What is an Artist Teacher?


It’s Sunday evening and my first week (which is actually week 2) is over. I was intrigued by the sessions we had. Although I’ve just graduated from the exact department I am now studying in, and have the same teachers, I have no idea what they are saying. It’s as if my peers and teachers are talking an entirely different language that I haven’t quite learnt yet. It appears they also have a profoundly different way of looking at and being in the world. It seems that they question and unpick very abstract and tiny things that I haven’t even stopped to ponder. They question what has already been questioned many times before; and I’m just understanding what the original concept even means in the first place.

I turned up for my first class, unsure whether it was even taking place as I hadn’t heard a word from anyone. I had been told there was only four of us on the course but stumbled across a room of perhaps twenty students. Convinced this wasn’t my class I walked past, but soon realised it was! I joined them and unaware of the readings we were supposed to have read, Tara began to teach the session. We examined the concept of Artist Teacher (interestingly, I haven’t heard mention of any inquiry into what Contemporary Practices means as this is the second half of the MA title: Artist Teacher and Contemporary Practices). The way she taught made use of many teaching strategies. These included working actively individually, discussing in pairs and discussing as a class. We sat in a circle and had a large long sheet of paper on the wall which, after initial discussions introducing ourselves to our peers, we answered the following questions: who we are; what we think it means to be an artist; and a teacher; all pink, blue and black.

IMG_1122 IMG_1123 IMG_1124

It was good to get my ideas and thoughts out, and to see where everyone else is at; but I still don’t fully understand what Artist Teacher means, although, having just read: Being an Artist Teacher: A Liberating Identity? (Thornton, 2011) I have a better understanding.

‘Concept 1: An Artist teacher is an individual who practices making art and teaching art and who is dedicated to both activities as a practitioner.

Concept 2: A teacher of art is an individual dedicated to the artistic development of students who does not necessarily practice as an artist’ (Thornton, 2003: 120).

I also thought that a liberating way of thinking about the concept of Artist Teacher was summarised as follows:

‘There are teachers of art who feel uncomfortable because they are not making art. There are artist teachers who feel uncomfortable for not devoting themselves more to teaching. There are artist teachers who believe they can only function in both roles if they keep them separate. There are artist teachers who are concerned not to impose their own ideas as artists on their students. There are artists who work in residencies who are not sure whether to act as teachers or artists when working with students. Ther are artists who are determined never to teach for fear of loosing their identities as artists … No art teacher need feel inadequate if they are trying to teach art well’ (Thornton, 2011:35).

The next day I had my first Independent Studies module with Anna, which I’m still not sure how is different from Revisiting Practice. We began with a similar taught session, however, we didn’t have many opportunities to discuss amongst us what we thought about the concepts we were being introduced to. Instead it was mainly divided between Anna sharing her practice and the theory she wanted us to explore; and with us exploring our own interests, by individually drawing/writing/sketching however we wanted all the things that we thought were relevant to our practice. I also thoroughly enjoyed this task and it was so good to get my thoughts onto paper, although this was only the tip of the iceberg and I really look forward to finding some answers to many of my questions and making visual solutions too. This illustration shows three different sections. Inside the circle are many of the issues I’m interested in, including Zoroastrianism, India, Identity, Orientalism, the ‘other’… Around the circle are two layers which encompass my interests: 1) my identity as an artist 2) my identity as a teacher. To the left is a tree/flow/stream which shows where I am going. It shows that I am heading the same direction and following my life dream (perhaps of being an artist esp. singing/songwriting/performing). The branches represent some of the art projects that I’ve done as I’ve grown. The new shoots are new possibilities, not possible to determine and open to being shaped by weather, sun, wind – the elements. But essentially I am always heading the same direction, forward, higher and higher.


Thornton, A. (2003) Educating the Artist Teacher. Unpublished thesis, Chelmsford Anglia Ruskin University



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