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Lesson Plans


Re: teaching contemporary art


From: LOUISE HARVILLA (harv4art)
Date: Wed Jul 19 2000 - 14:19:05 PDT

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    Dear Patricia,
            Interesting discourse! I could not agree with you more about your views
    concerning teaching contemporary art. I teach middle school and I am
    VERY careful about what I present and how we get into discussion and
    debate. My husband is probably the opposite of me in so many ways so
    when WE get into discussion about artist intentions, meaning etc. it has
    escalated into arguments at times. Once discussing Mapelthorpe he left
    me in a resturant! Then we usually get into heated discussions about
    freedom of expression and where this will take us in the future. I wish
    I had more confidence to approach contemporary art in the classroom but
    I have seen some horrible things happen from a small seed of
    controversy. I cannot share knowledge with my students that I do not
    have, so I am always asking questions TRYING to arrive at answers.
    Sometimes of late, when I see an exhibit I go away with the feeling that
    so long as the artist can back up his/her "piece" with a sophisticated,
    academic and verbose explanation/statement then the powers that be
    accept it as "art" . I cannot understand the "urinal on the wall".
    Should I feel like Forrest Gump..." Boy, are you stupid or something?"
    There IS much I DO understand, but if I can't bring my husband-Partner
    in Life" to a greater understanding of it, how much success am I gonna
    have with a 12 year old? Sometimes the public reacts to images in art
    w/o ever trying to understand...at one point that really made me angry
    but now that I hear what my own 12 yr. old son wants to buy that he says
    is "music" performed by an artist, well I have a little more empathy for
    John Q. Public who is too offended to TRY to understand. To close , I
    found your message very thought-provoking.
                                                    Louise

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