40 Ashland Gallery Guide teach. Those that do, Why do artists teach? Monetary concerns aside, it’s an interesting question for there is an odd assumption that rattles around in our culture from time to time that you can’t do both. It comes from a scrap of dialogue from George Bernard Shaw’s Man and Superman. “Bob: ‘I’m so discouraged. My writing teacher told me my novel is hopeless.’ Jane: ‘Don’t listen to her, Bob. Remember: those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.’” In other words, you can either be a do-er, an artist who makes a living by making art. Or if you can’t make art, or make it very well, then best become a teacher. Used to disparage teachers, the saying also implies that artists drop from the heavens completely perfect, with no need to learn anything. Yet if you strike up conversations with artists who teach, you will discover that becoming an artist is as organic a learning process as becoming anything else. And that teaching is intrinsically an art. “People move here ‘to make happy,’” says painter Suzanne Etienne, describing how the Rogue Valley seems to be a place where people retire to get in touch with their creative selves. People join choirs, learn to dance, start drawing and painting. “They are ready to follow their own creative life, no matter what the medium,” she says. Herself relocated from the Bay area, Etienne teaches painting out of her studio in Ashland’s historic railroad district. There is a joyful, enthusiastic air to her classes. Believing that it is much more courageous to be positive than negative, Etienne works hard to break through her students’ hesitation about art making. “You’re scared?” Etienne asks her students. “Well, me too. But we are going to have an adventure together and we don’t even need to go buy hiking boots or a helmet. We are going to challenge ourselves, and, look, we don’t have to get hurt in the woods!” In a sense, Etienne says, “I give my students permission to make art.” She provides the time, space, and tools; she teaches the techniques. Photos by Judith Pavlik By Julia Janeway Suzanne Etienne with students in her studio.
2016 Ashland Gallery
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