I graduated less than a month ago, and my Dawson’s Creek intake has already reached dangerous levels. Since it wasn’t in my budget to sign up for an extra semester (again and again for the rest of my life), I’ve been researching adult art courses around Chicago. Here are some options I’ve found so far, for those who need a little kick in the pants to stay creative and productive in the summer months.
By far the most affordable option, Dabble.co features an array of one-off classes in everything from pasta-making to watercolors, usually at only around $15-30 per session. If you’re particularly specialized in your craft, you can even register to teach a course of your own. Dabblers can gauge course quality by reading past students’ reviews. The downside is that some of the courses are fairly short, only 1.5-2 hours, but that may be all you need to decide whether you love or hate crocheting.
Lillstreet Art Center in Ravenswood offers a great variation of adult art courses, including the standards like painting, drawing, and printmaking, but also harder-to-come-by offerings like metalsmithing and glass working. The Center also has a Digital Arts and Photography department which teaches courses in Illustrator, Photoshop, Lightroom and more. 5-week courses range around $160-175, and 10-week courses range about $330. One- and two-day workshops are also available.
Jewelry creations at Lillstreet Art Center. Photo from lillstreet.com.
Not far from Lillstreet Art Center, the Drawing Workshop facility focuses on traditional skills like figure painting, life drawing and color theory. For those not ready to commit to an intensive 10-week course ($295), the studio offers great drop-in figure drawing sessions with a live model on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights for only $15.
A figure drawing session at the Drawing Workshop. Photo from thedrawingworkshop.com.
I’ve heard rave reviews about Spudnik Press, and I’ll be attending the The Great Zine-Making Workshop ($10 suggested donation) this Thursday to check it out. In addition to cheap or free community workshops, Spudnik offers a wonderfully varied array of six- and eight-week classes ($150-200) and individual workshops ($35-55) around printmaking and indie publishing, including screenprinting, writing, letterpress and artist book design. Once you’ve taken a course that provides print shop orientation you’re also allowed to use the shop and facilities for a very reasonable day rate.
Printmaking at Spudnik Press. Photo from spudnikpress.org.
Like Lillstreet, Hyde Park Art Center features adult courses in an array of levels from Beginner to Advanced in an array of mediums including ceramics, photography, anatomy and figure drawing. 10-week courses ($285-305) are offered in the first summer sesion, followed by 5-week courses ($155) starting on July 29.
An advanced painting intensive at Hyde Park Art Center. Photo from hydeparkart.org.
I was recently guided to iTunes U, a pool of video lectures in the iTunes store, mostly free! This is an excellent resource, especially for those (like myself) who would be content to be professional students forever.
MacGregor notes that while Shakespeare the man is rather “nebulous,” historical ephemera can clue us into the mindset of the author and his audience. He illustrates his points with objects displayed in the British Museum’s current Shakespeare: Staging the World exhibit. Here are a few points which I found the most interesting.
F*ck Spain, Amiright?
In a world where Spain domineered exploration, England wanted the upper hand. And they succeeded, in a way, when explorer Sir Francis Drake realized that contrary to popular belief, the tip of South America did not connect to Antarctica, and the Strait of Magellan, heavily guarded by the Spanish, was not the only way to the Pacific from Europe. Drake’s discovery remained top-secret for a while, however, and many maps still depicted a Tierra del Fuego connected to Antarctica while Drake snuck into the world’s richest (Spanish-claimed) silver mine and helped himself for England.
MacGregor compares this nationalistic race around the world to the space race of the 1960’s. This air of patriotism certainly influenced the naming of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre; it was “a new world filled with things for England to take,” says MacGregor. Because that worked out so well for everyone. . .
Drake’s Circumnavigation Medal, showing his 1577-80 voyage around the world. The British Museum.
Who Will Succeed? A National Obsession
France was suffering a brutal civil war as a result of an heirless throne, and the husbandless, childless Queen Elizabeth I left many wondering if England may meet the same fate. The Pope’s 1571 denial of the Protestant Elizabeth as a legitimate ruler, and the potential Spanish (noooo!) claimant Philip II, added fuel to the fire.
Jesuits working under the Pope dressed as peddlers and gave secret Catholic masses in attempt to undermine the Queen and her Protestant agenda— MacGregor shows the audience a peddler’s trunk which doubled as a mass-express kit complete with a communion chalice.
Audiences already attended “public theater of cruelty,” says McGregor, in regular public executions of traitors, and the primary route to the Globe Theatre was across the London Bridge, where offenders’ heads on spikes greeted pedestrians. This is the aura of secrecy and conspiracy against the throne which birthed Shakespeare’s play “Julius Caesar” around 1599.
