To get the discussion going, we have invited three special guests to
participate, Dr. Marcia Muelder Eaton and Dr. Ronald Moore, two well-known
philosophers who have worked extensively with teachers, and Dr. Marilyn
Stewart, whom many of you know through her workshop presentations and her
recent book, Thinking through Aesthetics. On ArtsEdNet, Ron and Marcia
take you for a walk and chat in Trajan's Forum in the 2nd Century AD. The
images presented on this web-site are stunning; there are also some
QuickTime videos. We think you'll find what Marcia, Ron, and Marilyn have
to say and the things they point out quite interesting, even intriguing.
Best of all, they are folks who have a way of putting the big philosophical
issues they address in clear, accessible language that encourages everyone
to participate in a genuine philosophical discussion. Marilyn gives sound,
reasonable advice about how these discussions can be integrated into art
classrooms. Like Sister Wendy, these scholars really do love the art they
discuss as well as the philosophy they bring to bear on it. And like
Sister Wendy, they are pleasant, inviting people; better even than Sister
Wendy, all three are available to you at the other end of you e-mail
terminal, and are eager to chat with you about mutual concerns.
On the first walk during the fall, the topic was beauty. People who
joined us then, we hope, discovered that philosophy is not as dull or
intimidating as people sometimes fear. We've actually heard from many that
this web-adventure is fun---and a lot less violent that most video games!
If you did not participate in the first walk (when the topic was Beauty),
that's not a problem. You can go to ArtsEdNet and do it now; or you can
simply start out with us here and now. Our aim is to help each other get
students engaged in exciting questions raised by art---and to give us all
an opportunity to discuss these "big questions" ourselves. In this
winter's walk, we shall turn to questions about artistic meaning. Below
you will see a suggested schedule and series of issues to discuss. More
specific questions are also included in "little boxes" next to the text of
the dialogue on the ArtsEdNet web site. We hope you'll send in your own
answers to these questions and tell us about your experiences in dealing
with them with your students. Feel free to ask each other and our special
guests other questions and take the conversation in whatever directions you
think are interesting. We also encourage those of you who discussed beauty
with us to re-address any problems we raised there in this new context.
February 3-18: Discussion 1. "Size Matters" and "Men on Horseback"
What do works of art "say?" How do size and other properties of works
contribute to their meaning? Is there a right or wrong answer to the
question, "What does this work mean?" If so, who determines what the right
answer is? If not, how can we be sure that we are talking about the same
thing when we discuss artworks? Are there both intentional and
unintentional messages? Does the artist's intention have a privileged
status, that is, must a work mean what its creator intended for it to me?
February 19-March 6: Discussion 2, "Public Spirit"
What do public artworks reveal about the communities that display them? Do
artworks express the spirit of their time or the spirit of the culture in
which they are created? Or is the meaning of an artwork timeless and
cross-cultural? What, if anything, does the art in public spaces in your
community say? Is art that "says something" better than art that just
March 7-22. Discussion 4. Can Good Art Glorify Bad Things?
Does art act to unify communities? Can it also work to create factions
within communities? Can it be oppressive? Must one share the perspective
of the artist or patron or community in order to appreciate a work of art?
Can there be great art that has an "evil" content?
Further discussion topics will arise during our conversations. Please join
Hope this makes sense! Best, Marcia