One wintry day a few months ago, I arrived at the Pointe-St-Charles Art School just after Barry Mac Pherson, our Artistic Director in charge of Program Development. I’ve known Barry for a while now, and I can tell when he has something on his mind. He asked if I wanted a cup of coffee. I accepted and we sat down to chat. He started talking about what he thought an art school was, what an art school should be, what he believed the Pointe-St-Charles Art School could be. I asked him to wait a moment while I got paper and pencil, because I felt something important was about to be said, something it seemed he had been thinking about for a long time.
Barry started to speak – he was passionate and quiet at the same time. Our coffee grew cold and we didn’t notice… What follows are the notes I took during that conversation. No questions were needed – this came out whole and complete, and is well worth a read.
The Pointe-St-Charles Art School: practical and unique: A discussion with Barry MacPherson (my notes):
A school is generally a place to learn basics, the fundamentals:
- to know what they are,
- to learn to use certain methods to develop an artistic discipline and a logical progression toward further development in order to explore and continue to progress into something unique, new, worthwhile and interesting – to make the world a better place through the imagination.
The point is not to “reinvent the wheel” but to conceptualize the “wheel” – an idea or product – to put it into a different context.
An art school is the same. However, art is categorized along with business, physics, engineering, literature, etc, yet does not have a specific definition like these other disciplines. Therefore, a real art school is unique; we are unique, in that we offer something that is not defined till it is studied by the individual.
This kind of art school doesn’t really exist anymore. Thirty to forty years after the commercialization of art when the emphasis is now on the price of everything and the value of nothing, we have universities and other types of art schools that treat art as a product and a discipline that is marketable.
This art school has nothing to do with a curriculum, structure (rules) but with capabilities, a “wantingness” to learn the basics. We rather wish to create an atmosphere that when basics are achieved, people can move on to take hold of a determination to pursue for themselves a style, to develop the style, to connect their work together (not a hodge-podge or pastime approach to learning), and be willing not to get bored with what they are doing. And if the work begins to get tedious, take this as an indication to evolve the piece beyond while continuing to believe in the original idea.
Art has to have meaning to stand on its own. This happens when artists/students are committed to being better artists through perseverance and dedication to their own ideas, believing in themselves, not letting anything stop them from believing in their ideas, following through to the end regardless of whether it ends in success or failure.
Therefore, we will offer core subjects – foundation classes – to be built upon. Not a curriculum but studies, classes, a program and personal development built on strong foundations.
If we remain true to this as well as stay student-oriented, there is no doubt that resources will be there for us – the media, community, financial and cultural supporters.
This is the Pointe St Charles Art School Manifesto: The allowing of one’s ownership, ability, identity and the taking of responsibility in the pursuit of art without boundaries and borders. The dream is not over.
Barry teaches painting here at the school: Abstraction and Narrative Painting. You don’t have to be an expert to take his classes, although you could be – you just have to want to paint.
Attached are a some of my favourite images of his – plus a snapshot of the man doing what he loves to do best…
by Catherine Wells
Director, Pointe-St-Charles Art School