|We are all equally artists
In all workshops and classes, participants and facilitators work alongside each other as fellow artists from the very start. The facilitator's ability to navigate the creative process becomes an essential reference point for class participants. Observing a fellow artist giving him/herself over to the creative process and truly benefiting from it, the participants gain the confidence they need to try things out for themselves. During the artmaking session, participants can observe facilitators exploring, experimenting, and problem-solving through their art and writing. As artists-in-residence, facilitators model their willingness to take risks and demonstrate their trust in the creative process.
The fact that facilitators and participants work together as co-artists has important repercussions for the power relationship between teacher and student. Participants have a chance to view the facilitator as a fellow human being with similar struggles, rather than as an authority figure. A vital element of our process is the "No Comment" rule: neither facilitators nor participants comments on each others artwork – ever.
No Commenting/Critiquing on the Art
OSP's method springs from a fundamental concept discovered from years of making art: A person's creative process will guide them, in its own time and its own way, as each person gains the ability to be open to it. Comments can interfere with a person's perceptions and feelings about their own work. Participants are not always ready to take in every insight. Comments from outside can take a participant out of the realm of what the process itself is providing. If anyone else, especially someone with authority, makes a remark, participants often give these comments more weight than their own insights. The facilitator at OSP does not lead from a place of authority or power, and does not offer critiques or judgments of anyone's process.
Every class begins with each person formulating and writing what we call an "Intention." This writing process grounds and focuses the art-making that will follow. It allows the participants to honestly consider what they are thinking and feeling in the moment, and to cultivate a sense of ownership and responsibility for action. Intentions can be anything from "I relax" or "I enjoy making art" to "I gain clarity about the confrontation I had at work."
Simple artmaking techniques are then introduced. Classes explore drawing, painting, basic sculpture, and collage. We provide user friendly art materials: oil pastels, tempera paints, aluminum foil and masking tape, found objects, and a wealth of other assorted stuff.
When one enters our studio, he/she will find easily accessible media in an inviting array: colors arranged in spectral order, a variety of brushes, and paper ready and waiting for them. Our storefront studio setting has walls covered with brushstrokes. It is a space where it's okay to get paint on the walls and floor. It is a safe, open place to be creative - "to color outside the lines."
3. Witness Writing
After artmaking, participants write about their work in a process we call "Witness Writing." Participants use their artwork as a springboard to get started. They can describe their image and how it felt to make it; they can engage in dialogue with it, or write a story or poem in response to it. Whatever words come are welcomed: participants write quickly, spontaneously, without censoring.
Toward the end of each class, the group comes together to read. Each participant shows their artwork, and chooses whether to read all, part, or none of what he/she has written. Neither the participants nor the facilitators ever comment upon or critique any of the artwork or writing. By just listening, everyone has the opportunity to gain greater appreciation and empathy for the other members of the group. Not having to comment allows us to be more attentive and take in each others' images and words more fully. We are always encouraged and inspired by witnessing the risks each artist takes in revealing their personal truths. A quiet sense of safety, respect, and community emerges very quickly.