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Sister Corita Kent was a master printmaker and teacher, and her rules for artists and teachers are legendary - let’s break them down. Check out Google’s Science Journal: https://makingscience.withgoogle.com/science-journal. And go watch Say it Loud!: https://bit.ly/2CfPRt2.

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#art #arthistory #coritakent

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In a recent video, I made the error of attributing this list of rules for artists and teachers to John Cage, when it actually originated with Corita Kent, an amazing artist and also nun who taught for many years at Immaculate Heart College in Los Angeles, was a marvelously innovative print-maker, and made one of the most popular postage stamps of all time.  In celebration of Women's History Month and as my penance for this mistake, we're gonna take a deeper dive into the life and work of the person responsible for the list and the collaborative environment from which it sprang.  

We're also going to review the ten rules, which are relevant whether you're an artist or teacher or really just a person with a pulse.  Kent developed the list while teaching at Immaculate Heart during the early to mid 1960s and this version was lettered and printed in 1967 by student David Mekelburg.  It starts with Rule 1: Find a place you trust and then try trusting it for a while.  

The place Kent found and trusted for a while was the Immaculate Heart of Mary religious community, which was her home starting at the age of 18.  She was born Frances Elizabeth Kent and became Sister Mary Corita when she took her vows and joined the order.  The church and sisterhood provided structure to her life and support for her work and she blossomed in the collective environment of this progressive, as Catholics go, community.

Rule 2: General duties of a student: Pull everything out of your teacher.  Pull everything out of your fellow students.  Kent was an excellent student, completing a Bachelor's degree from Immaculate Heart in 1941 and a Master's in Art History from the University of Southern California in 1951.  She first learned (?~1:43) or silk screen printing from Maria Martinez, wife of arist Alfredo Ramos Martinez and then mostly on her own through experimentation.

Kent's mentor was Sister Magdalen Mary, the head of the art department, who encouraged her to exhibit her prints, which through the 50s were densely layered and largely figurative depictions of religious subjects.  

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Kent and Sister Mag, as she was called, traveled together to New York, Europe, and Egypt, to add to the school's folk art collection.  Folk art inspired her as did abstract expressionism, the work of Ben Shahn, and her local environment in LA.  Sister Carita drank up the offerings of her small liberal arts school and as she started teaching there, her educational philosophy was very much shaped by its vibrant and symbiotic relationship between students and teachers.

Kent later wrote that as a student in a class, "You aren't needed to be there to get grades or pass the course.  You are needed to help make the class.  So the structure is there for you and you are also the structure.  Your particular gifts help shape it," and that brings us to Rule 3: General duties of a teacher: pull everything out of your students.  Sister Carita was a very demanding teacher and even called herself a big old taskmaster.  She asked a lot of her students and they gave it.  She was extremely charismatic, which helped, and brought tremendous energy and enthusiasm to everything she did.  

Her assignments were unusual and elaborate, in one instance requiring the collection of 500 images only as step one, or in another asking students to make 20 puppets with a scenario crafted around them over a weekend.  You had to be neat and handle paper properly so that it didn't crease.  You had to respect technique and turn out a professional looking product, and you didn't need fancy tools to do it.  They often carved stamps from erasers, but if you weren't careful and sliced your finger, Sister Carita charged you 75 cents per cut.

All art majors were required to be English minors and they read the classics along with folk tales, poetry, contemporary literature, histories, oh, and also books about art.  Sister Mag asked her students to carry Janson's History of Art with them at all times, not to read necessarily, but to glance at or maybe just absorb something by its proximity and heft.  

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