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Carol Becker, Dean of the Columbia University School of the Arts, on the role of the artist in society

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Art schools encourage risk. This is essential to a creative environment. But risk often leads to failure. Sometimes a painting or a theater piece works. Sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes there are epic failures of great interest to all, but still the work is flawed. There are even Rembrandt paintings that great contemporary artists note could use an adjustment here or there. But the overall effect is still magnificent and this is what counts. There has to be room to try things and to know that something might come of the trial and yet, there might need to be many new iterations before the work is perfected enough that no one stops to question its validity. Of course we know that in art so much that we have come to value was once considered a failure—the work of Van Gogh, Beckett, James Joyce to name a few. We are often not ready for the new, for what we haven’t seen before, read before, heard before, and we react by rejecting it. This all represents failure on the part of the collective audience to see the new. Over time the work is accepted, lauded, appreciated even, but artists suffer in the interim. Art schools are places that embrace this type of daring, yet even they at times, reject what is either out of fashion or not yet in fashion.

Carol Becker, Dean of the School of the Arts, Columbia University

[interview with Georgia Kotretsos, Inside the Artist’s Studio, June 29, 2012]