A semester abroad proved to be a pivotal time in Joshua Ostraff’s undergraduate education. The newest assistant professor of art at MCLA, Ostraff studied contemporary Maori painting at the Te Whare O Awanuiarangi art department at Maori University in Whakatane, New Zealand.
Part of the impact of the experience was Ostraff’s discovery that some of his personal paradigms began to shift.
“Studying there changed me, and with that, so did my approach to art,” he explained. “Though my artwork is not a direct reflection of Maori art imagery and symbols, it reflects the principles I learned there and the effect it has had on me.”
After he returned to the United States, Ostraff became very interested in the idea of teaching, and started to study art education while he completed his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. As he headed off to graduate school, “I knew that the kind of teacher I wanted to be required that I put myself in a situation to be pushed to develop my abilities as an artist.
“I felt that I needed to solidify better what I was as an artist in order to bring the experience, passion, and drive I felt my students deserved from me,” he said.
Ostraff is impressed with MCLA.
“Our programs are designed to prepare and teach students to be creative problem solvers, look for more than one solution, and be leaders for innovation. We teach students to learn creative processes and develop craftsmanship that is inspiring. We teach students to be articulate in visual communication. We ask them to observe, compare, contrast and build connections. We help students identify multiple perspectives and teach them to ask and search for imperative questions,” he said.
Because MCLA students become visually aware, creative makers and builders who are cognoscente conceptually, Ostraff said they are able to adapt, develop, and contribute a wide variety of fields well beyond the arts.
“I am thoroughly convinced that, as an art professor, what I teach has the ability to collaborate with and advance other programs and fields,” Ostraff added.
“It is easy to work for an institution that believes in not being complacent, rather continuing to seek opportunities to move forward,” he continued. “I have also been impressed with the Department of Fine and Performing Arts. They have made wonderful efforts to welcome my family and me.
“I have also seen firsthand how hard the faculty work to provide students with amazing learning opportunities. They are constantly busy at this work, and yet seem to find the time to work with individual students. I feel very privileged to workalongside them,” Ostraff added.
Teaching in a classroom in the newly renovated Bowman Hall, Ostraff said it’s easy to feel and see the positive affect the building’s changes are having on faculty, staff and students alike.
At MCLA, Ostraff aims to help build the awareness of the art program and the importance of art in a balanced liberal arts education.
“With institutions like MASS MoCa, the Clark Art Institute, MCLA’s Berkshire Community Resource Center (BCRC), and so many others resources nearby, I have so much to support this effort. I am also here to help find opportunities for our students to reach out, interact, serve, and build up their community,” he said.
Ostraff earned his Master of Fine Art degree in studio art, painting and drawing from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, and his Bachelor of Fine Art degree in studio art, painting and drawing, with a minor in art history and curatorial studies, from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.