Teaching is risky business. Standing too long at the head of the class can stunt one’s growth. Hence the long-established practice within universities of sabbaticals. Getting out of the trenches to investigate the new and unknown is essential for all of us, but for teachers, even more so.
Two of the participants in Pilchuck’s 2009 Professional Artists-in-Residence program and also in the current Act 2 show at MoNA are not only teachers within our field , but also kiln-glass resource center owners. And if you think that running a teaching studio is a walk in the Art Park you might want to meet Judith Conway and Paul Tarlow.
Conway, who operates Vitrum, in Beltsville, Maryland just outside DC, (with partner Kevin O’Toole) and Tarlow, who runs Helios (with his wife, Karen) in Austin, Texas, head up some of the best commercial teaching programs for kiln-glass in the US.
Both programs are staffed by highly competent resident instructors while also hosting respected visiting artists of national and international stature. Conway and Tarlow both teach extensively themselves and refresh their curriculum with considerable research into new methods and products.
Conway’s investigations into reactive glasses have been ground-breaking and yielded some of the best course work in the field today. Tarlow’s internet presence is a constant source of invaluable and accurate (sometimes rare on the Web) material that he generously shares on his Fusedglass.org website.
I haven’t spoken to Judith or Paul about the challenges of running their teaching programs, but having been raised in a household headed by an overworked, underpaid, perpetually paper-grading, meeting-smothered university professor, I know first-hand the point at which love of the discipline starts to morph into faculty funk. If one is lucky, a sabbatical is close at hand.
That’s how I saw the Pilchuck residency for Conway and Tarlow. Looking at their latest work that followed upon their Pilchuck time, I’m increasingly convinced that Time Away – especially with peers – is critical to continued development in any field. The best teachers do it. It shows in the work – that is worth watching. Conway’s here. And Tarlow’s here.
PS. I’m delighted to see that Judith is again taking a few days away in June to join us in Portland for BECon 2011. Maybe if I needle Paul enough, he’ll consider another mini-sabbatical too.
Okay, Paul, have I convinced you?
PPS. As always, the great peeps-pic of Judith & Paul is compliments of our Surgeon with the SLR, Steve Immerman.