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Art students discuss frustrations with Belmont art college’s lack of nude models

The Belmont art college’s no-nudity policy has been a source of frustration for Watkins College of Art mergees who previously had nude models in the classroom.

While figure drawing and painting classes at Watkins included nude models in the classroom, the same classes at Belmont have used models in nude-colored, skin-tight underwear. 

“I recognize that this is not the same as working from a fully nude model,” said James Pierce, dean of Belmont’s art school, in an email. “I also know that this still allows the artist to study the human form in our figure drawing and painting classes.”

Figure drawing is an essential skill for artists, as it helps them understand anatomy and proportions, said Kristi Hargrove, an art professor at Belmont. Drawing figures based on a nude model solidifies this understanding and has been a necessary part of art curricula for years, she said.

Hargrove described figure drawing as the “grammar” of art as a language. It’s impossible to communicate as an artist without knowing the basic skill, she said.

Hargrove has heard of Belmont’s no-nudity policy via word-of-mouth, but said she hasn’t seen it in print.

While Belmont does not provide nude models, students in the art school are still able to study and create nude works of art, said Pierce in an email. Belmont even has several nude artworks displayed on campus in the Frederick Hart Studio Museum, he said.

Kennedy Stricklen, a sophomore art student, spent a year at Watkins before its merger with Belmont and wants the opportunity to draw using nude models.

Nudity is a necessary component of figure drawing classes, said Stricklen. It is vital for artists to view nude models, just as it is necessary for medical students to study the naked body, she said.

“Not having nude models feels like a handicap,” Stricklen said. “It stops the growth process of the art.”

Understanding the difference between nudity and nakedness is important, Stricklen said. Artists study nudity and its representation of strength and pride throughout history, and this tradition should be upheld by students in Belmont’s art school, she said. Nakedness, on the other hand, implies vulnerability and sexuality.

Senior and art student JoAnna Davies studied for three years at Watkins before the merger with Belmont. Davies took a figure drawing class in her hometown just for fun and said it helped her grow as an artist even though it made her a little uncomfortable.

Figure drawing focuses on drawing the body in a way that is proportionally and anatomically correct, but covering the body deems it to be inherently sexual, said Davies.

“Drawing a nude model is not about gazing at the sexualization of the body, but about looking at and learning the curves, lines and proportions of the human figure,” said Hargrove.

By designating environments for artists to draw nude models, art programs can “weed out sexuality,” said Davies. Figure drawing and painting classes are safe spaces for students and models, she said.

In addition to better understanding the body’s image, drawing an unclothed body gives students respect and empathy for the human figure, said Hargrove.

This article written by Mia Ditta and Vivi Smilgius.

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