Art Professor Matt Furmanski encourages his students to “be a dilettante” and “solve a non-problem.” It's not because he has low expectations – just the opposite.
“When you're a dilettante, you're an amateur who's free to experiment,” Furmanski said. “Many times dilettantes make insightful discoveries because they don't know any better.”
An internationally known sculptor whose art has been exhibited in museums, galleries and public spaces, Furmanski leads students by example. One of his favorite sculptures, “Dilettante,” is a working jet engine that he built from scrap metal parts using engineering knowledge he picked up on the Internet.
“I love encouraging students to explore the directions they can go with art,” he said. “I want them to see it as a process of research and experimentation.”
Furmanski exposes students to experiences ranging from primitive welding and hammering to Web and computer-aided design. He also leads them in projects where they serve the community and cultivate skills that can be applied in future careers.
In one course, his students transformed an old Volkswagen Beetle into a blue whale heart that serves as a children's play sculpture at Catalina Island Marine Institute. In another, students taught weekly art lessons to underprivileged children. In a recent class, students built a 3D printer that turns digital designs into solid, three-dimensional objects.
“Anyone who comes to my class will understand the fundamentals of aesthetics and how things are structured, even if they're not going to be an artist,” he said. “If I can make a better dentist, then that's what I'm going to do.”