Ever since the topic of the WSJ article came up, I have been giving more thought than ever to new approaches to my teaching art come September.
For more than ten years I had a unit I call Art and the Blues with my 8th grade. I make connections between blues music, lyrics especially, art and the African American experience. The culmination was a trip to the House of blues. Then the HOB in Cambridge closed for a few years, and that kind of knocked the wind out of my unit. This past year The new House of Blues opened in Boston right next to Fenway Park, and I was back in business. The overall theme was quilts as the art of expression, and I used Faith Ringgold as the motivating artist. I saw her at NAEA in new Orleans and got to talk to her a bit. What a lady! What an artist.
When we visited the House of Blues, we brought a quilt created by the 8th grade, and they displayed it in the lobby of the music hall.
Folk music and folk art are amazing areas to integrate with history and visual art topics.
I did see Bruce Springsteen when he had the Seeger sessions tour and had a great seat. I loved that concert-could have sat through it twice. But I also love the E Street Band and have been fortunate to have seats next to the stage when they were in Boston for the last tour.
One thing I love about Bruce is he does not become complacent-he continues to write new music and give credit to old timers before him and give attention to important social issues. You might say those are priorities for me too in my teaching:
-Write new curricula
-Remember masters of the past
-Make social issues important
All this and trying to sort through the relevance of current trends in the art world today-what has meaning for me and what does not. Here's where I find myself at a loss because I truthfully am not sure if I find meaning in many art exhibits I see. But that again is an area that can be an entire approach to teaching. In other words, perhaps broaching the subject to my (especially older grade 7 and 8) students and asking them to sort it out.
So I am working on a questionnaire that goes something like this
(looking at a variety of artwork-folk art, conceptual art, old master art)
1. What do you see here?
2. What is the message of the work?
3. Is there a message-does there HAVE to be a message?
4. What if we see only a message and not an artwork?
5. Does art making have to have any boundaries?
6. Where do we draw the line between message making and art-making?
7. Are the above-two necessarily related or can they be mutually exclusive?
8. How can we use our responses in what we create in my art program?
I am very eager to see the outcome of this approach but am interested in feedback.
Barbara from Boston
On Jul 1, 2010, at 1:00 PM, Gayle Parent wrote:
> I agree!
> On Jul 1, 2010, at 9:12 AM, Barbara Marder wrote:
>> Wow this topic has really got the wheels rolling.
>> Funny about being liberal-I live in one of the most liberal communities in the USA, and my school is about 6 blocks from Harvard Square (Cambridge, MA) and that is SO liberal it is sometimes dubbed "The Peoples Republic" of Cambridge.
>> I am liberal minded. I devoted an entire term this past school year with my 6th graders focusing on the art of Nam June Paik. I even took the entire 6th grade to view a sculptural installation of his work. It was Nam June Paik who had the view that painting was dead, and that was close to 40 years ago. The 6th graders did not agree (interesting they embraced painting as very much alive), but they did love Nam June Paik and the art-making that came out of the unit was a video project. Of course I structured the unit so that the students would be engaged in creating something tangible (the video) and that they would also come away with some enduring understandings.
>> Perhaps it was Marcel Duchamp who taunted us to consider what art is when he placed his famous urinal in the gallery show.
>> But all this discussion brings me around to considering what the curriculum limits, if any, should be in my urban K-8 public school.
>> An 8th grader, who sometimes has a surly attitude across the board, came into my classroom, began a drawing, tore it up, crumbled the remains and dumped it into the trash before I could intervene. Now you have no work to hand in for me, I said. Okay well here it is he said as he retrieved the crumbled mass from the trash.
>> In a softer voice I suggested he try again and if he became frustrated, we could discuss what he was drawing before he destroyed it. The work that had been destroyed was not conceptual art-it was a failed attempt (at least in that student's eyes) that might have lead to a real problem with behavior had I continued to make an issue of it.
>> In my experience with the age and population of my students, guidelines are needed and wanted and expectations need to identified clearly and concisely.
>> Not making art is not an option.
>> Expressions about social issues from the art room some how need to involve art. That is where I (sorry for the pun) draw the line.
>> Barbara from Boston
>> On Jul 1, 2010, at 11:23 AM, Woody Duncan wrote:
>>> I am quite liberal - and the definition of being liberal is to be open minded - so I assume I
>>> was indoctrinating them in my small way - as opposed to the social studies teacher down
>>> the hall who exposed his students to real "news casts" by Pat Robertson so his students
>>> would get the correct view of the world.
>>> I'm glad that you pointed out that learning skills and techniques is necessary and not
>>> separate from what one decides to use those skills for. We need artists who can think
>>> as well as produce well crafted objects.
>>> On Jul 1, 2010, at 8:37 AM, Gayle Parent wrote:
>>>> Well, first, I think I would have to say that I see no more divisiveness among art teachers than any other teachers, having been both. I just think we all have a position (or perspective) on all sorts of things, and that's normal and healthy.
>>>> Personally, I love what you said Woody, about teaching students to be open-minded and accepting. Word for word I agree with you. But I also like Barb's ideas about art and what should be required of the students, and I don't see them as mutually exclusive, unless I have misunderstood Barb.
>>>> I'm assuming also that "indoctrinating" the students with your leftist views was humor, based on the belief that everyone should be open-minded and accepting.
>>> Woody, Retired in Albuquerque
>>> Join me as a friend on facebook:
>>> http://www.facebook.com/woody.duncan1?ref=name >>>
>>> Read My 2010 July Blog:
>>> http://www.taospaint.com/WoodysBlog10/July.html >>>
>>> Read My 2010 June Blog:
>>> http://www.taospaint.com/WoodysBlog10/June.html >>>
>>> 35 Quality Middle School Art Lessons
>>> http://www.taospaint.com/QualityLessons.html >>>
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