Gaper's Block Feature Story with Rebecca George

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Originally published: February 5, 2015

By S. Nicole Lane

Re-published by The Chicago Sun Times on February 14, 2015

"Pushing the paint around -- it's always in an attempt to get at something: something true, powerful, good. Paint is pure, innocent...it holds the potential to become an image that captures a facet of the elusiveness that is one's experience of being alive. In this way, the practice of art-making honors both the love and the suffering by keeping a record while always remaining vulnerable," states Rebecca George, founder of The Art House, a studio workshop and gallery based in Chicago.

The Art House, located at 3453 N. Albany, offers artist residencies, innovative coursework, advanced support for artist's professional practice, and above all, an environment to flourish as a creative individual. The studio/gallery offers instructional courses for the development of personal momentum and a meaningful connection to one's work while expanding and strengthening the technical language of material and method.

The philosophical approach at The Art House is consistent with an academic advisory relationship, rich with valuable information on color, various media and practical advice for advancing ones artistic career. The Art House community comprises serious artists at various stages of experience who are committed to developing their work. Individual and group critique, unique course offerings and exhibition opportunities assist emerging and mid-career artists in reaching their goals.

I recently interviewed Rebecca George, artist, teacher and founder of The Art House, about the creative space, its history, present and future aspirations.

In addition to teaching at SAIC and the University of Chicago, you are also the director of The Art House, which thrives as a studio and a gallery space. Can you explain the history behind The Art House and how you began teaching adult artists?

After working with youth in the arts for many years, I began teaching in the continuing studies department at SAIC and was introduced to the fulfillment of teaching adults. In this context, I was able to more fully share my own process as an artist. My art-making is deeply rooted in surrendering to the present moment. I realized through my own practice that my innermost sense of who I am has nothing to do with the conditioning I've received or whether I 'measure up'. When I began teaching adults, I was able to articulate this dynamic as it manifests in the process of making art. The artists who study with me keep me centered on what is of essential importance- I must continually walk the talk of prolific activity and self-liberation in the studio in order to empower others to do it with my teaching. To quote an ancient Eastern saying, "The teacher and the taught together create the teaching."

What sparked your inspiration and motivation for beginning The Art House?

I found that supporting emerging artists in their studio and professional practice was my purpose in life -- not to sound cliché or silly at all -- I'm terribly sincere in this. I wanted to create a place where emerging artists could develop and reach their personal and professional creative goals. My work with artists in both classes and on an individual basis, include the nuts and bolts about materials and techniques, curating exhibitions and maintaining a sustainable professional practice. I wanted to offer this kind of personalized, in-depth support -- the kind that really accomplishes growth for each artist.

Can you explain some of the classes and techniques that you teach at The Art House?

I value all kinds of art-making and have taught beginner classes in painting, drawing, printmaking and sculpture. However, as The Art House grows, I have begun focusing curriculum on assisting artists in developing a meaningful body of work in the materials of their choosing. This approach has led to open studio courses with one-on-one attention, as well as specialized courses in techniques used by the old masters (glazing, lense and projection painting). Courses are small so that each artist can benefit regardless of their level or experience.

Can you explain the importance of one-on-one studio visits and individual instructions?

Individual instruction allows me to completely tailor my own knowledge, energy, resources and experience to the needs and interests of one artist. That kind of focused attention results in a 'speeding up' of the individual artist bringing their ideas to fruition and reaching their goals. My philosophy is empowering artists to do things for themselves and so while I teach and demonstrate techniques, skills and strategies, I support the artist in learning how to do it independently. If an artist is looking to learn the essentials that are specifically designed to meet them where they are and take them to a self-sufficient studio and professional practice, then working with me on an individual basis can be an excellent choice. I have begun working with individual artists in other states as well.

Do students usually come to The Art House with extensive art studio practice or are there beginners as well?

There happens to be a wide range of backgrounds and levels of experience in the artists attending classes--the resulting mixed groups are supportive and enriching as individual artists develop their work. Seeing how other artists interpret projects and techniques, manage challenges and express ideas is enlightening. The small class sizes allow each course group to form a community.

Would you like to expand on the Art House's upcoming exhibition, Art by America: A National Review of 2-Dimensional Contemporary Art, which will be juried by James Yood of ArtForum and Ginny Voedish of the Art Institute of Chicago? March 20 is the deadline to submit. Does The Art House typically have juried exhibitions? And how frequently?

This is The Art House's first annual juried exhibition. However, it is more than merely an opportunity to participate in a group show: This annual exhibition is a collaborative effort between the practicing artists of The Art House, the Arts on Elston Gallery and the field of Art History and Criticism to gather a wide range of submissions in order to determine the two-dimensional contemporary visual art trends and traditions across America.