Skip to main content
Department of Art

Be Patient and Show Up: The Department of Art’s Visiting Artist Offers Advice

Research-based Artist Alisha Anderson Joins Art Faculty For 2023-24

Alisha Anderson

Every year the BYU Department of Art hosts a visiting artist — someone who teaches, mentors and brings a new perspective to the students of the department. Alisha Anderson is filling this role this academic year. Anderson is a research-based artist who concentrates on place-based environmental issues. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts from BYU, her Master’s of Science from the University of Utah and her Master of Fine Arts from the University of New Mexico. Both of her master’s degrees are in the field of political ecology.

Anderson answers questions about her work, her love of teaching and the power of new genres below.

Q: Can you tell us about the New Genres class you teach?

Anderson: The course is essentially about exploring what many people term “new genres” within art. These genres are more contemporary modes of art making, in contrast to traditional mediums like painting and sculpture.

For this course, we move through units that concentrate on sound, video, performance, and installation art. In each unit we explore the genre’s history, notable works and theory. We also review any technical and practical information students might need, such as best practices for recording sound or video. All of it culminates in the students creating their own artwork within the genre. And this is the part I especially love: witnessing the students step into these genres, often for the first time.

Something we talk about in this class is how each medium has its strengths and capabilities. For instance, video—as a time-based medium—slowly unfolds to a viewer, in contrast to a painting that can often be viewed all at once, with one glance. That fact alone means video can do things a painting cannot and vice versa. This fact also means that when we as artists interface with different mediums, their differences innately bring out different facets of our artistic expression.

It’s inspiring to sense students’ unique voices coming through in these new genres in expanding and deepening ways. I think they learn a lot about themselves as an artist through this course, and I love being a witness to that.

Q: In your interview for the BYU Art Instagram you mentioned that you love to teach because you learn along with the students. What have been your biggest lessons or takeaways from working with the BYU students?

Anderson: I’ve taught in the past, but this semester I’ve been able to work with more students than I ever have before. And I’ve witnessed a recurring pattern that has solidified some things for me. I’ve learned to tell when a student is doing work they think they should make—there are certain cues I can sense—versus when that work comes from their own inner voice. Witnessing this has taught and reminded me of two things.

Student Watch the 16mm Film They Made as a Class. Photo courtesy of Alisha Anderson.

First, it’s taught me as a teacher that my job is to help students clear the clutter and trust their voice. It reminds me of the idea—often attributed to Plutarch—that education isn’t the filling of a bucket but the lighting of a fire. I can see when students find their inner fire. And I want to learn to be the kind of teacher that only adds to that fire and doesn’t diminish it.

Second, seeing this phenomena in my students has reminded me, as an artist, to pay more attention to when I wander into the realm of “should” in my art. There is a noticeable difference between that space of “should” and the space of an inner drive. In the latter, there is fire and excitement, even amidst work. And I want to follow the example of my students who have the courage to create from that place, for I sense how holding onto that clarity of self adds an inexplicable power to art.

Q: Has being in the Utah landscape over the past few months influenced your art or artistic process?

Anderson: I’ll be honest, between teaching and a current project with the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe—I’ve been so busy that my own artmaking has been on hold this semester.

Still, quite a bit of my previous art was based in Utah’s landscapes. So coming back feels reflective to me. When you return to a place you once knew you can’t help but sense the changes in you and the place. Being back has given me the opportunity to reflect on my journey as an artist, including how I’d likely approach past projects differently now. It’s reminded me how one’s artistic practice is always evolving and it makes me excited to see where it’ll take me next.

 Q: What classes are you teaching next semester?

Anderson: Next semester, I’ll be teaching Time-based Media, which can be described as a more advanced version of New Genre. I’ll also be teaching an advanced studio course, which is intended to help students concentrate on their individual work and final shows. I’ll be teaching a graduate-level theory course, which I’m excited about because I love exploring ideas with students.

Q: What advice would you give young artists as they transition from school to a career?

Anderson: Be patient. Show up.

I’ve found that choosing a creative life is a wild ride. So much feels like it’s out of your hands in terms of opportunities and the timing of those opportunities. But if you show up, doing your best work in whatever situation you find yourself in, people will notice and opportunities will happen. There’s this delicate balance between patience and action. I’ve found that I have to trust divine influence and timing within my life, but I also need to act because action gives God something to work with.