What Art Is:
The Esthetic Theory of Ayn Rand

by Louis Torres and Michelle Marder Kamhi

Public Speaking and Teaching

Schools, colleges, and civic or professional organizations seeking thought-provoking presentations on any aspect of the arts dealt with in What Art Is (or on this website) are invited to contact the authors. Presentations can be tailored for students at any level (from the early grades through graduate school), or for general or professional audiences--in particular, for those concerned about current controversies in the arts.

NEWS MEDIA: Contact the authors for comment on any aspect of the arts dealt with in What Art Is (see Table of Contents and Chapter Summaries)--not least, the perennial question "But is it art?"

National Art Education Association (March 3, 2012)

Michelle Kamhi presented a session entitled "Understanding Contemporary Art: Emerging Perspectives from Art History and Cognitive Science" at the 2012 annual meeting of the NAEA, in New York City. An article based on the talk was published in the August 2012 issue of Aristos.

NYSATA 2011 Conference (November 18-19, 2011)

On November 18, 2011, Michelle Kamhi presented a session entitled "Assessing Creativity and Innovation in Contemporary Art: What Can We Learn from Art History and Cognitive Science?" at the 2011 conference of the New York State Art Teachers Association. In addition she was a panelist in a session entitled "Using Skype to Extend the Classroom" on November 19.

Nazareth College (December 9, 2010)

Through Skype "video calling" (which enabled her to show online images of works of art) Michelle Kamhi gave a brief talk to students in an introductory graduate-level art education course at Nazareth College in Rochester, N.Y., and spent the remainder of a two-hour session answering their questions. Readings for the class had included her article "Modernism, Postmodernism, or Neither?--A Fresh Look at 'Fine Art'" (Aristos, August 2005). The course instructor, Tracie Glazer, reported that this article, "more than any other so far, . . . really sparked [students'] thinking and responses." In the words of one student, "It is articles like this one that truly help us grow."

Judson University (March 17, 2010)

Using Blackboard, Michelle Kamhi responded online to questions from students in a graduate-level education course at Judson University in Illinois. Dealing with visual culture studies and other approaches to art education, the discussion focused on issues raised in Kamhi's "Where's the Art in Today's Art Education?" (Aristos, November 2002) and "Rescuing Art from 'Visual Culture Studies'" (Aristos, January 2004).

National Art Education Association (March 14, 2007)

Michelle Kamhi participated in a panel discussion entitled "Of Course Photography Is Art! Isn't It?" (she argued that it isn't) at the annual convention of the National Art Education Association in New York City. The session was organized and moderated by Richard Ciganko (Indiana University of Pennsylvania), and included Jerome Hausman (School of the Art Institute of Chicago) as a panelist.

National Art Education Association (March 24, 2006)

Michelle Kamhi presented a session entitled "Art, Cognition, and Emotion: An Integrated View" at the annual convention of the National Art Education Association in Chicago. For an article based on her talk, see "Thought and Feeling in Art" (Aristos, November 2007).

Daly Day Academy (June 9, 2005)

Louis Torres taught a day-long class in art history and appreciation to 6th, 7th, and 8th graders at the Daly Day Academy, a small, private elementary school located in Harlem, in New York City. His focus was on art depicting black figures by master painters and sculptors (both white and black) throughout history--from 12th-century Africa and 16th-century Europe to 21st-century America. All the work considered was classical in style and spirit.

National Art Education Association (March 4-5, 2005)

Michelle Kamhi presented a session entitled "A Fresh Look at the Concept of Fine Art" at the annual convention of the National Art Education Association in Boston. (An article based on her talk--"Modernism, Postmodernism, or Neither? A Fresh Look at 'Fine Art'"--was published in Aristos, August 2005.) She was also a panelist in the session "Visual Culture Studies: A Re-Appraisal."

