10 Inspiring rules set by Sister Corita Kent

RULE EIGHT: Don’t try to create and analyze at the same time. They’re different processes.

I believe that this rule by Sister Corita Kent applies to writing just as it applies to any other creative process. When I try to write creatively, I find that it is good to just let the words flow. Then leave them to rest for a while, before going back with a fresh view to edit them.

I am revisiting the work of Sister Corita Kent, following a recent email from a friend with the subject header ‘inspiration’. It stated that they were starting a “collective, constructive, and hopefully uplifting exchange” and it was a chain-letter-type-thing that asked simply if I could send an encouraging quote or verse to the person detailed in the email. The deal being that in turn someone (probably a friend of a friend), should send some texts to me sometime soon. I quickly settled on sharing the Immaculate Heart College Art Department Rules, which I first spotted in a compelling exhibition at Dundee Contemporary Arts in 2013. It was at this exhibition that I was first introduced to the work of Sister Corita Kent (1918 – 1986), an activist nun who ran the art department at the Immaculate Heart College in Los Angeles for over 20 years.

Sister Corita Exhibition 3

In total, the Immaculate Heart Art College Department Rules state:

RULE ONE: Find a place you trust, and then try trusting it for a while.

RULE TWO: General duties of a student — pull everything out of your teacher; pull everything out of your fellow students.

RULE THREE: General duties of a teacher — pull everything out of your students.

RULE FOUR: Consider everything an experiment.

RULE FIVE: Be self-disciplined — this means finding someone wise or smart and choosing to follow them. To be disciplined is to follow in a good way. To be self-disciplined is to follow in a better way.

RULE SIX: Nothing is a mistake. There’s no win and no fail, there’s only make.

RULE SEVEN: The only rule is work. If you work it will lead to something. It’s the people who do all of the work all of the time who eventually catch on to things.

RULE EIGHT: Don’t try to create and analyze at the same time. They’re different processes.

RULE NINE: Be happy whenever you can manage it. Enjoy yourself. It’s lighter than you think.

RULE TEN: “We’re breaking all the rules. Even our own rules. And how do we do that? By leaving plenty of room for X quantities.” (John Cage)

HINTS: Always be around. Come or go to everything. Always go to classes. Read anything you can get your hands on. Look at movies carefully, often. Save everything — it might come in handy later.

In the exhibition, the words of these rules were printed on a number of boxes that were combined to build a room and inside they screened a film. Now almost two years on, this ‘inspiration’ email prompted me to search the for this film ‘We Have No Art’ and I found it lurking in the land of film known as Youtube. I’ve now watched it again a number of times. I’ll probably watch it a few more times by the time this blog post is finished. So I feel pleased that in the quest of inspiring a friend of a friend via email, I’ve also found a little time to explore the work of Sister Corita Kent once more.

I like the sentiments shared in this film, both by Corita and her students. It gave me a chance to get a sense of their methods of thinking and teaching. The film starts with a brilliant and humorous introduction, as Corita discusses why you should never blink when watching a film.

I think maybe one of the most important rules about looking at films that I can think of is that you should never blink. You should really keep your eye straight on the film and never miss anything. Because if you blink or close your eyes or turn around, I always think it is comparable to skipping several pages of a book.

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There Will Be New Rules Next Week

Upon entering There Will Be New Rules Next Week I was greeted with a powerful ten-point compendium of advice titled The Immaculate Heart College Art Department Rules.

sister corita, dca, rules, creativity, art, immaculate heart art college rules, 2013, dundee

This set the tone for this print exhibition which brought colour and text to walls of Dundee Contemporary Arts during the inaugural Print Festival Scotland. The rules were developed by the lead artist of the exhibition, Sister Corita Kent (1918 – 1986), an activist nun who ran the art department at the Immaculate Heart College in Los Angeles for over 20 years.

Sister Corita Kent, DCA, Dundee Contemporary Arts, There will be new rules next week, 2013, ruth ewan, print festival scotland, dundee, art

I found these rules woven into the exhibition in a myriad of forms. Strands were found printed blatantly on cardboard boxes that built a wall of words, I watched a classroom discussion that featured the rules in the short film ‘We Have No Art’ and I discovered elements of the rules present in the work of the five contemporary artists chosen to display alongside Sister Corita Kent in this exhibition.

Sister Corita Kent, DCA, Dundee Contemporary Arts, There will be new rules next week, 2013, ruth ewan, print festival scotland, dundee, art

Ruth Ewan’s direct print Nae Rules at first seems to be in direct juxtaposition to Kent’s teaching, but on reflection it also manages to resonate with Kent’s message that the rules are in constant flux and there will be new rules next week.

Sister Corita Kent, DCA, Dundee Contemporary Arts, There will be new rules next week, 2013, ruth ewan, print festival scotland, dundee, art

The fluidity of these rules is also evident in Ciara Phillips screenprint  A Lot of Things Put Together that manages to convey both a rigid, repetitive style, alongside a sense of flowing movement. Her layered cotton screen creates an strong impact in the space, yet captures a freshness in spirit akin to what remains in Kent’s work decades after creation. Continue reading “There Will Be New Rules Next Week”