The colleges may become the new art center of the country said Ben Shahn, the Charles Eliot Norton Lecturer last night, if they learn to accept and understand creativity and creators. Speaking before a capacity audience in New Lecture Hall, artist Shahn explained in his talk on "Artists in Colleges" why it would be of advantage to both the artist and the academy to get together.
From the artist's point of view, Shahn felt the humanities and other disciplines offered backround and stimulation. Moreover he noted colleges were an excellent audience for the artist. Also he felt that colleges and universities could provide an atmosphere of controversy and argument, on which art thrives.
In pointing up the benefits to the college Shahn mentioned that artists could stimulate imagination and provide a more human view, helping to unify culture. Art, he said, could give students more than just verbal knowledge; it could give them intuitive and perceptive knowledge.
Shahn then described how the university's atmosphere has a crippling effect upon the artist. "Colleges may become too much of a nursery school," he said. "depriving the artist of the useful struggle and contact with life."
More specifically Shahn cited three blocks to artistic development at the University. "Dilettantism," he felt, drained the artist's energy and discouraged the necessary serious attitude.
The fear that creativity interefered with the liberal arts was the second block the painter cited. Both artists and academicians, he added, must guard against the adoration of great art of the past to the exclusion of creativity on their own part.
Finally, Shahn urged revision of the common conception of the artist as a "mad genius." The value of unorthodoxy and why it exists, he continued, must still be acknowledged.
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