It may come as news to you, but I wasn’t always a journalist for a city rag. In university, I was a budding video artist honing my craft. I can still remember the first class, where the professor asked us two simple, but very bold questions. The first being if we considered ourselves feminists, and the second being if we considered ourselves artists.
For both of these questions, the room was silent, and only a handful of people acknowledged that they indeed saw themselves as feminists or artists. Keep in mind that this was in a room of 18-21 year-olds, and many of these students probably associated feminism with burning underwear outside government buildings, and being an artist with wearing a beret or some other caricature that was equally antiquated.
I have the feeling that our professor knew this would be the case. He continued explaining that if you feel like women should be treated equally to men then you are a feminist, and that being an artist isn’t something that you turn into but rather are in one way or another from the moment you start making. You either are, or you’re not!
Everyone can be an artist, just as everything, big or small, can be accomplished with a certain degree of artistry. Just go and watch those guys at your neighborhood Subway craft your next submarine sandwich.
I believe this is what he was getting at during this first class we had together about 12 years ago, and a few books by Susan Sontag, Walter Benjamin, and Marshall McLuhan later our initial notions of both feminism and art in the modern age were inevitably shattered. But, throughout my development as an artist and as a person, feminism and art have constantly been intertwined.
This is my slightly long-winded way of introducing the idea that there is much to be learned through creative study, and that’s not only a range of technical skills but also a degree of empathy which may sometimes play second fiddle to other areas of academia. This is just one reason why you should take art classes seriously, or at least give them a fair chance to work their transformative magic on your child.
It wasn’t until I started visiting Beijing’s international schools that I realized that the arts are pretty strong here, and the facilities are considerably more advanced when compared to many other places around the globe where funding for the arts is continuously being reduced. When you have excellent facilities, there is also more room for these concepts mentioned above to be explored.
These are some of the ideas that we wanted to touch on in this “State of the Arts” issue. We talked to a variety of students, artists, designers, and instructors in our cover feature to learn about some of the innovations being made in these electives, along with a few things students must know if wanting to pursue a career in the arts. We also learned how film is slowly becoming a popular subject of study and where and how these student-made films are being exhibited in Schooled, and in When I Grow Up some burgeoning artists from The British School of Beijing, Sanlitun received a valuable opportunity to question practicing Beijing illustrator Liuba Draws about her unique way of expressing herself. Finally, an artist of another variety, specializing in delicious confections, shows off some masterful themed sweets she likes to make in her free time for Food for Thought.
Now that your creative juices are flowing due to this little pep talk, get out there and make something! “Just start anywhere,” is another quote lifted from the professor during that first year of art school, which couldn’t be truer and I continue to apply that to almost everything that I do in life.
Photo: Dave’s Studio
This article appeared on p5 of beijingkids February 2018 issue