Center for Creative Studies
201 East Kirby
Detroit, MI 48202-3118
Re: William Girard
As a former student of William Girard at the Center for Creative Studies, it has come to my attention that a recent departmental review has resulted in a negative assessment of his ability as a teacher and as an artist. It is my understanding that this assessment is a possible precursor to his dismissal as a full-time instructor, despite his roughly 30 years of service to C.C.S.
I am appalled and dismayed both for his sake and for C.C.S.
I can say without hesitation that William Girard was and is the very best instructor I have every had, in any field. As I have accumulated well over 250 college credits from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; Albert-Ludwigs Universitaet, Germany; C.C.S; Studio Art Centers International, Italy; and Arizona State University; I believe that I know whereof I speak.
What makes Mr. Girard an outstanding educator?
1) He has an almost encyclopedic knowledge of the art of many different cultures and time periods.
2) He is the most knowledgeable artist I have ever met with regard to "traditional" and non traditional painting and sculpting materials and methods. Moreover, I know that he constantly experiments with new materials, enriching his already vast fund of knowledge.
3) He shares his knowledge and skills enthusiastically with students, inside and outside the classroom. He is extremely approachable and always willing to listen. In the many years since I left C.C.S behind, Mr. Girard has often provided me with suggestions and technical advice regarding painting and sculpting techniques.
4) He is uniquely encouraging and supportive. Although his own artwork reflects a virtually obsessive attention to paint application and design combined with close observation of the physical world around him, I have seen and heard him warmly praise the work of students and colleagues whose art fell into the non-figurative and neo-expressionistic realms. In an art world that is often extremely parochial and ideological, Mr. Girard evidences a remarkable catholicity of taste.
For example: my first drawing instructor ( U of Michigan , Intro. to 2-D Design) assured me that would never learn to draw. Mr. Girard, my second drawing teacher, spent hours demonstrating basic drawing techniques to me and other interested students. Later, he told me that I had the stuff of which artists are made, despite my struggles to achieve even basic drawing competence. Want to guess whose opinion meant the most to me? The result? I recently received my first solo exhibition through the Gang Gallery (SoHo), New York City.
In short, Mr. Girard has an incredibly kind, sweet disposition and just happens to know his stuff backward and forward.
I would like to point out that Mr. Girard has served C.C.S and its students for nearly 30 years. Were Mr. Girard really a lousy teacher, I feel certain that C.C.S would have rid itself of him many years ago. The truth is, Mr. Girard is a unique treasure, both as a teacher and as an artist. Many years ago, I had the pleasure of visiting a collector and dealer of Mr. Girard's work and can assure you that I was genuinely dazzled by the collection, a combination of paintings, terra cotta sculpture and bronzes. I, myself, have purchased the work of William Girard and plan to purchase more in the future.
Are his approach to and ideas about art at odds with those of other instructors and/or department heads? Good! Students need to be exposed to a wide variety of approaches in order to better develop their own tastes. The art world is often swept by trends. Too often in the history of art iconoclastic artists have been swept into obscurity because their approaches failed to meet the latest standards. This was true of Botticelli and of Rembrandt, in their own lifetimes, just as it was true of the American Regionalists and many others. In my opinion, C.C.S would be foolish to rid itself of an artist and teacher like William Girard because he refuses to conform to current approaches and attitudes. Indeed, it is just because of his tenacious and even intractable character that you should prize him all the more.
Had Mr. Girard deteriorated into a professorial fossil, it might be possible to justify an honorable separation. Fortunately for you, his vitality and creativity remain undiminished. He loves his job and has served C.C.S students extremely well. I urge you to keep Mr. Girard as a full-time instructor. He deserves the utmost respect and your students deserve the quality of instruction that he provides.