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Lesson Plans

Re: More on mats

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
henry (taylorh)
Mon, 29 Jan 1996 13:14:26 -0700 (MST)

On Mon, 29 Jan 1996, Nancy Walkup wrote:

> As someone who has taught art to all grades, I disagree with the
> suggestions that "elementary school work is wholly different in
> many, many ways, and that children are not artists.

Children are not usually "professional artists" Nancy -- yet I have
juried them into shows when the art demands it. The "world" of galleries
and museums is a highly distinct one, I think, and therefore,
"different". This is NOT, however, a reason to treat their art with
any less respect!

> Children may not be the same as adult artists (and their work should
> not be compared to that of adults), but I considered my elementary
> students to be "artists" and repeatedly told them so. Many of them would
> often initially say that they weren't, but they were repeating ideas
> they got from adults.

Yeah, Nancy. This is a problem, children "knowing" that they aren't
artists or (better, to my mind) people who use art. As Terry rightly
points out "artist" is or at least can be a professional designation.
It's not unreasonable for children to recognize that their work is not of
that standing. Andrew Wyeth's work for a long time stood between me and
any acceptance of myself as a "real" artist. I've come to the conclusion
that as people WE ALL USE ART! Some of us with various levels of
professionalism, some of us in ways appropriate to other specific human
needs. We dress ourselves with some art every day casually (like me) or
formally. Our dwelling places reflect our personal concern for color and
placement, our personal aesthetic--even if all it amounts to is keeping
one thing in a special place or container that is chosen because it
"feels right". hopefully there IS more. Hopefully, as a teacher, I can
give children access to whatever they desire to achieve along this line,
in the way of a personal aesthetic.

> Why should elementary students not be considered as child artists?
> Cannot students create original and inventive art works
> appropriate to their cognitive and physical development?

Sounds good to me.

> Why should children be compared to adult artists?

Sometimes they can be and favorably at that. Sometimes, like I did, they
compare themselves. I recall no one lauding Weyth to me; he was just my
favorite, followed by Garth Williams (?) of Golden Book fame.

> How damaging it is to a children's self confidence and self image to
> impart the message that they are not artists?

There is no measuring! The damage, as such is unique. But damage there is
(and probably always will be) inflicted through experience, through
accident, or through misunderstanding... on all sides. Damage is probably
inescapable; the question for us as teachers is how to repair and assuage
the wounds?

> Also, I believe that by matting and presenting children's art in the
> manner of professional art world practices, we clearly illustrate to our
> students that we consider their work to be valuable and worthy
> of care and attention. I also tried to use the best art materials I could
> obtain for both making art and displaying it and would explain that
> fact to my students. Teachers impart so many value judgments,
> both spoken and unspoken, that can be either encouraging or
> discouraging to students. I vote for inclusion in the art world rather than
> exclusion every time.

Nothing unreasonable at all in this. It is a well thought out rationale
for an approach to teaching art. It represents the kind of consideration
we need to invest in choosing how we will teach. That it is not my own is
of no moment. It is congruent and complex. Even pluralism need not be
insisted on. <G>