The Public School


The Public School is an initiative by Los Angeles’ Telic Arts Exchange, and, so far as I can tell, the basic premise is this: people interested in either teaching or taking a short-term class on a given subject propose that class; other people interested in such a class express their interest on the School’s website, and proposals eliciting the greatest public interest are selected to be taught. Nominal fees are collected, an instructor and curriculum are settled upon, and then the class is held at a space provided by the School. Topics already selected range from gold leafing and piñata-making to discussion of Benjamin’s Arcades Project and conceptual choreography. And S&M. And composting.

So far, the School has also launched programs in Chicago and Philadelphia. Now, it’s difficult to imagine the exact same system working in precisely the same way in a city the size of Windsor (put simply, there likely aren’t enough interested parties for the same degree of “crowd-sourcing” to be practicable), but as an organizational model for knowledge- or skill-sharing, I think there’s a lot that could be taken from the School’s format.

I’ve written here before about the potential that comes of having a physical space out of which to work, and something like this is perhaps one of the more compelling possibilities. The “school” here is, in effect, an empty classroom: the curriculum and schedule emerges out of a collective desire to see a given thing happen. And then it happens.

People everywhere have knowledge and experience that, in large part, goes under-utilized. It’s not difficult to imagine finding a couple-dozen people willing to chip in ten bucks for a silk-screening workshop, but, at the same time, there’s potentially something to be gained by bringing together four or five dedicated turbo-nerds willing to spend a night each week talking about—I don’t know—European versus North American histories of site-specificity in artistic practice and how these come to bear in current understandings and implementations of “relational” creative activity (only one example, of course). For the particular terbo-nerd leading the seminar, that outlet and the even-slight reciprocity of interest could mean the difference between sticking around and giving up and moving to Kitchener (“the Ghent of Southern Ontario,” I hear they call it). Or something. I don’t mean people like me specifically, of course; I’m just saying.

I could also teach gold leafing. Or piñata-making, come to that. Just saying.

4 Replies to “The Public School”

  1. Thanks for posting this Steven, sometime during the spring semester I came across this and immediately lost track of it, but I do remember being excited by it. I agree that this model wouldn’t be an exact translation for Windsor given our size, but as you mentioned, having the opportunity to bring together these turbo-nerds to discuss “European versus North American histories of site-specificity in artistic practice and how these come to bear in current understandings and implementations of “relational” creative activity” (and of course now, I will have to hold you to this in January) would be amazing.

    I know that Jeff Noonan, a philosophy prof at the University was running a course that seemed to generally follow this logic at the Windsor Workers’ Action Centre over the summer for free … has anyone attended or heard anything about how this worked?

    It would seem somewhat of a waste to not have people’s specific knowledge shared widely in the community, I suppose it’s just a matter of figuring out how best to facilitate the structure and then do it.

    At the very least, it looks like we will have a space to use for the next two semesters, and so should no other opportunities arise, we could certainly host our version of the Public School there.

    1. is it possible to make this somewhat of a small priority? i know that BCL has tons going on, but what a great idea this is. there are too many talented people in this city with no platform to share their skills and knowledge, and even more people who wish they could learn these skills from real life people (as opposed to internet videos, etc.).

      a few minutes ago, i was checking out the Made in Windsor store’s blog and they have a plastic bag fusing workshop coming up. the cost is $20! that is insanity. it would be so amazing if this city had regularly scheduled, ridiculously cheap (ie <$5 or bring your own supplies) to free workshops for anyone to attend.

      can we do this? is this possible?

      1. I would love to see something like this Public School model come together here, but that being said, I would also hate to see it compete directly with something like Made in Windsor, since their efforts are helping to put money into artists’ and artisans’ pockets. A workshop there at $20 per person might help to pay someone’s rent, pay for the wear and tear on the sewing machines they’ll be using, pay for keeping the lights on at Made in Windsor, etc. But your point is taken, free and open knowledge is a great thing!!! CNAP as I understand it is essentially an ongoing open-workshop type of activity… if someone shows up and needs to know how to knit or make bunting (to use the only two examples I’ve experienced through CNAP), certainly you’re showing them how to do it!

        Could I request that you propose a kind of short-term “public school” idea as part of the Micro-Residency thing we’re trying to do? We’d happily supply the space and whatever human resources we could muster if you could come up with a series of workshops or a series of knowledge-sharing activities like that to pull off over a weekend? We’re probably a bit strapped for time and energy at this moment to formally get something together on our own, but we’d love to help facilitate something if it makes sense! Or, maybe looking towards something in the winter could be the other way to go…?

  2. I love when the BCL blog is on the same track as my thoughts. I was just thinking yesterday how I wish I could take interesting classes without having to commit to the cost of a university education (although I do plan to do this eventually.)

    It would be amazing to have inexpensive silkscreening classes availiable, too. There have been a few workshops over the spring, but they usually start at $150 for a one day thing. I can buy my own supplies and learn by trial and error with that much money (which wouldn’t be a terrible thing to do, really.)

    I hope that this can come to Windsor. Even if it’s on a smaller scale, it would be worth it to those who can teach and attend.

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