Jenn Bakalar is a professional arts educator, as well as visual and multi-media artist whose work deals with female physical and social identities. After graduating from SUNY Purchase College in 2009 with a BFA in Painting and Drawing and Minor in Art History, Bakalar resided in Brooklyn, New York where she earned a Masters Degree in Arts Education from CUNY Brooklyn College. Often autobiographical, Bakalar’s visual exploration of the feminine identity proposes the female force as a balance of positive and negative, creative and destructive. She currently lives in New Hampshire and continues to pursue collaborations and teaching opportunities.
MA, Arts Education: Brooklyn College 2017
BFA, Painting and Drawing: SUNY Purchase, Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence 2009
Professional Experience in Arts Education available on request
Coast to Coast, Recent Paintings by Jenn Bakalar
Toys and Games with a Twist
Longwood Art Gallery @ Hostos
Contemporary Art Fair NYC
The Javitz Center
PGARTVENTURE PRESENTS“AN AFTERNOON WITH ART AND HORSES”
Boulder Brook Equestrian Center
The teaching philosophy I use in my classroom experience is based on the belief that I can’t teach students what’s important, they must decide for themselves what is of importance. This attitude towards instruction is modeled on the great teachers in my own life, and has turned into what can be described as a Taoist approach to art education. The Way, also known as the Tao, is in everything and flows through all of us; it is the natural balance of life and represents human nature at its most refined and upstanding. I have been especially influenced by the writings of Zhuangzi and his descriptions of the Tao in his clever dialogues with other sages in “The Music of Nature.” The central notion of the teaching styles of these philosophers parallels my own: that learning occurs through communication, and often with a sense of humor. Just as the Tao is in all things, I believe that art is for everyone because it is in everything we make and do. Art is meant for people of all ages and levels of awareness: students, teachers, the sensitive, the unaware, rich and poor, chronically pessimistic and those who are optimistic. When understood in terms of the “music of nature,” art can be for everyone to experience. Art is for people who like to make things, and especially for those who enjoy what others make.
At the core of my lessons is the goal of a neutral presentation of existing art works in as direct a method as possible, most often via projection or Smart Board. I always begin an investigation into an artwork by asking students a question and their opinions about the artwork, and answering factual inquiries only when necessary to fill in the bigger picture. Whenever a student says that he or she “likes” an artwork or something about it, they must always answer why. Being beautiful or pleasant alone does not good art make. In addition to a non-biased presentation, works for analysis must also be culled from a wide range of sources. The number of historical artworks is finite, however the possibilities and combinations of canons from which we chose examples of master works does not need to be. To be able to learn from generations that have gone before, but not give undue reverence to the past, students must be exposed to a wide variety of quality works in order to come to their own conclusions about what makes up his or her concept of art.
Almost equally important as discussion are studio sessions, which depend on the quality, organization and implementation of supplies and resources. Studying skills and technique in the pursuit of forming content can take priority only once materials are thoroughly explored. Along with this, I believe it is imperative that students be taught the preciousness of nature and that sustainability is paramount, especially when we are creating. My ideal art classroom would be a space where students directly engage with materials and maintain the “flow” of an art studio. It would be a large, sunlight space with tall ceilings and plants growing in the windows.
In order for the full existence of art-making to be realized through reflection, it is paramount to display student artwork. It is important for student artwork to be displayed in the work space so that previously made choices can be referred to and understandings can be based on a foundation of previous achievement. A constant rotation should be maintained with newer works replacing the old, but older works must be preserved to be called upon in future comparisons.
My aims for teaching include my personal views that all people, regardless of race, age, gender, disability or economic status should be exposed to the same resources and tools with which to understand and make meaning within their environment. Transparency is key in prioritizing values and I don’t believe in sheltering students or watering down observations of reality in order to preserve a false sense of innocence. Students should be aware of the factors that impact their education including their own involvement so that they are empowered to choose their own future.
Homework in my arts classes is on an as-needed basis. Research and gathering imagery for use in artworks should be done outside of class in order to have as much time as possible with materials. Assignments are graded immediately upon their completion, and it is important for the student to understand how they are being graded, and the assessment should include a dialogue with the student when appropriate so that they are held accountable for reflecting on their performance.
Just as the Tao is present in all things, the processes of perception and creation that visual art espouse naturally integrate across other disciplines, therefore collaboration with teachers from other subjects is vital to the success of my lessons. Additionally, when collaborative behavior is modeled for students they are empowered to make meaningful connections in their own careers as students. In the same vein, by maintaining a professional and respectful atmosphere within the classroom studio, my “less is more” approach to art education sets the stage for advanced learning.