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Message from the Dean

“Knowledge” as a Weapon for Creation

Hiroaki Matsuura

I am sure many of our students decided to pursue postgraduate studies because those four years as undergraduates inspired them to advance their skills and knowledge at a graduate school. I promise to those strong-willed students who have decided to pursue their studies, despite the common disincentives of specializing in art, that they will find what they expect from a graduate school at Tama Art University’s Graduate School.

People often wonder why we as human beings are eager to learn. Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle believed it is human nature to love knowledge. If his philosophy is indeed true, human beings will always seek knowledge throughout their lives. Knowledge is, of course, not limited to education, but is abundantly throughout society. Being an educator, I feel that we must re-evaluate the meaning of knowledge that can be attained exclusively at universities and graduate schools.

Art universities are where students learn about technical skills for art. When students matriculate in one of our departments to specialize in design, they learn the techniques and methods that will be put to immediate use for their employer or client. When they enroll in the Department of Fine Arts for painting or sculpture, they are equipped with an advanced level of effective and unique expression to stand out in society. I have seen that many of our undergraduate students start early and try to gain these useful techniques and knowledge at undergraduate level. This trend may lead those students to focus solely on the ready-to-use practical skills and studies, and also mislead them to plan their collegiate path by avoiding thought, history, literature, cultural anthropology, and other liberal art credits wherever possible to earn the necessary credits for graduation.

It is inevitable that the undergraduate students who are overwhelmed by their daily assignments feel this way. The tendency is even stronger if they are fresh from high school and had to study around the clock at a cram school to learn the basic techniques to pass the entrance examination for an art university. When they advance in their studies and they are expected to express originality as well as skills and techniques, they will realize that their own experience and the knowledge and the principle driven by these two play an important role. That is because an empty heart has no fuel to “create” art.

From this perspective, the students who are driven to further their study at a graduate school are different from undergraduate students in terms of awareness and determination. Many of them, during their graduation project, had a reality check and felt defeated at the realization of how important expanding their “knowledge” was. At the graduate level, our students further hone their technical skills and develop a very close relationship with the department faculty. At the same time, they are expected to acquire broader and deeper “knowledge” that is vital for creative work through communications with the faculty. To prove they have met expectations, all our students will need to submit their mandatory graduate thesis in addition to a graduate project in order to graduate. This requirement enforces them to select their own research theme and write out their findings even if they focus their study on practical skills.

However, considering that the majority of our students are studying to be artists and not scholars, their logical research should function as means to improve the quality of their work. It does not matter if your field is fine arts or design; fascinating “work” is never complacent. It expresses a message that can be interpreted by many. Creation of such work requires each student to view ideas and opinions objectively, and to have the ability to express them with words. When our students organize their preceding studies focusing on one theme and logically summarize their ideas, their principles for creation steadily formulate in the heart and their work consequently improves exceptionally in quality. This is why a thesis is mandatory in graduate schools.

Our department is widely recognized for our programs where students have abundant opportunities to study under today’s prominent artists and designers and absorb a complex principle for creations, rich experiences, and exceptional skills. While this is true, I would like to emphasize that our department is also led by phenomenal scholars of other fields. They are here to provide our students with the “knowledge” to stimulate their desires to create, and to guide them to attain the technical “knowledge”. I can proudly say that the harmony of “skills” and “knowledge” is what makes Tama Art University’s Graduate School attractive.