Ayn Rand Centenary (February 2, 2005)

Michelle Kamhi spoke on "What Art Really Is, and Why It Matters" in a panel on Rand's philosophy, at the Library of Congress, Jefferson Building, Washington, D. C.

Marymount Manhattan College (February 25, 2004)

The authors spoke on the question "What Is Art? Who Decides?" at the Philosophy Forum of Marymount Manhattan College in New York City.

National Art Education Association (April 7, 2003)

Michelle Kamhi presented a session entitled "Rescuing Art from 'Visual Culture'" at the annual convention of the National Art Education Association in Minneapolis.

Peter Bougie Studio (April 6, 2003)

Michelle Kamhi gave a talk entitled "Why Visual Art Is Important and Why It Is at Risk in Today's Culture" at this traditional painting atelier in Minneapolis.

Hegeler Carus Colloquium on the Arts (March 28-30, 2003)

Louis Torres and Michelle Kamhi were invited participants in a colloquium entitled "After Modernism and Postmodernism: New Directions in the Arts," held at the historic Hegeler Carus Mansion, in La Salle, Illinois. Among the presenters were the poet Frederick Turner, professor of arts and humanities at the University of Texas, Dallas, and Randall Dipert, professor of philosophy at the State University of New York, Buffalo, who spoke on music. Other participants included T. L. Ponick, music and culture critic of the Washington Times and editor of the Edge City Review. The colloquium was hosted by Blouke Carus, chairman of the Hegeler Carus Foundation, who is also an amateur cellist.

The Objectivist Center Summer Seminar (July 4, 2002)

Michelle Kamhi was a featured speaker at this annual week-long event hosted by TOC (now The Atlas Society). Her talk--entitled "Ayn Rand's Concept of Art: A Lesson in Objectivist Epistemology"--employed Rand's theory of knowledge to resolve controversial aspects of her theory of art, including the status of architecture and the decorative arts.

Spring Lake (N. J.) Public Library (July 1, 2002)

Louis Torres spoke about What Art Is and signed books at this elegant Tudor-style library on the Jersey Shore, whose events draw residents from the surrounding area.

Laissez Faire Books (October 25, 2001)

Michelle Marder Kamhi spoke about What Art Is and signed books at Laissez Faire Books in San Francisco.

Hoover Institution (October 23, 2001)

Michelle Marder Kamhi delivered a talk entitled "Mapplethorpe, 'Censorship,' Quilt-Making, and 'Installations': Why Government and Art Don't Mix" at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Palo Alto, California.

The Objectivist Center - Advanced Seminar (June 28, 2001)

Louis Torres and Michelle Kamhi gave a talk on "Ayn Rand's Theory of Art," as presented in What Art Is, at The Objectivist Center's third annual Advanced Seminar in Objectivist Studies, held at the University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown. The Advanced Seminar is a conference at which scholars and graduate students discuss new work relevant to Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand.

U. S. Military Academy, West Point (April 9, 2001)

At the invitation of Professor Aeon Skoble, the authors met with students in his Aesthetics (EP362) class, part of the Academy's "Art, Philosophy, and Literature" elective. In preparation for the class, students read assigned portions of What Art Is and viewed images of works on the Internet. Class time was devoted to a lecture and discussion focusing on key principles for distinguishing between art and non-art. (Professor Skoble is now Chairperson of the Department of Philosophy at Bridgewater State College in Massachusetts.)

Mark Scott Show, WXYT, Detroit (October 20, 2000)

As guests on this two-hour-long talk radio show, the authors discussed What Art Is in relation to a proposal on the November 2000 ballot for a new art tax. They argued that arts institutions which would benefit from the new tax, such as the Detroit Institute of Arts, have a history of exhibiting "cutting-edge" contemporary work that does not qualify as art by any objective standard. Questioning whether government should provide support for the arts at all, they further emphasized that, contrary to the claims of arts advocates, such work does nothing to enhance the public's quality of life, and should not be legitimized by public support. (The proposal was subsequently narrowly defeated.)