Basic Training: Inspiring Institutional Change in Higher Education in the Fine and Professional Arts through Wholistic Practice and Sustainability Education

Date of Completion


Document Type

Open Access Capstone

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

Peter Taylor


This paper documents the process by which I developed “Basic Training”, a wholistic program for the education of artists, and came to see this program as a model for sustainability education more generally. I am an artist who, shortly before joining the Critical and Creative Thinking Program (CCT) at the University of Massachusetts/Boston (UMass), left my full-time job so I could have more time for painting. I have done this – establishing a studio, a practice, and networking – culminating in both solo and group exhibits of my small and large paintings and works on paper. To make ends meet, I took on a half-time position as a painting studio manager at Massachusetts College of Art (MassArt). Finding that I was the first person in this position, I put in place studio guidelines and organization to ensure a personally healthy and environmentally responsible workspace. This led me to develop a three-part plan, “Basic Training” for artists, making use of the tools for personal and organizational change I was learning through my course work in CCT – i.e. strategic planning, evaluation, problem-based learning, and reflective practice. “Basic Training” not only includes health and environmental concerns, but also an artist’s responsibility to engage with the communities that artists rely on to experience and support our artwork. In this spirit, I took up an offer of use of a storefront in Jamaica Plain, and initiated the Efka Project. As Efka Project’s director and coordinator I coach emerging artists to prepare, publicize, curate, and staff their first exhibits. In turn, the Project provides an opportunity for the public to gain exposure to, and education about artists in their community who are about to embark on their careers. I went on to develop a curriculum for MassArt and explore the institutional challenges of getting this implemented. I was also drawn into education for sustainability efforts at UMass/Boston and have translated my MassArt course into a possible UMass course for a more general group of students, – not only artists. In the process described in this I have experimented and taken risks in applying what I was learning in CCT, reflecting on the outcomes, and building up a set of tools, practices, and perspectives that work in my specific professional and personal endeavors.


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