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Graduate Lesson #2: Taught by Robert Duke

2 AM Drawing

2 AM Drawing

A friend and I were at Taza Fresca having a study-buddy session when she showed me a link to Robert Duke — a UT music professor speaking at Cornell.

OK, geek moment… yes I watch speeches for fun, don’t judge.

She and I agreed if it weren’t for graduating this spring we would have been all over a course by this guy next Fall. He’s a great speaker. Here you go Duke, this is your plug from me- a complete stranger.

One of his points has haunted me since:

“What do you value most about your discipline?”

Read: What do I value most about art and education?


Talk to this Art Education Grad student/ Blanton Gallery Teacher/ former Elementary Art Instructor who hasn’t made art for nearly four years. Isn’t that illegal or something? To this I say:

“Evaluation takes precedence ya know?”

I’m measured at school… projects, papers, deadlines.

I’m measured at the museum… programming, tours, lessons.

I’m measured at a serving job… wine/ food knowledge, and lovability by strangers.

I’m measured at home… Dust, vacuum, Swiffer wet-jet the kitchen.

Author Seth Godin says in his book “The Big Moo:”

“Just because it’s easy to measure, doesn’t mean it’s important.”

In theory this makes sense, Godin. In practice, I’m unsure if this would fly with professors, bosses, or my roommate.

“Sorry I left food in the sink for a week, roomie. I was thinking the enrichment of my creative soul was more important.”

So yeah, it’s problematic. What I value most, and what others value most collide in this space.


The other night as I lay in bed doing my nightly (and wholly unhealthy) ritual of checking email once more before sleep– I felt the urge to draw.

It caught me off guard. It felt familiar and foreign.

“Well hello, I remember you. Nice to see you again.”

R. Duke’s question reverberated:

What do you value the most?”

Well I don’t value checking email before bed. I picked up a pad of Bristol and began doodling. I was rusty- but never mind, I stayed up until 2 in the morning- just me, pandora, and Prismacolor markers. What do I value most Robert Duke?! I’ll tell you what I value most. Power over my time!

That night I shot down the “Man” and did three hours of work involving no discernible reward save my own peace of mind. I woke up after only five hours of sleep… refreshed. I worked out, I sang in the shower, I exuded a dewy glow from my skin. Who needs you Estee Lauder, I have art powers to combat under eye circles!

Then it was off to a meeting. Which I was five minutes late for.

Ah well. Baby steps.

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November 14, 2011 | | Comments are closed for this post

3 Comments to Graduate Lesson #2: Taught by Robert Duke

I totally love this! What do you most value about your discipline? That’s the question I’ve been trying to answer since I started college. I was just wondering why you went to graduate school and what do you plan to do? I’m considering it.

November 15, 2011
— Jelisa

Aw J, thanks! Teachers have to go to graduate school in most states in order to keep their license. I wish I had a more romantic reason.

Duke’s speech inspired me to start a list of things I most value. I haven’t worked on it much since I’m so busy with school. Ah the irony. I’m curious to know what you decide– from what I know about you I think you should do it :)

November 16, 2011
— Rebecca

thanks its very good

November 21, 2011
— usman
photo of Rebecca