Saturday, August 27, 2011

History of Arts & Consciousness, Part Two

At the heart of the artistic effort is the concern to expose and express what it means to be human at its most profound level. Frederick Streng (from the Consciousness and the Arts brochure)

In the early 1980’s the Graduate School for the Study of Human Consciousness offered Master degrees in Religion and Consciousness, Parapsychology, Transpersonal Counseling and Consciousness and the Arts.
The program brochure at that time emphasized the “eternal and transpersonal dimensions of art” and that art (including visual, music, dance, literature, drama etc.) was a “dynamic, transformative activity-not only for the artist but also for the viewer, participant and student of art history.”

Jack Weller was the Chair of the Consciousness and the Arts program and oversaw its development. He later became the founding Director of the Expressive Arts Therapy program at California Institute of Integral Studies and is now retired.

LACMA catalog
In later versions of Charles Miedzinski’s curriculum proposal he focused on visionary and sacred art and this became the foundation of the program offerings. Those courses (for example: Sources of Sacred Art and Symbolism) were the ancestors of classes which we teach today, such as the core requirement Art and Symbolic Process. His background as a scholar of the humanities, art history, spirituality and psychology laid the foundation for how he visualized an academic program that connected art and the sacred. These areas also came together when he served as a consultant for the major exhibition The Spiritual in Modern Art: Abstract Painting 1890-1985 at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The exhibition catalog continues to inspire artists interested in art as a spiritual practice.

In the late 1980’s the program took on the name that we know today - Arts and Consciousness and the brochure description links the transformative capacity of art making to both personal and community transformation - “Art has the power to transform our lives, our culture and our planet.”
(from the Graduate School for the Study of Human Consciousness brochure)

The powerful work of A&C alumni demonstrates how deeply the connections between inner and outer worlds intersect. Whether their creative practice impacts aesthetics, philosophy, healing, health care, education or social issues, A&C alumni reflect what had always been the hope of the founders - that the transformative nature of art was a vital and necessary element of a larger cultural structure.

Next: The creation of the Fiberworks MFA program at JFK University

Friday, August 12, 2011

History of Arts & Consciousness, Part One

Master of Arts Program Consciousness and The Arts Brochure

I have always felt that it is important to be grounded in knowledge of personal and cultural history because it creates a legacy of understanding that, in the words of the poet Rumi, "our lamp was lit by another’s light…".

Over thirty years ago the seeds of our program in Arts & Consciousness (A&C) at John F. Kennedy University were planted by young artists and scholars who believed that the practice of art could lead to deep connections to spiritual, emotional and psychological dimensions. The "path" of consciousness was connected to wholeness, individuation, the sacred, intuition, and to the forms and materials that embodied this exploratory journey.

The articulation of this process continues to be an on-going practice of current JFKU A&C students particularly in their exhibitions and written Masters’ projects.

 Our program began in the late 1970’s as Consciousness and the Arts housed within the Graduate School for the Study of Human Consciousness. The program brochure listed four other degree specializations including: Religion and Consciousness, Parapsychology, Consciousness Studies and Transpersonal Psychology. The Consciousness and the Arts program was visualized as a tree with the roots embedded in the study of consciousness and growing outward into three branches: studio practice, thematic seminars and workshops on creativity and personal process.

A&C faculty member Charles Miedzinski, who died from cancer on July 3, 2004, was a pivotal figure in the development of the program. In 1978 he submitted a curriculum proposal (beautifully hand written) for a "Creativity and Consciousness" program which, as he wrote, were "incipient, half-formed ideas" which would later take shape as the first guideposts on the journey that we continue today.

Charles Miedzinski, June 14, 1978 Letter

Art is a state of grace before whose light we uncoil our secret selves, and within which we receive promise of a greater whole. It asks nothing from us but our best. Theodore Wolff (from the Consciousness and the Arts brochure)

To be continued...

Click on links below to view the letter and MA Program Brochure