Art Education: Best Practices
The International College for Arts and Communication (MKIK) hosted the ‘Best Educational Practices’ conference. Deans of different faculties shared their experience in integrating pedagogical technologies. In this article, the Global Women Media news agency described useful and interesting reports devoted to the training of creative professionals: designers, architects, and photographers.
Dean of the Design College of the International College for Arts and Communication (MKIK), Dean of the Faculty of Design of the Institute for the Humanities and Information Technologies (IGUMO), curator of the Days of Contemporary Art (DOCA) international festival
architect, designer, curator of international cultural projects and exhibitions, laureate and prize-winner of contests in architecture and design, Dean of the Architecture College of the International College for Arts and Communication (MKIK)
Russian contemporary artist and photographer, member of the Union of Photo Artists of Russia, Dean of the Faculty of Photography of the Institute for the Humanities and Information Technologies (IGUMO)
Design, architecture, and photography are different and at the same time interrelated fields of activity. On the one hand, training professionals in those areas requires delving into narrowly specialized disciplines. On the one hand, it presupposes developing a great number of interdisciplinary skills: individual design, teamwork, focusing on details, expansion of world picture, the abilities to think big and make accurate calculations, creative thinking, etc.
During the conference, Deans of the faculties responsible for creative fields of training shared their unique educational practices that one can adapt to different curricula.
Design as a Means of Problem Solving
In her report dedicated to classic and modern teaching methods in design, Elizaveta Zemlyanova, Dean of the Faculty of Design of IGUMO and the Design College of MKIK, paid special attention to concrete examples. Professional training of specialists in that field presupposes a great deal of practice. Therefore, all educational projects have concrete results.
Design can be divided into commercial, social, and speculative. Accordingly, the Faculty of Design provides its students with three types of practical training. Thus, they can try their hand at each of those key areas.
Commercial design focuses on solving problems related to generating or increasing profits. During their internships, students work on real commercial cases, perform tasks of real customers, and take part in exhibitions. Young professionals learn how to present their work properly and learn about the situation in the labour market and the most demanded design-oriented professions.
Moreover, the faculty has workshops where renowned artists and designers share their unique experience with students. They often become mentors for students and help them develop effectively in their chosen profession.
Social design is aimed at addressing the problems of sustainable development. That area’s work is focused not so much on profit but rather on concrete assistance and drawing society’s attention to certain problems. To learn about social design, students take part in the Ecology project where they create animated videos on environmental topics. Similarly, within the Empathy project, they develop socially-oriented stickers for Telegram.
As part of their practical training related to social design, students develop not only professional skills but also such valuable qualities as empathy, feeling of belonging, and concern for what surrounds them.
Unlike the two above-mentioned types of design, speculative design does not solve any particular problem or task. However, it is no less important and interesting. That area makes it possible to develop imagination, critical thinking, and the ability to look into the future.
Elizaveta Zemlyanova has a special exercise for her students. She suggests a question and invites them to fantasize. For example, what would the world be like if there were a completely new unfamiliar kind of energy in it today? The students visualize their reflections on the possible appearance of people living in hundreds of years, the environment of the future, and new everyday items.
Elizaveta Zemlyanova believes that the three types of design explored in the process of practical training give students a picture of that profession and its ability to transform the world not only visually but also conceptually. If a designer thinks about how his or her commercial, social, or speculative project contributes to the world, his or her work will bring him or her not only profit but also moral satisfaction.
Curator’s Role in Architectural Projects
Secondary vocational architectural education is Russia’s unique innovation. No other country has such experience and cases. People believe that, to work in that field, one needs a mature psyche and in-depth knowledge in many areas. Anna Medleva, Dean of the Architecture College of MKIK, told about what very young students learn at the college and how they are taught.
In the USSR, secondary architectural education emerged in the post-war period. It was necessary to rebuild the entire country within a short period of time. The Soviet Union needed a great number of professionals able to create architectural drawings and various working documentation quickly in the absence of computers. Today, architecture colleges have a broader and more multifaceted objective. They help young people decide whether that profession suits them and whether they are ready to develop in it. The colleges give them the knowledge necessary for entering a higher education institution.
