For DeGrassi, his reward in teaching art comes when students learn there is more to art than meets the eye, more than “drawing lines or coloring in things.”
DeGrassi carries a thick resume. He has studied at USC, Harvard and Rome, where he performed classical painting restoration. He is the first recipient of Glendale Community College’s Distinguished Faculty Award, and he has taught in Paris and Florence, Italy.
His art history class has been active for 20 years, since the days when it would meet in people’s homes. The class is held every spring and fall semester, and roughly follows the community college’s academic calendar, although the class itself is autonomous.
The class runs through January. His classes discuss everything from the classical period to 20th century art, or whatever he feels like discussing that semester.
“There’s really no sense to it,” DeGrassi said, adding that he likes to see people catch on to art, to discover things that they didn’t see before.
At the beginning of his first day of class, DeGrassi began by lecturing on the parts of a Greek column. Looking closely, one can see that they are not as straight as they look. DeGrassi gave students a taste of the concepts, such as with the Greek columns and why they were built according to certain specs, but doesn’t go into too much detail at first because there are other things to discuss.
“In its own way, it’s mathematically written out,” DeGrassi said of the columns. “You follow it, and it gives you a well-proportioned figure, if that’s what you want. But then, with experience and practice, you take those concepts and use them in all sorts of different ways.”
DeGrassi’s strategy revolves around not standing in once place for too long, not using a podium and encouraging discussion among his students.