Jason Foumberg Discusses Upcoming Writing Class for Visual Arts Certificate

Visual Arts students looking at art work in a gallery.

As a preview for his upcoming writing class in the Graham School’s Visual Arts Certificate Program starting April 19, art critic and curator Jason Foumberg led a discussion at the Hyde Park Art Center focused on writing’s role in empowering one’s practice as an artist. Noting how an ability to write clearly and persuasively has become a necessary component to one’s professionalization as an artist, Foumberg also highlighted how the capacity to position one’s work in writing within a broader constellation of contemporary artistic debate is a powerful way to take the lead on shaping the discussion surrounding one’s work.

With an MA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and experience writing for Chicago Magazine, Artforum.com, and other publications, Foumberg started as an artist whose passionate engagement with art history led him to begin writing about art. Also a curator for the Carl & Marilynn Thoma Art Foundation in Chicago, he resists calling himself solely a writer, seeing his essays and reviews as part of a larger enterprise of thinking about art and understanding its history.

“Writing about art is about capturing a point of view or angle onto the work,” Foumberg said. “It provides the reader with an orientation. As an artist, whether it’s your own artist statement, a grant application, or a critique of another artist’s work, writing is not only a great way to let others know what you are about as an artist, it’s also a way to discover and open up paths of exploration and connection between your own work and the history it’s emerging from. The class will be about developing that sort of skill as a writer.”

Calling the artist statement at once the most necessary and least interesting piece of writing you’ll do as an artist, Foumberg described his upcoming class as bookended by the task of producing a polished version of this indispensible document. Through reading artists’ comments on their art and writing reviews of current shows at the Hyde Park Art Center, as well as through exercises in writing grant proposals and press releases, he expects students to develop confidence and flexibility when it comes to writing about their own work in relation to the broader climate of discussion surrounding contemporary artistic practice.

“Just because your art is biographical does not mean you have to describe it using the pronoun ‘I,’” Foumberg said. “There’s an important and informative difference between saying ‘My art is about the war’s impact on my family’ and ‘Wars give birth to traumas that can be inherited inter-generationally.’ Part of the class will be focused on discovering how to write and speak about your art on this broader and more conceptual register.”

Adding to Foumberg’s discussion of his upcoming class, Nikki Yagoda, Assistant Director of External Engagement at the Graham School, noted that all the classes offered through the Visual Arts Certificate Program center on professionally developing oneself as an artist. Whether the class is Curating, in which students work towards producing a contemporary art exhibition, or Business, in which students create individualized action plans to achieve their goals, each of the four offerings that make up the certificate revolves around producing something real that matters.

“The assumption is that you’ve spent years working on your art and building your portfolio and that you come to the VACP in order to professionalize yourself as an artist,” Yagoda said. “With a suite of classes focusing on practical skills, such as building visibility and collaborating with other artists, the end goal extends beyond the classroom back into your practice as an artist, moving you towards your unique definition of what being a successful artist is.”

Find information about the Visual Arts Certificate.