SCHOOLHAUS / A4
The new original.
(Footnoted for further detail, explanation and ranting.)
A4 * is a Schoolhaus program built upon the shared disciplines of co-directors Zak Sally of La Mano, and Dan Ibarra of Aesthetic Apparatus. The most current program was held in Minneapolis, MN, and spanned the months of June through August 2014. ** A4 preserves the philosophy of small-scale education founded in the initial Schoolhaus by discarding prescribed learning and standardized objectives. The program focuses instead on the human condition of living a creative life, collaborative and self-directed outcomes, and the making of things. ***
Curriculum is shaped through weekly collaborative discussions from both directors based on an essential form, process, or philosophy that drives and defines each of their own practices. Examples of discussion topics include (but are not limited to) the following:
• The Creative Process
• Color Theory
• How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Halftone
Discussions at times converge, and diverge, but are based solely on what we perceive as our most essential creative ideas and approaches. **** The format of these presentations also exemplifies an interdisciplinary approach to making art which can not simply be taught; it is a constant, essential and organic part of living a creative life.
Enrolled members in the program then absorb, dispute, and/or investigate these discussions through whatever formal or conceptual means they deem necessary. † Collaboration and the exchange of ideas between Schoolhaus membership is fundamental to this program and is encouraged (and demonstrated) by the directors whenever possible.
These ‘responses’ are a means to an end for the course. The final outcome of the 12-week study is a final published object of these ideas and responses, ‡ fully produced and curated by A4 members and directors, released in a printed edition, and made available to the public. Each A4 member also receives their own copy of the collaborative final outcome.
Beyond these simple constructs, the rest is up to you. §
* The Autodidact Academy of Applied Arts.
** Each week consists of 3 distinct sessions — all observed as night classes outside normal business hours:
MONDAYS – a 3-hour evening “Studio” session where both directors focus on a single idea, philosophy, topic, or skill set. Each week’s “studio” portion is presented by both Dan and Zak, covering different perspectives on the same topic; where they diverge, where they converge, and what commonalities they possess.
WEDNESDAYS – members post their response to the previous week’s studio session on a dedicated shared/ interactive web space. Each member’s response is completely self-directed, but members are REQUIRED to post and discuss each other’s work.
FRIDAYS – the entire group meets again for 3 hours. This meeting serves numerous purposes; as a live discussion of the posted responses, as a check-in on the developing collaborative project, and for 1-on-1 time with the directors. Once in a while, someone brings a six pack.
OPEN HOURS – Time is also scheduled in-studio and/or online for open-ended, one-on-one discussion or studio time. This time varies throughout the week in which the directors offer availability at their respective studios or online.
*** While learning is a universal way of life, education is the institutionalization of that way of life — at times potentially to the detriment of learning, or at excessive cost to the student. Schoolhaus / A4 is our attempt to combine what we consider the best of education (a social community, invested and informed guidance) with the best of learning (self-motivation, one-on-one mentorship) and embed them into a studio discipline (working-world applications, quantifiable outcomes.)
This program offers neither a formal degree nor certification. Schoolhaus / A4 is not an accredited learning institution, nor does it claim to be one. An educational institution serves a very specific purpose of guaranteeing a formalized educational experience through broad and standardized objectives. But we do not desire to teach you “everything” — because we don’t know “everything.” But we do know some things. And we know some things really well. Things that are important to us. Things particular to each of our long and varied trips around the block of compulsive art-making, which we will wholeheartedly and enthusiastically share with you.
**** We have learned through making things. All kinds of things. This personal experience produces a selective vision of how our creative world works. No successful working artist or designer subscribes fully to every idea they’re taught in school, but they do have values they deeply believe in. We believe these are the most valuable lessons to be learned from another person. These are the ideas we want to share. Selfishly, we as directors want to learn as well. We’re just as curious about how the other works and thinks, and are just as excited as our enrolled members to sit down and participate in the next week’s presentation.
† The design, comic art, and shared printmaking disciplines of the directors in no way dictates intended outcomes for any enrolled members. Photographers, writers, painters, illustrators, and anyone who believes they may have something to glean from this curriculum are invited to apply. Similarly, printmakers, designers, and comic artists are invited to explore photography, writing, painting, illustration, scribbling, or any other means they deem appropriate to respond to given curriculum. Taking on uncharted water is at the core of the purpose for this program. Any designer who only concerns themselves with design, or cartoonist who only looks at comics, develops a very limited view of their art. That’s not the way the real world works, you get inspired by any and everything around you: music, politics, your friends, the way your shoes look so lonely there in the corner of the closet at 3 am. This is not about “teaching”, this is about learning, and you take that wherever and however you can get it.
‡ We’ve decided that the best way to go about this course is to take it entirely out of the realm of a hermetically executed set of “assignments” and into the actual world: we produce an object, which is curated from the work created at A4, by A4 participants, using the means we have available to us (screenprinting, offset press, risograph, scrimshaw, old board games, etc etc). This object is overseen by Dan and Zak, and released in an edition. Of course, all contributors receive a copy of the publication. It is our intention that income from any sales of the publication go directly toward funding future Schoolhaus / A4 scholarships.
§ This is the basis of the Schoolhaus / A4 experiment. This isn’t a university; whether or not it works depends on the individuals involved, and their capacity and willingness to learn through that collaboration. One thing, however, IS for certain: together, we produce something, and put that something out in the world. Which is very different than doing an assignment and handing it in to be assessed, or being hired for a freelance job and fulfilling the specs. This is making something for its own sake, stretching yourself, and expanding your vision in new directions.