A letter to my students on their first day of class

Monday September 12th 2016



Dear Core Class,

How are you? Claire and I hope you have had a good summer and you have had a first good week here at the School of the Art Institute. If this is your first class, happy first class. If this is not your first class, happy first core class to you and all. Claire and I are happy that you are all here. Welcome.

We thought we would take this opportunity to write to you in the form of a letter, words, language, pen to paper, to take time, to take time, to take time to write and think about and consider the following,

(You may have heard something like this before, you may not have heard something like this before, but we ask you for one moment to sit, listen and consider the following.)



We will be with you from today until Monday May 8th 2017. Some of you may see snow for the first time, some of you may take a plane to see your family, some of you may cry, some of you may see someone, something that may change the way you approach your way of thinking and life. Take a look around you, these people in this classroom are your peers, your colleagues, your classmates, you can help yourself, but you can also help each other with making, doing, eating, critiquing, listening, dancing, dancing and reading together. 

Remember the teacher is always listening and always watching. Even when the teacher is not participating, we are. To create a safe space, to create a space of attention and focus. Listening is active, Listening allows for the classroom to grow. Asking you to repeat a project, to tell us again, the following week what you are creating is a practice of embodying, a practice of developing language around and of your work. The teacher creates space in the detail that disappears once you also let go and take a risk and see where your wandering takes you.



I remember my first day of class in art school. As a shy, thin, geeky, red headed, shaved headed, glasses wearing, eyes to the floor 18 year old. What was I doing there? Who were these teachers? What were they talking about?

I thought I knew what I was doing, except my nerves were on fire.

I had never heard of the people they lectured on. I had never heard of the techniques they were presenting. I remember walking to class, charcoal in hand, sweaty palms, smudged into charcoal on hands. I had never drawn before. I had never spent the time to look, to see, and be with time in drawing before. Smudged hands in charcoal made my jeans dirty, smudged hands in charcoal over the page, mark making, became weeks of doing, making, processing, crying, crying and then looking for fragments, looking at risks, looking at experimenting, looking at moving, looking at forward.

Why do we tell you this? Why today on this first day of class of this yearlong course? Claire and I look forward working with you. Getting to know you. Getting to know and working with you. Taking the time to get to know you.

In this core class we will all work together. We will make together. We will see things together. We will show things to one another. We will read together. We will present to one another. We will fail and we will have successes. We will have energy and we will be tired.

Look at yourself now and then. Look at yourself on the last day of class. Take note. Take note now in September and again in May. We are excited to work with you. We are excited to work with you. We ask of you a few things. Allow yourself to be open to new things.

Come to class with inquisitive eyes.

Come to class with questions.

Come to class with questions.

Come to class with questions.

Come to class with questions.


Come to class to broaden yourself and be open.

Come to class to make iterations and reflect on what you have made and allow your ideas to go deeper.

Allow anxiety to fuel your desires, ask questions.

Claire and I are human beings.  Claire and I are human beings.



We may not have all the answers, but we are approachable, we have questions, and we enjoy processes of doing and making, making and doing, taking time, playing and processing. Some of the things we do you may have done before, some of the things you may never have done before. Some of the things Claire and I do we may not have done before. You will also teach us new ways of seeing, new ways of approaching. This is why you are here. This is why we are here. To learn and unlearn. To take time, to discover, and rediscover through a process of making, of making, of making of making and doing and being. We may also make mistakes and we hope in the mistakes we make we apologise.

We are all makers, we are all creative, we ask that you commit to what you are doing, making, be open to new discoveries, new possibilities, new ways of thinking. We are excited. We will talk to you about your work. We will do things that you are excited by. We will do things that you may not be excited by. Push and Pull. Pull and Push. Use your hands, bodies, eyes and minds to respond.

Think of this class as a laboratory of creative processes and ideas. A large circulation system. A language of art making. A language of the imagination. A language of the imagination.

Take your time. Take your time. Take your time.


(this for example is 1 minute of silence.)


Take your time and imagine what can be and what could be. We will talk, we will show, we will make, we will process. You may find we talk too much sometimes. You may find we talk differently than other teachers, other artists. You may have up to 5 classes including this one, this semester. 5 different voices, 5 different ways in which we interact with you. Teachers that approach critique differently. This is how the world, our world here at SAIC, our way of approaching life, art, making has different approaches, different thinking.

We ask that you commit, we ask that you take the time; we ask that you take the time. Look at yourselves now, today. Take note and we will ask you the same on May 8th 2017.

Take care; thank you for listening and we look forward working with you,

Claire and Mark

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