Brian Alfred / Statement
My teaching practice as an assistant professor in the drawing and painting area has grown and evolved since my first semester at Penn State. In my first few years of teaching, I looked deep within to as a way to connect to the students. As I myself am a graduate of Penn State’s School of Visual Art, I used my own personal experience as a roadmap in teaching students. I looked at successful patterns in my own learning experiences to inform my interactions with them. Drawing on one’s own experience and knowledge can be a direct and deep resource for guiding students on their path forward. In my time since, I feel that I have been able to connect my personal experience and my first hand path with the outside, post-school world. As my confidence working with students grows I am able to layer experiences from outside the school environment and connect the two.
This connection has been enriched by a simultaneous shared experience I have fostered through my curating and conversations with other artists. While maintaining my exhibitions and personal artwork, I have been finding the value and substance of making connections with other artists and people in my field. This connecting thread has helped me become a more thoughtful and experienced teacher. To be a great teacher, I feel you must spend a great amount of time dedicated to learning. I believe that teaching is hinged on the ability to communicate effectively in many ways. Through my work on my podcast, I have been in a continual state of learning, reflection and consideration.
While extending my practice outside of the studio in these ways can have a great effect on my personal perspective, it is essential that that bridge is created and strengthened with the students. One way I have done this is invite artists to share their experiences directly in conversation with the students via video conferencing. I have used this more and more in the last year as a direct communication line between students and working creative professionals that I feel is an invaluable asset to their thinking about being a creative professional in the future. I have also asked them to listen to interviews, read articles and create responses to their work. I have also created a mini gallery in my office showcasing student work alongside established artists. This small gesture gives the students a sense that they can hang with anyone and forces a dialog between their work and the work of their established peers.
I have worked with students in my classes, through independent studies, graduate students, non-majors and pretty much any student that asks for my advice and/or input. In each case, I have come to realize the effect of a personalized approach to understanding each student’s drive and goals and establishing an individual set of questions, ideas and challenges to motivate and support them in their learning. A main tenant of successful teaching in the arts is the individual input you can impart to the students. It’s this kind of learning that, although difficult to quantify, is immeasurable in its positive impact on instilling a sense of support, confidence and motivation in students.
Overall, I have attempted to migrate from the insular shared experience of being in the Penn State School of Visual Arts, to the bridge between that experience and becoming successful as the students move into the next phase of their life. Being here for the last four years, I am starting to be able to see that manifest itself through our past graduates.
In the past year I have had a number of exhibitions exhibiting my artwork including a solo exhibition at my New York City representing gallery, Miles McEnery Gallery entitled ‘Future Shock.’ It was reviewed in Art News and Black Book and a painting from the show was acquired by the Weisman Museum which currently has it on display in the new acquisitions collection. I was also included in the group show ‘Belief in Giants’ at Miles McEnery Gallery, a group show about works on paper at Studio La Citta in Verona and a second one at the same venue about Architecture, I showed collages in an exhibit at the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, I showed work at the Seattle Art Fair and Art Expo Chicago with Miles McEnery Gallery, my new animation L I G H T was included in a group show at the Garrison Art Center, I am participating in two group shows in Tokyo, one at Kotaro Nukaga and one at Maho Kubota Gallery and I will be doing an artist talk in conjunction with the Nukaga exhibition.
I was able to share and engage my work and ideas in various arenas in the public realm. I created and hosted a month long series at the Apple Store in Williamsburg, Brooklyn where each week I did a live discussion with an artist in front of the public audience. These conversations included top artists working today from Robin F. Williams to Diana Al-Hadid. I spoke on a panel at the Apollo Theatre that explored the modern day visual artist in the music, theater and entertainment industries. Panelists shared how they transform performance spaces into visual experiences and how these experiences have shaped their careers and changed the field. In addition, they advised young artists on the skills needed to manage a career in the arts and establish themselves in nontraditional spaces. The panel was moderated by Lauren Kelley, Director and Chief Curator at the Sugar Hill Children's Museum of Art and Storytelling in Harlem, New York. I participated in a discussion with the artist Matthew Craven at PS1 for the Artist Book Fair at PS1 MoMa I hosted a panel discussion at Hunter MFA in Tribeca on the life and work of Robert Reed.
