For those of you who aren’t familiar with art school life, I studied at a prestigious design school internationally ranked the best. As soon as I got there, I was surrounded by hundreds of others from all over the world (but mostly from Korea and for some reason, New Jersey) who were just as skilled, if not better than me and it was intimidating.
Imagine having a limited time to use all your wit, brain-power and research skills to come up with a concept as fast as you can, and then spend HOURS crafting, designing, measuring, illustrating, building, creating. Whether you’re proud or unhappy with your work, when the time is up you have to display in front of your professor and peers and listen while they talk about everything that’s right or wrong with it. And if they ask you questions, you have to arm yourself with intelligent, non-defensive answers. That’s just for one studio class. You’re taking three (sometimes four if you have a time turner) every semester along with writing essays, reading Machiavelli, and memorizing art history dates. That’s more hours of work than someone with a 9-5 spent on projects that might just get criticized when you only want praise and validation. Could you handle that?
Yes you could, if you separate judgement from critique. When you receive a comment, no matter how much it hurts your ego to hear, you have to try to filter the negativity and judgement from it and listen to the message. And when you give a critique, you try to do it objectively and without judgment. It’s not about developing a thick skin, it’s about taming your ego. That’s how you grow.
I’m writing this because so many of you think humility is about wearing turtlenecks and pretending like you hate yourself when really it’s about recognizing the flaws and working to improve them.
Working-class and ethnic subcommunities evolved around mutual aid in finding jobs, surviving tough times, and pooling money for recreation. Immigrants founded lodges to provide material aid and foster cooperation. Laborers formed funeral aid societies and death or sick benefit associations; they held balls and picnics to raise money for injured workers, widows, or orphans, and took collections at the mills or plant gates nearly every payday. Recipients showed the same lack of embarrassment about accepting such help as did colonial families. Reformer Margaret Byington, observing working-class life at the end of the nineteenth century, noted that a gift of money to a fellow worker who was ill or simply down on his luck was “accepted very simply, almost as a matter of course.” Among the iron- and steel-workers of Pittsburgh, “Innumerable acts of benevolence passed between the residents of the rows and tenements, rarely remarked upon except for their absence.” Some workers’ cultures revolved around religious institutions, some around cooperative societies or militant unionism—but all extended beyond the family. Indeed, historian Michael Katz has found that in parts of early-twentieth-century Philadelphia, “Neighbors seemed more reliable and willing to help one another than did kin.”
The Way We Never Were: American Families And The Nostalgia Trap Stephanie Coontz
A prominent name in the Harlem Renaissance movement, Augusta Savage was not just an artist, but also an important Civil Rights activist.
While Augusta showed a passion for art at a very young age, her religious father disapproved greatly. She never let her family’s opinions deter her, as she continued to refine her talents and accepted encouragement elsewhere. Her talent and hardwork did not go ignored, as she enrolled in tuition-free Cooper Union and even received a scholarship which covered living expenses. However, as clearly gifted as Augusta was, many could not see past her race. After completing her schooling, she applied for an art program in France, and was rejected due to her race. Rather than let her set this back, she used her experience to draw attention to these hateful prejudices.
Augusta was finally able to travel and become even more well-known as she received fellowships and grants which allowed her to travel over Europe, later returning to a poor America as the Great Depression was in full effect. Commissions were lacking during this time, but it did not slow Augusta. She opened a studio in 1932, became the first black artist to join the National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors, and was a founding member of the Harlem Artists’ Guild.
By the time of her death, in the 1960’s, Augusta Savage was almost completely forgotten and was far from a famous name at the time. Thankfully, she is remembered today for her Civil Rights achievements through art.
Above: Bust of Gwendolyn Knight, who was a close friend of Augusta, one of her most famous busts: Gamin (1929), and The Harp (1939). The Harp, also known as Lift Every Voice and Sing, was created for the 1939 New York World’s Fair. It was extremely popular, but was destroyed with the other installations at the end of the event.
In 1993, seven students from Cooper Union formed an artists’ collective called Art Club 2000 with the help of Colin de Land, who gave them an exhibition at his gallery, American Fine Arts. There, they showed “Commingle,” a series of staged photographs shot around New York City in which all the members of the collective wore clothing purchased at the Gap (and returned shortly thereafter because of the store’s lenient return policy).