Elizabeth Jabar

I am convinced that this pedagogy and socially engaged art practice are the core to art education.

From my very first Public Engagement course I witnessed my students experience deep learning when they were given the opportunity to apply their creative imagination and skills in a real world context. Through this work students grapple with an expansive set of social, cultural, political and environmental questions, and begin to see their roles as artists and creative thinkers in new and previously unimagined ways. It goes beyond the idea of ‘making a difference’ to the design of concrete actions and real outcomes that contribute to a more just world we all want to live in. After 15 years of doing this work with my students, I am convinced now more than ever that this pedagogy and socially engaged art practice are the core to art education in the contemporary world.

Printmakers are interested in communicating with people, and also working on a rich exchange of ideas. We like to help each other and inform each other’s practices. There’s a really collective environment to a print studio. That has a broad appeal to a lot of students. We are in the corner of the building, and students get to make prints and look out at Casco Bay and be inspired by landscape and environment and the activity of the city because we are right downtown in the middle of the Arts District.

I grew up in a big working class family in Maine. My family is very political. My grandfather was a labor organizer and I have many uncles, aunts and cousins who were and are committed to civic engagement and social change. This part of my family history, along with my cultural heritage and religious background, shaped my values as an artist. I am inspired by art and artists who take on challenging social issues, and my own work has increasingly taken a political direction. Artists have always been critical of the world and have worked to shift perception on relevant issues of the day. With all the suffering and injustices in the world I think we have a responsibility to engage and respond, and as an educator I need to share these things with my students so they are prepared to enter into a diverse and global art world.

Students who come here are looking for an intimate learning environment. I know a lot of schools say that, but we really mean it. The way we are structured and our scale offers an ability to really design a specific learning experience for each student who comes here. We have a lot of contact time with our students so there’s a long-term mentoring relationship that’s built, and I think students are looking for that. It makes us unique.