Free art school - Page 2

Steal this art education with the Pickpocket Almanack

Hallucinations in the dark were part of the Pickpocket Almanack's loose curriculum this spring

Just as the name implies — "stolen calendar" (the "k" added as a nod to Benjamin Franklin's Poor Richard's Almanack) — Pickpocket Almanack "steals" from the slew of free public programs offered by the Bay Area's art institutions and organizes the best into individual courses via the prowess of an appointed team of "experts" or faculty. The faculty involved in Pickpocket's spring 2010 season ran a wide gamut: Claudia Altman-Siegel, owner and director of Altman Siegel Gallery; Jim Fairchild, Modest Mouse guitarist; Amy Franceschini, artist and member of the Futurefarmers collective who organized Playshop, another Bay Area artist-initiated school; Renny Pritikin, curator and codirector during one of the best eras of the now defunct alternative space New Langton Arts; and Jerome Waag, artist and chef involved in the experimental restaurant collaborative OPENrestaraunt.

Partnered with SFMOMA, one might suspect Pickpocket Almanack's "experimental" claim to be somewhat compromised. Although this relationship might carry with it a few bureaucratic implications, del Pesco assured me that Pickpocket's faculty isn't expected to include any of the museum's events into its courses. If anything the pairing provides a consolation prize for Pickpocket's participants ("students" is another term del Pesco avoids): an SFMOMA ID card that allows free access to any public program.

"It's kind of like a gesture that makes the material real in some way," del Pesco says. Since Pickpocket's participants sign up through the website and discuss events primarily through e-mail, an initial launch event and final wrap-up meeting have also been incorporated to give some semblance of actual participation. But there's no set structure. Some faculty have organized events outside of the course calendar, among them Fairchild, who facilitated a conversation with musician John Vanderslice.

While participating, as in any community setting, there's always a fear of lame ducks. The misanthropic can technically remain anonymous throughout the course. "But there's some incentive to actually meet each other to make it not a community but a kind of informal network of relationships," del Pesco says. He likes to think of Pickpocket as "a special encounter with knowledge, where you don't have the weight of school and education and a degree and grades and all that other shit. It's self-guided; it's social; it's about the relationship between you, the people in the course, and the faculty — the informal production of knowledge and making visible certain events going on in the Bay Area."

Pickpocket's next season begins in September. So you have plenty of time to get dumb in the sun.

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