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Lesson Plans

Defining Art

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
Vance McSwain (vmcswain)
Mon, 29 Jul 1996 09:24:17 -0500

On Monday July 22, Sharon writes,

"There has been much talk on deffining art and approaches,models and
methods to teaching that they(students) might part take in
"what art is" and come to know "what art is" and so have within them life
long learning skill to allow further recognition of "what art is". Art for
them selves so that they are the men and women on the journey of
discovering art for their own meaning not borrowing from art already

Sharon, you make some excellent points. It might be helpful to start with a
definition of art so we know what we are talking about. Letting people
discover for themselves what art is can be a double edged sword. Afterall,
they may decide art is a video of someone having sex with their pet
parakeet. Or will you have to preface what art is with, "any thing that is
legal can be art."

In 1925, F.W. Ruckstull wrote a book entitled Great Works of Art and What
Makes them Great. In this book Ruckstull explains what art is when he
"Every human work made in any language, with the purpose of expressing,
or stirring, human emotion is a work of art; and a work of art is great in
ratio of its power of stirring the "highest" emotions of the largest
number of cultured people for the longest period of time." Ruckstull feels
music, and art are languages. He explains what is meant by high and low
emotions. He does not define cultured people, however.

Ruckstull wrote this book after he had retired from a very successful
career as a sculptor. His work is in many public and private collections.
It is important for each art educator to read this book to help round out
their understanding of contemporary art.

Let's hear some other definitions because if we don't know what art is, we
will constantly struggle when we try and explain what it is to our students
and other people.

Vance McSwain