I performed along side my colleague, Rudy Shepherd, at the Spring Break Art Fair as part of his performance piece. I created four large collage works for NYU Hospitals which is now on view in their new facilities on the lower east side. I created another two public murals for the Rag & Bone store on Houston and Elizabeth streets. I am currently working with San Francisco based tech company UNITY on a virtual reality piece of my artworks. I made two new editions for Maharam Digital Projects which ended up in my artwork being part of a coffee shop in Seattle and a public mall in Canada. I performed live animations at Elsewhere in Brooklyn for Logan Takahashi. I made artwork for Grimm Ales, one of the top independent breweries in the US. I was also interviewed by The Studio Visit and discussed my process and show. I also contributed a written piece on the work of Jo Baer for the web blog Painters on Paintings.
One of my proudest achievements continuing is the development, release and success of my podcast SOUND & VISION, where I speak with contemporary artists and musicians about the creative process. Not only was the project featured in the first couple of weeks in iTunes as a New & Noteworthy podcast, but it was also featured in the Visual Arts section as a Noteworthy podcast and consistently is in the top 50 Visual Art podcasts in the world. I just reached the three-year anniversary and have done over 155 podcasts. The podcast reached number one in the iTunes visual arts rankings and gained sponsorship from Golden Paints and The New York Studio School. It was covered in a feature in the Big Ten Network. It was featured in the Modern Art Notes Podcast, hosted by art historian Tyler Green, as the number one listened to podcast by their listeners. It was also featured on the art review blog Painter’s Table. The best part about it is how much positive response I have received for it from all over the world, and most importantly from our very own students who find these discussions so informative and valuable as young students.
In the School of Visual Arts I have continued my efforts to promote a healthy and energetic community in the Painting & Drawing area and beyond. I have continued to advise the Painting Club on matters of fundraisers, bringing visiting artists and other matters from materials to resources. Through the University Park Allocation Committee (UPAC) funding, the Painting Club has been able to bring even more young exemplary contemporary artists to visit the students. I have also worked to be a liaison between the club and the members of the Woskob Gallery downtown to help them join efforts to bring artists to make a joint impact between the downtown public and the School of Visual Art. I have also served as an advisor to several students helping them navigate their way through course selection, areas of focus and graduate school preparation. I served as a Schreyers Honors advisor to several students. I also have been a member of the Lynd Ward Graphic Novel Prize this year.
We have revitalized our social network communication to keep all members in the loop to visiting artists, films, and any other opportunities the students can gain from. I have initiated the club officers to utilize UPAC funding to bring their own visiting artists in addition to the ones brought by the School. In the past couple of years Painting Club has hit full stride, not only bringing top young artists to speak and critique at the school, but setting up fundraisers, video screenings, securing funds for materials to improve the state of the third floor of the Visual Arts Building and also promoting inter school discussion and social outreach within the members of the school and the college.
I served on the Faculty Council Committee, which has been working on several initiatives from General Education issues to explorations into how assessment can be enriched. I have continued my oversight of the studio facilities materials. I checked and maintained the cleanup materials, soaps, solvents and upkeep of the painting areas. I also performed weekly safety checks of the eye wash machines and signed the logbooks to maintain the safety protocols for the area. I am the acting chair on the John M. Anderson Endowed Lecture Series Committee helping to organize the next groups of visiting artists to come to School of Visual Arts. I am the acting chair on the Identity and Visibility Committee helping to work on the website overhaul for School of Visual Arts. I attended portfolio day in NYC at the Javits Center to help promote the School of Visual Art and make connections to possible future students.
Another contribution that means so much to me is my continuing work I do with Time In, a non-profit organization that introduces the arts to underprivileged children growing up under difficult circumstances in Harlem. I did a collage workshop with several age classes at Time In’s headquarters in Midtown Manhattan. Sharing art and the art making process with these kids is one of the most impactful and heartening activities I do as an artist. Seeing them smile and have fun in expressing themselves creatively knowing they have such a hard time in their daily lives is very fulfilling.
This coming year I will be filling in as area head of Drawing & Painting. I will be working with graduate students on their path to an MFA, organizing committees, and overseeing the implementation of a sustainable solvent overhaul on the painting floor which will see a streamlining of equipment and materials in order to create a more eco-friendly program. I will be organizing the BFA reviews, assisting and mentoring the Painting Club and the visiting artists that they bring to the program and much more. I look forward to having a broader role in the program.
In my time since being appointed Assistant Professor I have been able to make strong steps in a direction of making a positive influence felt in the program and the university at large at Penn State . I am becoming more aware of the most productive and diverse ways I can make a very positive impact on students, classes, the program and the University at large. I will continue my effort to make a stronger impact as I move forward as a teacher at this institution.