The Mission of the Department of Art at The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga is to provide excellent instruction in art at the undergraduate level within the context of a liberal arts education. We foster a rigorous, comprehensive educational experience, and work collaboratively to cultivate a vibrant learning environment as well as an intellectual climate to support each student’s growth and development as a practitioner of the arts.
Our Core Beliefs
The work of art might be defined as thought rendered in material form. MATERIAL ENGAGEMENT remains fundamental to artistic training. Still, the artist knows that mastery entails much more than control. The materials themselves must have their say, and the artist must simultaneously guide and be guided by matter. UTC Art students gain competency with a wide range of tools, materials, and techniques, even as they learn to appreciate the inherent qualities of the media they use through hands-on, open-ended experimentation. Materials contribute significantly to the meaning of a work of art as well. As the poet William Carlos Williams said, matter produces meaning “without saying anything at all.” UTC Art students employ both traditional and cutting edge creative methods, learning to mine the power of material and embrace its full potential to impart ideas.
One of the essential features of creativity is the inclination to work beyond the first acceptable solution to a problem, which is almost always marked by cliché. UTC Art students learn to follow their curiosity, which leads towards the novel, the unexpected, and the unique. Very few habits of practice are more important than a robust PROCESS, whether it be extensive trial-and-error before settling on a finished product, or actively maintaining a sketchbook dedicated to the exploration of ideas. UTC Art students learn to break a problem into manageable parts and to pursue its solution in a series of stages, from research to ideation to development to revision. Even failure is valuable, since it promotes divergent thinking and points towards possibilities. Artists work methodically and with great discipline in pursuit of their goals, but since the final outcome is often unknown it is the process that shows the way forward. Above all, UTC Art strives to prepare our students for a lifetime in the arts. A sound process will sustain the student as a professional, when the support of the academic environment has been removed and the infrastructure of an artistic practice must be built from scratch.
For the aspiring artist, CRITICAL THINKING is manifest in the form of an awareness of the field of art, a sense of one’s own values and convictions relative to the field, and a desire to make a meaningful contribution to the field. We expect students to determine the parameters of their own creative research, which promotes independence, accountability and a sense of purpose. Although critical thinking has emerged as a priority in higher education, the ability to think critically has long been an identifying feature of the educated artist. Art pedagogy demands that students invest in their education in a way that transcends the mere acquisition of information or the simple possession of skills. Knowledge and skills are put to use by the student, and it is use that cultivates intellectual virtues such as criticality, humility, and rationality. UTC Art conceives of critical thinking as cognitive investment in, active participation in, and emotional commitment to learning.
Art is given meaning through use and is defined by distribution. Even in a literal sense works of art circulate, moving from studio to exhibition space, from print to web, from museum to periodical. Moreover, each artistic utterance is joined to a conversation that has been going on since the very beginning of civilization, and which continues today. The painter Robert Motherwell explained, “every intelligent painter carries the whole culture of painting in his [or her] head.” UTC Art students study the history of art in depth, developing an awareness of the civilizations that produced the art of the past, and acquiring the analytical tools to understand art’s stylistic development, to interpret artistic iconography, and to discern the world’s significant cultural achievements. Studio classes emphasize contemporary art practice as CONTEXT for problem solving. Ultimately, UTC Art students learn to conceive of their practices against the backdrop of a rich historical lineage, even as they converge with the vital stream of contemporary art.