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Re: [teacherartexchange] Erasing/prohibiting student art long post


From: Rebecca Burch (mamallama_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Wed Apr 09 2008 - 07:28:08 PDT

I don't ban anything. You heard me! I don't. I do have a rule that
anything that is to be exhibited, worn, or otherwise shown publicly
must be school-appropriate material and that means it has to be
something that, if worn on a T-shirt on dress-down-days (we have
uniforms), wouldn't get them sent to put on uniforms. Other than
that, they are welcome to create art based on anything they like, at
any time.

Here's the catch -- I won't grade anything that is not
school-appropriate (see above.) So they can make anything they want,
but I can only put my stamp of approval on art that is considered
"school appropriate." Anything that is not in this list is fine, and
I will look at it and offer suggestions and help them with the
projects... I just can't make it a classroom project.

You'd be surprised... most kids don't really "push the limits" when I
put it this way. I think that knowing that they have artistic freedom
but that I am limited in grading by what I can put the school's "stamp
of approval" on as a school official, so far they've been pretty
respectful. I've had a few try to sneak pot leaves into palm trees
and whatnot, but I usually just laugh and say, "you're kidding,
right?" and they quickly edit it and everybody gets a good laugh.
There have also been a few really cool "social commentary" pieces done
by advanced art students outside of class that might be controversial
if exhibited at school (but man, they were NEAT, thought-provoking
pieces! I was impressed!) Those were usually included in AP Art
portfolios and exhibits that students were able to enter on their own.

The more I try to make some subjects forbidden, the more they tend to
dwell on those subjects whenever possible. If it's not a big deal and
they have that "safety net" of being able to do those projects outside
of school, it's really never an issue in class. I might have to
tighten up if someone ever really tries to test me, but in 4 years of
teaching here, I've never had that problem. Thank God -- if it did
get so bad that I really had to ban everything offensive, we would be
left with Thomas Kincaide art. :)

Charleston Catholic High School
Charleston WV

On Wed, Apr 9, 2008 at 9:36 AM, <> wrote:
> Several times on various listservs the issue of prohibition of
> certain kinds of images has been discussed.
> Catherine has posted a response to a student's religion inspired
> art, forbidden by a school.
> She mentions other subjects, such as drugs and weapons that can be
> limited in art class.
> Some schools or art teachers publish lists of subjects considered
> transgressive, and I have heard teachers refer to these as "ATF"
> (after alcohol, tobacco, and firearms). Some topics given have been
> mushrooms, marijuana leaves, ninja and other weapons, gang symbols,
> drawings or paintings of violence, sexually explicit images (such
> as nudes), references to gender identity, derogatory images about
> race and creed, cigarettes and smoking, alcohol and drinking, works
> that are political and may be interpreted as disloyal to the
> country.
> This brings up a deeper "philosphical" question for me:
> What is it that moves one to make an image considered transgressive
> or offensive by some? In young people is it just about testing
> limits?
> What moves people to be so offended that they prohibit images? What
> makes them fearful or worried about the images?
> What is the role of iconoclasm in the current culture?
> Some art teachers have written that they encourage students to make
> their work that might be questioned in private, at home or in
> journals that only the teacher and student see. Others say they
> allow strong or difficult images if they can be defended.
> Clearly young people are moved to express the subject matter that
> is
> most salient to them. If they are struggling with impulses; if they
> are trying to figure out some aspect of their identity, such as
> spiritual or gender; if they are coping with interpersonal
> violence; if they are dealing with a crisis at home or with their
> friends, if the influence of their peers is driving them to
> experiment with drugs or sex - all of these normal adolescent
> issues might come out in their art work.
> Then - in the background for most of us who teach art in schools -
> we have examples from the "art world" when professional artists
> exhibiting in museums and galleries take on social, emotional,
> religious, sexual, gender based, political themes, expressing
> difficulties and protesting about them through their art.
> Sometimes, as in the "Sensation" exhibits of 9 years ago, the
> general public learns of these works through the media and protests
> them, or the ideas they express.
> (Some of you may remember that New York's mayor wanted to defund
> the
> Brooklyn Museum because he was personally offended by works that
> appeared to him to mock the Catholic faith).
> Those teachers who encourage students to include images from
> popular
> culture and who are interested in using visual culture ideas across
> the curriculum might also be considering what they should limit.
> Some of us have reported having to turn student work in to
> administrators. If a student seems to be disturbed. School violence
> is a concern.
> Ours is a sensitive and delicate job, helping young people sort
> themselves out in their beliefs and their needs in the art room. It
> is a real challenge to be up to it.
> Along with sharing great lesson plans, it's always helpful to hear
> responses about subjects such as the above from the list.
> Jane in Brooklyn
> ---
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