Who needs discipline?
The Changing Face of Contemporary Art Education.

Presented at Being Undisciplined, a Graduate Student Conference at the University of Cincinnati April 5, 2013 https://beingundisciplineduc.wordpress.com


There may be no course of graduate studies more reliant on interdisciplinary and 'un-disciplined' research than an MFA program in Fine Arts or Studio Art. Creative inquiry through interdisciplinary art practice asks artists to explore the meaning-making opportunities art provides by giving them the chance to explore the questions and issues of one's era, experiences that formulate 'art questions,' the silences an artist has decided to fill. Social, political, historical, psychological, and spiritual factors determine our place within members of our generation. As MFA graduate students and contemporary artist/researchers we have the freedom to look outside of our discipline to borrow methods from professionals in external fields of study.

Here are a few contemporary artists working in an undisciplined way:

Olafur Eliasson - physics, geology, space

Mel Chin - environmental policy, political science, economics, health

Amy Franchesini - sociology, agriculture, urban planning

Mark Dion - anthropology, ecology, biology, chemistry

Sanford Biggers - music, history, anthropology, sociology

James Turrell - philosophy, physics, history, geology

In the presentation two graduate students and two faculty members from the MFA program at University of Cincinnati's School of Art will present research and teaching methods that demonstrate a commitment to being undisciplined. A current MFA student will present research between the biology and engineering departments and fine arts program in new media. Current projects incorporate robotics, animation and organic material to produce new works within the paradigm of organ availability for transplant and the politics of health care. A second MFA student will describe her research using methodology from anthropology, sociology and visual arts to create objects that act as catalysts for dialogue in an effort to raise issues of community responsibility within the cities she lives and works.

Faculty members will discuss approaches to undisciplined instruction to give MFA students the tools they need to survive as contemporary artists in the world today. Each will present on his own experience balancing work as a fine art instructor and practicing artist, and demonstrate how an interdisciplinary and collaborative practice enhances teaching methods.

Panel Presenters

Joe Girandola 

Joe Girandola is a professional artist originally from Baltimore, Maryland and has exhibited work at the Museum of Contemporary Art (Geffen Contemporary), Los Angeles; Kunsthalle Wien, Austria; Kwangju Biennial, South Korea; Atlanta Center for Contemporary Art (Nexus) Biennial, Georgia. Recipient of a Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant for 2003-04, Girandola was Assistant Director for the Santa Fe Art Institute (NM) until May of 2004. In addition to the Pollock-Krasner Grant, Girandola has been awarded an Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Grant, Change, Inc. Grant, and an Artists Fellowship, Inc. Grant. Currently maintaining a studio in Cincinnati, OH, Girandola has received artist fellowships at The MacDowell Colony, Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, Santa Fe Art Institute, DUCTAC Art Center (Dubai), and at the Caldera Artist Residency Program. His work is included in collections nationally and internationally and was a West Prize winner in 2012. Girandola was the Director of the MFA Program at the University of the Arts, Philadelphia from 2009-2012 and is currently the Director of Graduate Studies in Fine Arts at the University of Cincinnati in the College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning. 

Matt Lynch

Matt Lynch is Associate Professor of Art at The University of Cincinnati and holds an MFA from Syracuse University and a BFA from Ball State University. He has worked under the name SIMPARCH since 1996 with Steve Badgett and other collaborators.

SIMPARCH creates large-scale artworks that examine the built environment in site-specific projects. Our approach is responsive to opportunity. Since our process is project driven, we largely operate without a permanent studio, arranging workspace appropriate to each project.
Uniting all of SIMPARCH’s projects is a concern for the work’s social potential. Acting as sites for communal interaction and social exchange, these structures infuse the languages of art and architecture with a desire to connect a diverse range of participants.
SIMPARCH is working on a commission for the General Services Administration at a newland port of entry in Texas. This permanent sculpture is being produced as a component of a major facility designed to control flow between the USA and Mexico. Recent projects include a year long site-specific commission for the Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago.

Corrina Mehiel

Corrina Mehiel, MFA, is an instructor of Design Thinking at Portland State University and Fine Art and Social Practice at the Art Academy of Cincinnati with a background in community arts programming.  She is the former Executive Director at Danzante Art Center in Harrisburg, PA, and an alumni of the MFA program at the University of Cincinnati.  Her current project engages the public with sharing opportunities through clothes swaps events throughout Cincinnati.  She will present a paper on Social Practice in Academia at the 2016 College Art Association Annual Conference, and has presented her research at the 2014 at the Perspectives on Arts Ed Research in Dusseldorf, Germany.

John Cairns 

John Cairns is a baker, a visual artist, and a teacher currently working and living in the state of Ohio. Cairns works in the area of new media which includes video, audio, robotics, and computer-based technologies. Trained in traditional forms of art-making but since his work comments on current and future technologies it is important that he uses contemporary media in his work. Cairns' work focuses on the ease of access to technologies, specifically bio-medical life saving technologies. He examines the difficulties of gaining access to high publicized and touted medical technologies. Some factors he is concerned with are financial and status barriers. His message and work about medical technologies spawns from the culture and professions of his family.