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Lesson Plans


Re: CELEBRATING PLURALISM & Storyteller doll DIRECTIONS

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
Scurfield (scurfield)
Fri, 07 Feb 1997 09:43:06 -0600

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carla harwitt wrote:
>
> To all - I get the feeling I'm about to espouse an unpopular position,
> but I was extremely bothered by the idea that trying to copy techniques,
> icons, artwork, etc. from other cultures is somehow disrespectful to that
> culture if you are not of that culture. Lack of communication is, in my
> opinion, the cause of most of the strife in the world (the Yiddish word
> "tsuris" is actually what came to mind). I teach my students that the more
> senses you use in learning something, the more you "make it your own" -
> understanding it in a visceral way.
>
> Kachina dolls out of toilet paper
> rolls can be respectiful if you make it clear that the rolls are merely a
> form of cardboard construction material. You can also make torahs (Jewish
> word for Old Testament in sacred, scrolled form) out of those same kind of
> rolls. Crucifixes? Sure, to study Christianity or the Middle Ages or
> Byzantine icons or religious expression in general. In fact, I majored in
> medieval studies in college because I couldn't understand why St.
> Patrick's Cathedral in NYC was full of gruesome statues of tortured dead
> people (as it then seemed to me). It was only after studying the evolution
> of Catholicism that I came to understand the symbolism represented by
> those images.
>
> If we start to require inherited qualifications before we can try other
> art forms, the more we run the risk of putting up inpenetrable walls
> between people. The more we become intimately involved with other
> cultures, religions, beliefs, etc., the more we are communicating with
> each other, and the better place this world will be.
>
> Sorry for the harangue! I got kind of heated up - I only mean to express
> my own personal opinion here and I'll get off my soapbox now. I'm sure
> others will differ with me, and that's great (up the first amendment).
>
> --Carla in LA
>
> On Wed, 5 Feb 1997, Nancy Walkup wrote:
>
> > > Date: Wed, 5 Feb 1997 10:37:18 -0800 (PST)
> > > To: DEvans2343, ARTSEDNET
> > > From: gfchalm (Graeme Chalmers)
> > > Subject: Re: CELEBRATING PLURALISM & Storyteller doll DIRECTIONS
> > > Cc: NSanit, dyorke, ama
> >
> > > Linda, I believe that your heart's in the right place and you probably do
> > > want to expose students to the art forms of a variety of cultures, but I
> > > wonder if others share my concerns about the recipe for making storyteller
> > > dolls?
> > >
> > > Have issues of cultural appropriation and ownership been addressed? Is it
> > > trivializing the art of the "other" to focus on technique and wish that
> > > students have a "happy modeling experience?"
> > >
> > > Having said this, and probably having made myself quite unpopular, I think
> > > that there are some ways to contextualize and rescue a cross-cultural art
> > > activity around the theme of "storytelling." Students could look at and
> > > discuss art that is used to tell stories across a variety of cultures
> > > e.g.(Wajang puppets from Indonesia, [in fact puppets from all cultures for
> > > that matter], quilts, Trajan's column, and Cochiti storyteller dolls) etc.
> > > etc. Certainly I think that students should make art to tell stories, but I
> > > have some concern about decontextualizing an art form which may not belong
> > > to us.
> > >
> > > What do you think?
> > >
> > > Graeme
> > >
> > > Graeme Chalmers
> > > Graduate Adviser
> > > Department of Curriculum Studies
> > > University of British Columbia
> > > Vancouver, B.C.
> > > Canada V6T 1Z4
> > >
> > > Tel: 604 822-4842
> > > Fax: 604 822-9366
> > >
> > >
> > OK, Graeme, I've been too busy to contribute much lately, but I
> > want to respond to your remarks and the content of "Celebrating
> > Pluralism." I, too, have severe reservations about copying the form of
> > any cultural object. I do think objects such as storytellers and
> > kachinas provide opportunities for significant aesthetic and
> > ethical discussions, but I feel we need to respect
> > the traditions and intentions of the original maker by moving
> > towards a deeper interpretation.
> >
> > What we try to do with similar objects in our institute is to investigate
> > thoroughly the underlying theme and then have students create
> > an original work based on a contemporary interpretation of the theme.
> >
> > This may be an extreme example, but I sometimes ask of teachers
> > who want to make kachinas (usually out of toilet paper rolls)
> > how they would feel if they went into a class making crucifixes?
> > I would think Hopi people feel much the same way when they see
> > their kachinas copied as an art project.
> >
> > I don't mean to be blameful - teachers often are not exposed to
> > such ideas in their training - but hopefully we can all learn to
> > be more sensitive to issues of culture.
> >
> > Nancy
> >
> >
> >
> > Nancy Walkup, Project Coordinator
> > North Texas Institute for Educators on the Visual Arts
> > PO Box 5098, University of North Texas
> > Denton, TX 76203
> > 817/565-3986 FAX 817/565-4867
> > Walkup
> >It is with fear and trepidation that I begin to type, but this question
concerns me also, as I work with pre-service teachers. Do you think we
are comparing the difference between theory and practice here? In a
GOOD situation, elementary art teachers maybe see their students for
forty minutes (no more, no less) once a week. Usually their materials
budget is woefully inadequate and they supplement with free and donated
materials and buying from their own pocket. Art production has to be
doable. In my experience, students learn more when their learning is
focused, open-ended definitely, but focused. On the other hand, of
course we want to be sensitive to other cultures. Peter London seems to
have the right idea with community-based instruction. In a couple of
family days at art museums with which I have been involved, an exhibit
of "La Guadalupana: Images of Faith and Devotion" at the Ulrich Museum
at Wichita State University and the "Art and Life of William Henry
Johnson" at the Wichita Art Museum, the key to success seemed to be the
involvement of the Hispanic and African-American communities in the
planning. While I'm not sure that our hands-on art activities were
totally "authentic", they seemed to be well-received. Whenever I'm
planning these activities however, I never feel like I can know enough.
Art history is so vast!

Marcia Scurfield, Derby, KS


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