The Independent School of Art is a nomadic experimental art school. Without institutional affiliations, degrees, or public funding, the school exists solely through the labor and efforts of it's participants, and thus fosters a proactive approach to college-level arts education, a real-world model where students are challenged to determine and create their own artistic realities. The school's barter-based tuition system makes explicit and direct the social contract between students and teachers and honors their collective labor as a vital form of cultural production. By existing without a site and locating nomadically, the school prioritizes social over physical architecture, and challenges students and teachers alike to imagine how their practice might intersect and respond to a larger set of physical situations and cultural possibilities. Since the ISA is not driven by tuition payments, employee payrolls, facility maintenance, fundraising quotas, degree granting and accreditation requirements it can be fluid and experimental, changing each semester to reflect the ambitions, personalities, and abilities of those in its community.
The Development of the ISA
At first, the idea of starting my own art school was almost a joke. I liked how it sounded so patently ridiculous and overblown. Yet, as its become a reality it has developed into a very complex work and experience that has brought together a remarkable group of people. In many ways it's a very traditional work made up of a series of living elements-- students, teachers, lectures, exhibitions, cultural expectations, economic structures, pedagogical philosophies - that are developed into a composition. Obviously not all of these elements are in my control, in fact very few are, but they have been orchestrated to some extent, there are some Cageian absolutes in place to create a structure for enjoying the chaos. This structure or mission allows for simultaneity of voices to come forth and modify the schools personality without dissolving it into an anarchic mess.
Early on in the development of the Independent School of Art I realized that the only way to frame the school as an aesthetic act was to dislocate it from its natural environment, to remove the seemingly commonplace labor of teaching and learning from institutional affiliation and own it as a very personal, autonomous endeavor. The ISA has no accreditation, no degrees, no site, and no external resources, yet it is not a notion of an art school, or a theoretical art school, or a poetic proposal. It is a real school with real students and real teachers, and it is precisely the lack of all those aforementioned resources that makes it a compelling alternative to a conventional art education. In order for the school to stay aloft and maintain its tenuous existence, all involved must temporarily suspend their disbelief and agree that their presence and participation are the only factors that define the school's identity. This action-based model of learning and teaching, as well as the implicit understanding that all involved are responsible for maintaining the school's existence, doesn't just prepare students for the real world, it is the real world. It's important that despite all the odds against it, the ISA maintains it's stubborn yet somewhat delusional insistence that it's really a school, forever teetering between a cockamamie idea and a brilliant reality.
Jon Rubin is a multi-disciplinary artist whose work explores the social dynamics of public spaces and the lives of ordinary individuals. His solo and collaborative projects include creating a game show for ideas, running a gallery that only presents exhibitions that focus on people who live in its neighborhood, opening a fake store in an indoor shopping mall, making a punk band play the same song, over and over, for 5 hours, running his own clandestine restaurant, creating a show with a 10 year old boy, broadcasting an office's telephone conversations through a talking piano, running a neighborhood truck that gives away free homemade goods and services, producing a cable access variety show at a senior center, and most recently developing the Independent School of Art.