Ways of Being is a book, a deck of cards, and an open-access website that aims to provide a guide for artists and arts educators to: (1) understand the social lives of artworks, using systems thinking and life-cycle analysis; (2) assess the social conditions in which artworks and artists live, using social-ecological models; and (3) integrate collaborative practices that emphasize social-emotional intelligence into visual-arts pedagogy.
The authors believe that an education in art must be as much about ways of being in the world as it is about ways of seeing and ways of making. Ways of Being is for people who want a holistic arts education; an education that includes how to be both more fully present with themselves (ways of feeling) and with others (ways of relating), and to understand the conditions and contexts that inform the decisions they make in their production process. For example, how can one talk about making a new project without talking about labor conditions? How can one talk about labor conditions without talking about payment? It’s time for artists to address not only their artistic gifts but also their labor, their well-being, their budgets, and their storage units. When students answer these questions, they can begin to connect life in school with life after school — to connect life as an artist with life as a person in the world. They can identify and intervene in daily economies and in relationships with people.
Ways of Being aims to help a range of artists — art students, artists who have quit formal educational structures, and self-taught artists — to identify what they care about and connect it to a post-factory world that is interdisciplinary and filled with networked information technology. If artmaking is a lifelong practice of seeking knowledge and producing art in relationship to that knowledge, why wouldn’t we teach students of art to identify and intervene in the systems that they see around them? Why wouldn’t we teach students of art about the political economies of art education and art circulation? Why wouldn’t we invite students of art to actively fight for the implementation of the art infrastructure that they want?