Teaching Awards 2006
Whitney’s creative voice
comes through in class
As a painter, Stanley Whitney ordinarily communicates his thoughts and ideas through vivid brush strokes. But for 32 years, he has shown equal skill with a different kind of canvas — the classroom.
“As an artist, I am eternally silent, so in the classroom I get a chance to be creative through my lesson plans,” Whitney said.
His unique ability to captivate and educate art students, residents and fellows alike has earned him a 2006 Temple University Great Teacher Award. Whitney is a professor in the painting, drawing and sculpture department at the Tyler School of Art.
Proof of Whitney’s talent — both as an internationally respected artist and as an educator — is confirmed by many throughout the University and the artistic community. Most notably, students throughout his tenure at Tyler testify to his influence on their work and in their lives.
“Stanley has motivated me and countless other students to pursue art consciously, intellectually, politically and critically,” a former Tyler student said. “He never lets a student slip through a course casually and requires a rigorous thoughtfulness from both the students who are struggling and those who are not.”
Whitney earned his bachelor’s degree in fine art from the Kansas City Art Institute and his master’s degree from Yale University. He came to Temple in 1973 from a teaching position at the University of Rhode Island, where he had taught drawing and painting courses. It was there that he began to develop his artistic voice.
“I have always been able to make the shift from artist to teacher very easily,” Whitney said. “I would have never thought when I was growing up that I would be teaching, but it has allowed me the time and resources to make the kind of art I want to.”
While Whitney can occasionally be found lecturing in the classroom, most of his time is spent inspecting canvases and offering advice to the artists. According to his students, his honest critiques have gained him respect as an educator while also keeping many in fearful anticipation of his opinion.
“During my first year at Tyler, Stanley was teaching at Temple Rome, so I knew him only through stories from other graduate students. The general consensus: He was not a man to be messed with,” revealed a former student. “He has the ability to rip you to shreds with one phrase and leave you in the studio with the aftermath. But if it wouldn’t have been for his ruthlessness, I would not be the artist I am today.”
Although Whitney may have a reputation as a merciless critic, he said he believes his honesty is what draws students to take his courses.
“I feel as a professor you want to tell [students] the truth,” he said. “My job is to guide them in the right direction; whether they get upset doesn’t matter to me. In the end, it will make them better artists because they will have to defend what they create beyond the classroom.”
A particularly valuable lesson Whitney imparts to his students is the importance of believing in themselves and their talent, even when the money may not be flowing in.
“The lonely way is the only way,” Whitney often says. “I tell my students to do what they love and trust themselves because people may not always see purpose in what they’re doing.”
Whitney has earned a crucial and respected position among the Tyler faculty. His influence at the school comes through participation in graduate and undergraduate recruiting and portfolio reviews, the hiring of new faculty and, most importantly, steering the painting, drawing and sculpture department as a chair for more than 10 years.
Respected as both an administrator and professor, Whitney remains best known at Tyler for his teaching. Colleagues say they admire the way he is able to transform his real-life experiences into student learning.
“[Whitney’s] feedback challenges his students with the highest expectations and demands the hardest level of work from them,” a former colleague said. “I have never experienced such strong support and conviction from another teacher toward his students.”
Whitney said he has been able to share so much with his students by remaining very much involved in the art world. A resident of New York City since 1968, he is continually showing his work at galleries and rubbing elbows with the top artists and critics.
“For me, teaching has its rewards in knowing that I’m talking to young people who will be the future of the art world,” Whitney said proudly. “Having input into the future gives me a chance to make a real mark on the art profession in a different way than I can with my paintings.”
— Karen Shuey