrollment is through Glen Kessler Studio, at GlenKessler.com and GlenKesslerArt@gmail.com.

5. According to you, what is the most important skill an artist needs to learn?

There is no single most important skill an artist must know. Artists must possess a mastery of craftsmanship (in whatever mode they work), deep concepts of relevance to the world, and a personal connection to their work and process, or else it will be unsustainable over a lifetime. 

In addition, artists must appreciate that they are not just the manufacturing arm of their operation, but also the CEO, CFO, CIO, CTO, PR department, and sales force of their own personal company. An inability to learn how to handle the business side of being an artist can be just as challenging to an artist's success as having poor craft or weak concepts. 

In The Academy Program, students will be challenged to master ALL aspects of what it is to be an artist. We will visit galleries, they will be encouraged to apply for shows, learn how to develop a professional portfolio, and even how to organize the information they know into a teaching curriculum of their own. These are all things I have had to pick up in dribs and drabs over 20+ years as an artist. I aim to help my Academy students possess them in just three.

6. How is the curriculum organized? Is the history and theory component tied into the studio component? (Will the instructors in these fields be studio artists or primarily historians? Will they be lecturing or somehow incorporating an idea into a studio lesson? Is there homework? How many hours can students expect to devote to the program on a weekly basis, both in and out of class? Will they be exposed only to a western art tradition or also other traditions?)

The art history and theory elements are indeed woven into the the studio practice. The instructors are studio artists, although they understand art history well and will present it in usable terms for the students: from a perspective of how artistic movements are created and the elements that define those movements arise. This is not about memorizing dates or what museum holds what painting. Some art historical periods will be examined more closely through working in that period's method (Renaissance, Baroque, Neo-Classicism). 

Weekday, daytime classes may even get the privilege of painting inside the National Gallery of Art, copying a master work directly from the original (I was a copyist for years and consider this one of the best ways to truly understand an artist's methods and life). 

In addition to the 3-4 hours in class each week, students are expected to work an additional 6-10 hours per week practicing and embellishing the week's lesson (more time is not a bad thing either). 

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