Graduate Art and Design Education, Class of 2011
What appeals to you about teaching when you are already an artist, illustrator, photographer, and designer?
As an artist and a teacher, I could unlock hidden potential in every student by teaching him or her to think like an artist. If given the opportunity and creative learning environment, every student has a potential to learn. Through art-making students can be taught to become aware of their environment and in turn contribute to its improvement.
What were you doing before coming to Pratt?
After I graduated with a B.F.A. in photography from the School of Visual Arts in 2000 I immediately began working as a commercial photographer for a studio in Chelsea and have been working there ever since. Additionally, I have been creating mixed media artworks and exhibiting them nationwide.
Why did you choose Pratt for graduate work?
I decided that it was time to make a career change—one that utilized my talent as a photographer and artist and at the same time benefited the community in one way or another. So, I began to consider art education as a possible career. Since there are only a few New York City colleges that offer a master’s degree in art education, I applied to all of them. The decision to attend Pratt was motivated by the small size of the Art and Design Education department and the National Merit Scholarship I received upon acceptance into the school.
Can you describe the topic of your master’s thesis, and why you chose it?
My thesis is a case study of the New York City’s Department of Education. The main focus of my work is the potential effects that school closings have on the high school learning environment. The impact of unstable and unequal education alienates many poor children, as well as under-appreciated teachers—and as a future educator, this topic was of utmost importance. Along with my wife, I am also working on a documentary film that will supplement my thesis. Our documentary, titled School’s Out Forever, focuses on the current New York City public school crisis resulting from federal and local education policies; the film investigates various aspects of these policies and the parties involved.
Being from Russia, do you feel the émigré experience has influenced your art? Does it affect your impulse to crossover art with political involvement?
Actually I was born in the Republic of Ukraine within the Soviet Union. Being Jewish in the U.S.S.R. meant being a member of a minority group, which created limited educational opportunities and open prejudice in schools and workplaces.
Do you see a role for the artist-as-activist?
Definitely. Artists reflect on their environment through images and sounds. The environment is a result of politics and society. Even if the artwork is not created with the purpose of conveying a specific political message, it contains the artist’s view of the world—and that carries a message.
What kind of work do you want to do after graduation?
I plan to continue my work as an artist and a teacher. Also, I will be initiating community arts programs through the non-profit corporation, Quantum Culture, founded by my wife and me earlier this year.
I love music and, although I was not blessed with a musical gift, I collect music across all genres. I host a radio show every Sunday on Pratt Radio called All Mixed Up from 2–4 PM.
Photo: Diana Pau