Peddler’s trunk containing necessities for Catholic mass. From the collection of Stonyhurst College, on exhibit at the British Museum.
Other Fun Facts
Theatergoers enjoyed lunch in the Globe, and Shakespeare, an excellent businessman, got a share of all the concessions (perhaps why he was the only poet of the era who could afford to be buried in the most expensive section of the Holy Trinity Church in Stratford). Evidence of figs and lots of shellfish have been excavated from the site, as well as money boxes and chamber pots (those plays aren’t short, and there were no breaks— when you gotta go, you gotta go!).
To watch “Objects of Concern: Some of the Things that Preoccupied Shakespeare’s Public,” go to “iTunes U” in the iTunes Store, select “University of Warwick,” and then “The Distinguished Lecture Series.”
Most of us can relate to the experience of facing the assumption that if we go to art school it means we’re not academic, or that our experience as a student won’t be an academic one. This assumption goes further than a potential misunderstanding of SAIC’s curriculum, but that having a studio practice is in itself a completely separate or oppositional endeavor to an academic practice. SAIC’s curriculum challenges many conventional attitudes about a studio practice, in part, because of it’s claim for an interdisciplinary structure. Students learn right away, starting in the first year Contemporary Practices program that artists are not only painters working in a studio. Conventional or traditional ideas about what an artist can be often ignore the fact that those who consider themselves artists don’t only produce objects for display, but can also be curators, writers, organizers, performers and teachers. Acknowledging the hybrid practice of artists can be a way of changing or informing how we think about other types of making. The Visual and Critical Studies department can be an exciting space to see how this blending of artistic practices can operate. While it houses many students engaging in research and writing based practices, it’s objectives as a department within SAIC are much broader. At the end of the spring semester I attended the undergraduate symposium for Visual and Critical Studies/Liberal Arts, where I learned more about how these academic departments function within the school.
The symposium was held April 20th in the Stock Exchange Room in the Art Institute of Chicago. Students graduating with a BA in VCS, a dual degree in VCS and studio, or BFA students who opted to write a thesis, presented their final projects. It certainly felt like a different experience than the BFA show, even though most of the presenters participated in both. Two large screens displaying the student’s PowerPoint presentations flanked an elevated podium where each presenter addressed the audience of between, depending on the hour, 50-100 attendees. While in many ways formal, it still felt different than traditional academic symposiums more common at other universities. Some of the students veered away from an academic presentation. Kekeli Sumah, for example, performed a DJ set to a prerecorded audio track of his presentation. Eric Davis used the 10 minute time slot to read the contents of a gossip magazine, and Hiba Ali performed a script with two other performers.
The kind of research that went into each paper was also broad. Quinn Keaveney presented a left-handed typeface he designed, which involved varied research but resulted in an artistic product in addition to a written paper. Yet other students were more academic and traditional in their topics and delivery. Blake Daniels spoke about binary categorization of identity in the Caribbean, and Elliott Mickleburgh who spoke about Metamodernism.
In an interview, VCS advisor Terry Kapsalis resisted the categorization or opposition of academic versus artistic. She quoted VCS professor Joseph Grigely to say that VCS is not a discipline, it’s a practice. She said many of the students view their research or writing practice the same as they do their artistic making practice, and that VCS can act as a “hub of interdisciplinary activity” where students’ multiple practices, such as curating, artistic production, organizing and writing overlap.
SAIC may not be academic in the traditional sense, however, students of the school are a testament to the range of ways artists and academics can produce work and engage. For art students at SAIC who are learning to be critical thinkers and producers of all kinds, the opposition between artistic/academic should feel misguided our outdated. The symposium acted for me, instead, as a reminder that my conceptions and expectations for both can stretch without losing the quality of either.
I’m not really sure how many people watch Strip Search — the YouTube numbers aren’t super high, considering, and my husband and I have a skewed view of what is popular based on our own obsessions. But the webcomic creator reality competition conceptualized and Kickstarted by the Penny Arcade team is surprisingly heartwarming and highly addictive. The challenges are always fun, and the competitors’ mutual supportiveness is a refreshing detour from reality TV’s usual pandering drama — “Everyone is here to make friends” is the header of the show’s About blurb.
Anywho, I wanted to dedicate this post to the competitor I’m now rooting for, Abby Howard of Montreal. Any of the talented artists are deserving of the prize, but Abby is a goofball and is awesome. And more importantly, despite being only 20, her comics sort of remind me of a raunchier Kate Beaton.
Here’s the strip she made in her first elimination challenge, responding to the themes (competitors draw two words out of a trash bin) “Naughty” and “Mystery”.
Her second elimination challenge strip made extraordinarily innovative use of the ideas “Cats” and “Cars.”