A renaissance man, or person (since we’re not in the thirteenth century anymore) is someone who is more than just a jack-of-all-trades (because a jack-of-all-trades implies a master of none). A renaissance person simply cannot quit learning, even when they’re ahead.
Most people find a thing that they’re pretty good at and they hone that one craft until it’s as sharp as it can be. Then they rely on that one tool, primarily, for the extent of their life.
That’s normal. A renaissance person however, can never settle for a life as such because their curiosities are never satisfied. When they feed their wonder, like a Gremlin after midnight, the appetite of their wonder only grows.
This was one of the first concepts (albeit in different words) presented to the class by Michael Coyan in his Art Appreciation class. Since then, this fascinating man of many hats has proven to stand up to his own definition.
Coyan is a Sherlock Holmes kind of soul who has followed through to near mastery with one craft or discipline, then followed the interests that were sparked by those experiences into new crafts and disciplines. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
Professor Coyan has traveled the world. He studied art rigorously under his teacher, learning to make all the pigments, brushes and canvases by hand. He said he was an archaeologist for a little while, making a joke about identity crisis. He has designed elaborate large scale stage sets from scratch and acted on those very stages.
He restores local art, volunteers his free time curating the Harmon Museum and Art Gallery and generally acts as a steward and pillar of good taste within the community by way of everything from architecture and city planning to philanthropic work and local history.
The thing that keeps his students glued to his lectures is the rich context he applies to every subject addressed. He analyzes the politics, economy, religion and philosophy behind each piece and period.
A truly holistic picture is always painted, often accompanied by the most incredible stories which offer an emotional center to the learning process. Stories you’ve never heard about all the legends you thought you knew.
My personal favorite was a rather telling one about Frank Lloyd Wright’s most well-recognized house “Falling Water.” The legendary architect forgot to design the house entirely until the commissioner of the design phoned him. He was less than an hour away by car. Frank Lloyd Wright then designed, arguably, his most famous structure in forty minutes flat and not one single thing was ever changed thereafter.
That’s not a story you would likely hear outside his classroom since it was told to him by Frank’s son, Lloyd. And I am certainly doing it no justice here.
Out of the countless stories and insights I am so thankful for experiencing in this class, I’m even more thankful for the effort he puts forth to develop the skills of curiosity and observation within his students so that they may explore this world by the accord of their own will and whimsy. With their own intellectual tools.
As I urge you to keep your eye on the registration schedule for his name, I will leave you with a quote from this wonderful teacher that we are all so fortunate to have here at Sinclair.
“Education is not about ‘how much money can I earn’ – it is about roaring through this remarkable life awake, alert and always seeking a surprise!” -Michael Coyan, Renaissance Man