Life Lessons Through Art

Standing in front of Brooks' 2D art class, in paint-splattered work pants with arms stretched wide to emphasize a point, Jim Sperber '87 is opening up to students about his career as an artist — and teaching them as much about life as art.

"You plan, but it's not as easy to maintain control as you would with a brush," the New York City-based artist advises students trying out his signature technique of dripping paint, which Sperber does on canvas and over metal wires to create striking patterns. "The dripping is slightly more out of control, which is a lot like life. You can have a plan. You can see it in front of you and know what you want to do . . . but it might not go exactly as planned." The "errors" he says, "are where you find your beauty."

See photos of his teaching residence on

In residence on campus for a week, the artist has been working with Brooks' Introduction to 2D Studio Art, 3D Studio Art and Painting classes in the Center for the Arts studio. And last night, he welcomed everyone on campus to join him in the Robert Lehman Art Gallery, inviting students, faculty and friends to bring all that they've learned and contribute it to a collaborative work during the reception for his "Directions" exhibit.

Sneak a peek at Sperber's works, which were on display in the gallery February 3-28.

An art teacher, as well as artist, Sperber has taught on campus before — more than a decade ago. "It's great to be back," said the former freelance filmmaker (who has a master's in film and video production from the California Institute of the Arts).

"I teach three and four year olds — which is an amazing experience because of their creativity and that looseness — but it is really nice for me to be able to teach older kids. I love that you can talk to them about [artistic confidence] and I can give them my metaphor for life with painting, which a four-year-old wouldn't understand at all."

And if the Brooks students don't fully grasp Sperber's big picture right now, either, he hopes the example of his path post-Brooks will nonetheless inspire them to find their own way to art, whatever that may look like.

"Really, my only goal is to inspire kids to want to be artists," he said. "I think it's a great life and it's valuable to many different careers: teaching, working in digital arts, working as an art director or in the art department of a film. So many things that we learn through art help you in so many ways."

Marveling over the new Center for the Arts building — constructed in 2018, well after his first visiting-artist stint on campus in 2007 — Sperber added that "it seems like art is not undervalued as much anymore, which is evidenced by this incredible space we're standing in!"

Even if making art is "a sideline and something that you just do on your own for your own sanity" he continued: "Being able to make things and feel good about what you're doing is a really valuable thing."

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