The Public School: Facilitation as Art, Entrepreneurship as Open-Source

The Public School is a systemic art piece, and established institution, founded by Sean Dockray. What began as a seemingly simple and tongue-in-cheek concept: the idea that a public school could facilitate a crowd-sourced curriculum and open participation, evolved into a network of schools around the world. The Public School began at the Telic Arts Exchange, another venture of Dockray, in Los Angeles, but also resides in Berlin, Brussels, Chicago, Durham, Helsinki, New York, Philadelphia, and San Juan. As a school with no curriculum, The Public School operates through an interface that creates a public space for the proposing of classes, and the subsequent signing up by those who hold interest in the subject matter. Depending on the public’s interest, the class then evolves as a venue for tangible conversation and alternative education on an infinite range of topics.

Comparing The Public School to generative art, as David Elliot noted in a 2008 Interview with Dockray, is actually quite accurate. While the resulting image of generative art can be beautiful and provocative, the piece is not actually the artwork itself, as Elliot claims, but instead the by-product of the piece, which is the code or process that generated it. While the classes themselves are interesting, it is really the system as a whole, and the facilitation of it, that is evaluated as a piece of work.

”The facilitator is usually someone who gets something done, the lubricant in a process to achieve a goal. But, I think it can be more like a dirty lubricant. It can fuck up a process a little bit, make it self-reflective, inefficient, awkward, etc.” – Sean Dockray in conversation with David Elliot

Dockray offers up a unique perspective on facilitation, framing it as an art form that flips the corporate strategy on it’s head to yield interesting results. As an entrepreneurial practice, The Public School is an interesting model that provides nothing more than a space, and a framework, relying on the audience to define the rest. This take on business design begins to foster an interesting conversation around the potential for the open-source movement to be successfully applicable to the business industry, and to the practice of entrepreneurship.

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