This past academic year I worked a kaleidoscope of jobs all over the city and when offered one of these positions I am usually asked, “Are you familiar with [insert art medium here]?” and my answer is always, “Oh yeah, sure, totally, I can do that”. At which point I immediately Google said art medium.
After a year of teaching video to autistic children, explaining color theory to preschoolers, and demonstrating to an elementary class how comets are formed using dry iced and honey, it finally hit home that our label as medium specific artists is not static. While I received my MFA in Photography, am referred to as a photographer, and occasionally listed as a “digital media” artist, I am really just a Creator of Awesome Things (and I gift that title to all of you too).
What I truly love about Marwen and my other non-profits is that they offer you the freedom to fail. Even if the medium did not cooperate, or if the concepts were a little beyond the scope of an age range, or if the students were devils masquerading in the skin of children, it is almost guaranteed that learning took place. This concept of learning through failing is key to teaching in general, as numerous times I have left a class thinking, “That went ok, but I can do it better next time!” And often times when I am convinced I have been too hard on the students or not been detailed enough with instruction someone will say to me, “You were really honest, like a true European teacher!” (at least I think that’s a compliment).
Ultimately I have realized that teaching is the biggest, longest running game of poker ever. I constantly say to myself, “I have no idea what I am doing but it’s ok cause I’ll just read and read and read and then test it out and make some more things then I’ll act cool and confident maybe tuck my shirt in and wear some boots so I feel taller get a haircut and smile and it will all work out just fine”. And you know what, it does work out, cause I’ve been bluffing you all with that royal flush for the past five years.
Jesse Avina is a teaching artist who received his MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2008, and upon graduating was granted the Daisey Soros Fellowship to study in Salzburg, Austria. His work frequently deal with issues of violence as mediated entertainment, and seeks to discover whether fantasy can be the best mode for examining our convoluted relationship to representations of war. Jesse has exhibited his photography, video, and sculptural work nationally and internationally, and currently lives and works in Chicago.