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Fine Art Credit -- How does your HS handle this?


From: Patricia Knott (pknott_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Wed Jul 11 2001 - 11:45:13 PDT

Judy mentioned me in her post to the list and I would be glad to respond to
any inquires about
Why Man Creates.

I have been teaching this class for 10 years and it is my favorite. The
orientation is aesthetics, valuing, observing, and just plain old "talking"
about art. We look at the visual arts, music, dance, theater, and film. It
is the perfect class for a required credit. I have structured the class to
be as non-threatening as possible. We do much writing and journal keeping
and the hands -on projects are geared to creative thinking and not so much
polished results. We do collages, mobiles, architectural models, make
videos, write poetry... all on the basis of personal recollection and
application. Most of the projects are not something I would put into my art
show, but most contain such incredible exploration and play that I value
them much more than any slick, teacher guided product. Many contain
intentions that I have a hard time equaling with my art majors.
I give no tests because opinion can't be tested.
My intention is that students understand the historical, cultural,
religious, personal, political, and economic reasons for the creation of
art. We discuss sometimes, difficult issues, especially with film. I make
the level of conversation as open and free as possible. I require journals
and when I read them I am continually amazed at the level of insight
achieved. I urge them to argue with every statement I make -- and they do.

Most of the students in this class are kids who like art, but feel, that
since they can't draw, they can't make it in an art class. My district will
be requiring a .5 credit in the fine and performing arts within the next 5
years. That has come with much protestation from other departments. But my
argument continues to be the importance of visual literacy. If we only
encounter a small percentage of students in our high school art classes, how
do the rest discern and decipher images in our multi-media world? It's not
about being able to draw. It's about intelligent selection and not being
fooled. This is the perfect kind of class to engage the entire student body
and I hope my class grows and grows.

I constantly have past graduates come back to me and tell me how important
this class was to them, how it made them think, and how they are aware of
important concepts and works of art because I opened avenues to them that
they had no idea about. It's different from the feeling I get from my
students that go on to art school. Those kids I know will make it with or
without me. and if I'm lucky I will have given them some insight or
experience they will remember. But,
touching the kids who do not take an "art " class. That is special.

I constantly revise the content of this class. I try to make it relevant to
current issues and concerns. My curriculum is open enough to do that. For
the Fall, I'm thinking... still not sure what my theme will be.
And be assured this is not an easy class to teach. I have no text. I make
all my own resources, handouts, slides, tapes, snippets from here and there,
rely on my own sense of what is relevant, and my own experience with all of
these art forms. Ideally, I would be taking them on field trips constantly,
but we know that's not always possible. Even though I have been doing this
for years, it always takes all of my prep time and much more.
I used to co-teach with the music teacher, but when his schedule couldn't
accommodate I took it on alone. But, I never have a regret.