From Studio Incamminati:
“Dan Thompson, an artist and teacher whose decades-long career ranges from exhibitions worldwide to faculty positions at Parsons the New School for Design and the Art Students League of New York, has been appointed Dean of Faculty and Students at Studio Incamminati, School of Contemporary Realist Art. In the newly created position, Thompson assumes the duties of Artistic Director, previously held by the school’s co-founder Leona Shanks, who is stepping down to devote more time to her painting.”
We reached out to Thompson to take us behind the scenes and tell us about his new role:
From my perspective, this appointment evolved out of a series of conversations that I was having with several artistic-minded colleagues in 2005. Envisioning school structure and curricula, I seriously considered relocating to Van Nuys to supervise an atelier that had been founded within the Los Angeles Academy of Figurative Art. Later, I co-founded an academy in Manhattan, on 44th Street, called the Grand Central Academy of Art. This germinated a further venture: Harlem’s Janus Collaborative School of Art that I also co-founded and developed until its conclusion. The effort at every opportunity was to create educational programming that provided students with a profound strategic understanding of their process. I remain committed to connecting students, via their temperament and technical aptitude, to a personal means of exquisite artistic expression.
When Studio Incamminati (SI) asked me to join forces as Dean, I could see opportunities in an alliance. My general discourse on artistic programming had matured, and the aesthetics of this art school were stirring. Nelson Shanks had been my instructor and there was tremendous sympathetic appeal. I remembered the exhilaration way back, witnessing his demonstration of Grace, under the Grand Rotunda in PAFA, and how electrifying this performance had been. Looking further into the history of the school, there was such richness in its manifestations. In more recent years, I’d watched my colleagues — SI’s instructors — develop their proficiency and communicative expertise. I’d seen SI graduate classes of students with inspiring voices. Both from having taught in the Advanced Fine Art Program within Studio Incamminati for a decade, as well as having taught elsewhere, I was fascinated with the circumstance.
The Dean appointment is momentous for me. There are characteristics that remind me of a teaching engagement, the most significant feature being a self-revelatory one. As an instructor, accepting the challenge of teaching a particular course magnifies the potential to more deeply understand your very nature — what motivates you, your aesthetic self, and why you revere certain artistic principles. This endeavor offers this on a grander, more philosophical level.
There is also the notion of safeguarding an entity which has been so beautifully constituted and nurtured by my predecessor, Leona Shanks. As SI’s Artistic Director, Leona actualized a dream that she and Nelson had for what an ideal art school could be. She championed the fundamentals and sheltered the community from influences that threatened its aesthetic integrity. Since departing her position to devote more time to her artistic practice, the intellectual investment into Studio Incamminati’s artistry goes on. The faculty are rock stars, and our students are inspiring each other to more exultant creativity. My interests will be to enhance elements of the curriculum which have striking potential while protecting the bedrock principles that make Studio Incamminati’s educational culture unique.
The community of Studio Incamminati is a very open one. We have welcomed people into it from the entire world and from every part of society: Some have never anticipated being capable of a decent drawing; others have entered from elite academic environments — and all have flourished. The most valiant thing that Fine Art Connoisseur’s readers can do now is to stay engaged with us. Studio Incamminati has just entered a new chapter. In Nelson Shanks’ spirit, the school is fearless and resolute. Studio Incamminati is also audacious. To be a school “…For Realist Art…” is to be, at its essence, audacious! ~Dan Thompson