Architecture is a complex profession requiring multifaceted development. That is why interdisciplinary projects and a mentor able to support young students are essential for effective training.
Interestingly, the word ‘curator’ is translated from Latin as the one who takes care of somebody. He or she nor only controls the process but also is responsible for its results. In her speech, Anna Medleva talked about her vision of the tasks of curator of interdisciplinary projects.
As emphasized by the expert, today architecture is acquiring a new meaning. Both its social burden and its approach to design are gradually changing. The profession is becoming all-encompassing and even more multitasking. When working with students, the curator strives to immerse them as much as possible in the problems from different perspectives and to touch upon all possible related topics. For example, the Abkhazia project, a large-scale initiative aimed at developing skills designing not only separate facilities but also entire territories, is currently being implemented at the Architecture College of MKIK.
Curatorship is a peculiar system of establishing horizontal ties within an educational institution to achieve the greatest results. It is about the ability to bring Architecture, Design, and Photography students together with other professionals for the most effective work.
Motivation is another task of a curator. It is important to make sure that a mentor is able to explain the value of a particular project to students and to others. He or she must be able to show what social mission they fulfil by doing their work. Moreover, the professional can motivate his or her mentees by turning the impossible into the possible: by supporting them in performing the most difficult and serious tasks.
How can a mentor make it easier for young people to continue their careers? He or she needs to expand the horizons of aspiring architects. Gaining knowledge in a wide variety of fields is like a ‘golden key’ that opens many doors.
Finally, according to Anna Medleva, bringing up creative thinking in students is a curator’s responsibility. As noted by the expert, in her pedagogical activities, she tries to teach students to think not only using architectural categories. That enables future professionals to find unconventional solutions that are relevant for not only today but also tomorrow.
Anna Medleva summed up: the main task of the curator is to teach the younger generation to think and learn. The professionals will need these skills throughout their professional path in any field.
Interrelation of Profession-Oriented Disciplines for Photography Students
Vadim Gushchin, Dean of the Faculty of Photography of IGUMO, shared his experience in teaching the profession-oriented disciplines to Photography students. The expert has more than 20 years of teaching experience. He has taught a lot at public schools where he delivered various courses. At the same time, as noted by the expert, IGUMO was the place where he managed to hone systemic work in the training of future photographers.
The list of subjects included in the curriculum of Faculty of Photography can be conventionally divided into technical and artistic ones. At first glance, these disciplines seem to compete with one another. However, in fact, they are part of a single whole. They complement and reinforce one another.
To master one profession-oriented discipline at a sufficient level, it is necessary to know the others. That is the only way for the puzzle elements to fit together into one picture.
For instance, the History of Photography is directly linked to the Development of Photographic Technologies. For students, this is not always obvious. Sometimes, when seeing an outstanding piece of 19th-century photographic art, they may compare it to an ordinary modern sketch. Importantly, people in those days didn’t have the opportunity to take pictures easily and quickly like we do today. To make students aware of the value of certain photos of the past, Vadim Gushchin invites them to shoot a portrait themselves under the technical conditions that were available a century and a half ago. Thus, the theoretical discipline is harmoniously intertwined with the practical one.
Studio Skills is a subject that many students initially associate with ‘shutter speed’, ‘aperture’, ‘focal length’, and many other technical terms. However, Vadim Gushchin managed to ‘breathe new life’ into the discipline. He complemented the classes with vivid examples of the classics of photography. The expert believes that turning to the time-proven legacy of photography masters is the best way to develop an aesthetic taste.
Vadim Gushchin’s experience says that profile disciplines should be taught in a comprehensive manner. Then one can achieve the most effective result. A single pedagogue or several professionals may teach the students. However, they have to interact with one another closely and shape the curriculum taking into consideration one another’s subjects and methods. That makes it possible to not only systematize a large body of knowledge for the students but also immerse them as deeply as possible in specific topics.
Viktoria Gusakova, Global Women Media news agency
Translated by Nikolay Gavrilov