WANT TO THANK the duCret School for inviting me here to this fabulous dinner and for honoring me in this fashion. While I have been asked to speak about art in many places, this is a first for being so honored.
When my daughter Kara decided to sign up for a painting course at duCret with Tim Jahn two years ago, I drove her there the first time because I wanted to show her where I grew up in Plainfield, on Salem Road near the High School Field and in plain view of Muhlenberg Hospital. I must say that I was more than a little surprised to recognize the door that opens into the parking lot at the school as the very same door I used to enter to go to nursery school back in 1949... when the duCret building was the Wardlaw School. I guess what goes around really does come around. I was meant to return here some day!
Some of you may know that I am the CEO of Allied Old English and that I invented the concept and procedure for making jams and jelly from 100% fruit. It was with the success of Sorrell Ridge Conserves in 1982, that my wife Sherry and I began to amass our art collection which is now a famous collection of over 500 19th Century Academic European paintings as well as a substantial and growing collection of Contemporary Realist paintings. I'm also the Chairman of the Art Renewal Center known by our acronym as ARC. Like duCret, ARC is a 501C3 Educational Foundation, which you can find at www.artrenewal.org. Even though we began a mere 5 years ago, today we are the largest and most visited Internet Museum on earth, logging over 450,000,000 hits per year from more visitors than come to any single museum in America.
ARC is dedicated to the return of intensive regimes of training for the art student as the only way in which to bring back great fine art, via craftsmanship and superlative technique, harmonized with great themes and subject matter about the human condition. Great art after all is the way Mankind expresses the deepest emotions and the most profound sentiments of humanity, endeavoring to communicate to people of any and all times, that we lived and what that life was like.
The role of art, whether through poetry, literature, theatre or fine art, is to tell the story of human life. Indeed, fine art is "Art about Life". In the past century, all too often, art had morphed into the bizarre, the strange or the disgusting, endlessly trying to redefine itself by expanding the meaning of "fine art" but always by throwing away all prior parameters of what it meant to be a work of art...by throwing out all the rules. In other words, art has now become "Art about Art" not "Art about Life".
But this shallow and contrived concept will not endure. It is self conscious, arrogant and incredibly destructive to the values we teach our children, and to the self image and self confidence we want to uplift humanity with. Art should inspire us, connect with us, and make us recognize ourselves in it. What it is we have achieved on this tiny little ball of soil, air and water, hurtling through the galaxy for billions of years, is nothing short of incredible, wondrous, mind blowing and electrifying. Above all, our best accomplishments, whether cultivating the earth, building great cities, mastering the oceans, improving communications and travel, and developing societal, political and economic structures that make it possible for hundreds of millions of people to live and work together ... are very, very, very "REAL."
It is also very real that everything isn't always so wonderful in our world. There is terrible suffering and unrest in this very real world of ours and art must reflect both these realities... whether the image is a loving family, or wounded children running from bombs. But whether the subject matter is joyful or dark, it can be executed beautifully so that it truly communicates the artist's intention. It is art's job to capture these images that tell the human story, and I will tell you this, none of the images that matter to us look like a Jackson Pollock, William DeKooning or Mark Rothko...and certainly nothing like a Damien Hurst or a Christo wrapped Reichstag.
Within these massive and very "real" human accomplishments we live as individuals trying to create organized and rational lives, but we are also drenched in passions which encompass all of our deepest and most profound emotions. This is what great art's job is all about...not to explore the rather inane and hollow task of seeing what happens if we throw out drawing, modeling, perspective, color theory, tonality, subject matter and all story telling. It's not the job of fine art to see how much we can destroy shock or mutilate.
It is rather our hopes, our dreams, and our fears that art must express. Whether this subject matter is about the identity crisis that a young person might face in growing up, or the fear of failure, the jealousy of some else's success, or the arrogance that success sometimes creates in an individual, art must speak to what matters to us. Whether art talks to us of loneliness, pride, sincerity, joy, sadness, hunger or gluttony, love or lust, envy or joyous exaltation, it is the job of the poet or writer to paint a picture with words, and it is the job of the artist or sculptor to tell the story of life with painted realistic imagery, both poetic and graceful.
So it is only in this way that artists can be born or brought into being, and it is to this job that the duCret School has devoted itself to for many decades. But now, recognizing as we do at ARC, the failings of modernism and abstraction, duCret has taken the most progressive move of any art school I know in New Jersey. They have decided to form an in-house atelier school within their system led by Tim Jahn, who will be the resident master of the Academy duCret. Paul McCormack, one of ARC's Living Master's(tm) will also teach as a visiting master teacher. The duCret Academy, with such instructors as Tim and Paul, will quickly join the small but quickly growing network of ARC Approved atelier art schools that provide intensive programs of training by emphasizing drawing as the foundation of all great art. The classic example of atelier life in the past was a master instructor with 5 to 10 apprentices who lived, slept, breathed, drank in and mastered art by learning how to see and draw the real world 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Then they were ready to learn to paint. This knowledge was passed down from generation to generation for the past 6 centuries until the entire method was nearly lost during the past 100 years.
ARC, 5 years ago, scoured the globe searching for art schools that emphasized these high standards of drawing, modeling, the study of light on form, anatomy of the human form, and then on to color theory and painting. We found 16 such schools. We placed them on the ARC website, and in 3 years their enrollments went up between 200 and 500%. We now have 55 ARC Approved atelier schools or workshops, with more begging us to be added every week because they know if they are accepted on ARC, even better than government accreditation, the ARC Approval status will guarantee them a full, growing and dynamic student body. I'm certain that duCret's in house academy will soon join the ranks of these remarkable places of rigorous training.
I am confident it will be but a matter of months, if not weeks after starting, before duCret's Academy will be added to the ARC Approved listing, and thereby help lead New Jersey, our nation and the art world into the very, very "REAL" 21st Century.