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Lesson Plans


Status for Art and Art Education (was: Democracy vs Despotism)

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
Robert Alexander Fromme (rfromme)
Sun, 13 Jul 1997 21:35:02 -0500


At 11:47 AM 7/13/97 GMT, Rosa Juliusdottir wrote:
>Hi Diane. I said in my last post that I was not agreeing with EVERYTHING
>you wrote but I do agree that enough has been said of this drawing issue
>and your questions and concerns as stated; "Why does Art and Art Education
>appear to us to have such a low status? What can we do about it in our own
>professional lives on Monday, July 14, 1997?", is very important. I and I
>believe most Art teachers here in Iceland and probably everywhere are very
>concerned why Art and Art Education appear to have such low status. I don=
=B4t
>however think I know the answer but would love to hear what people on this
>great list think. clip....snip....parts deleted.......

Rosa and Diane have managed to shift our attention to another concern shared
by art educators.

No doubt, as was the case with the "critical" drawing thread, our list
members will come at this topic from a great variety of experience and from
several points of view. Questions involving the low status of Art and Art
Education have not yielded acceptable answers for me in past years. In my
case, the questioning started over thirty years ago. Like many on the list,
I will be interested in learning from those of you who contribute to the
discussion.=20

Knowing that this listserv (and learning in general) is a situation where
"you usually get out of something relative to the amount that you put into
it", I will share some of my ideas and then sit back, lurk and learn. Here
are some of the thoughts which have come to my mind over the years when
confronted by the lack of status for art related activities in society:

"Follow the money...follow the power"

Perhaps, activities which have status in the minds of the majority in our
society can be traced to those activities which are linked with money and
power . In contemporary society, if we look at individuals and institutions
which have money and power, then try to find a critical use for the arts or
art education in the process which has created the power and money, we
seldom find priority for art related activities. For example, one might ask
if the arts have had a critical role in the education and development of
bankers or banking, political systems or politicians, industry and
industrialists, lawyers of the legal system, medical doctors or the medical
profession, etc.,etc. The answer that I keep coming up with here is "no".
In contemporary society, the arts and art education may have an indirect
relationship, as in the process of presenting a package in the
marketplace, creating an illusion by making a company or a person look
cultured, or providing a life enriching experience outside the work-a-day
world of one of these individuals, but looking at the big picture, art and
art education have little to do with the primary activities for creating
wealth and power.
=20
There are some lessons in art history which support our understanding of a
relationship between wealth and power relative to the status of art in
societies. Would we have the architecture and art of Ancient Egypt without
the function and status which was given to their visual arts through the
"cult of the dead" and the power of pharaohs? Would we be able to look at
the sculpture and pottery of the Classical age without the status which had
been given to the arts in Ancient society of Greece through association
with the search for "ideal" physical forms (worthy of housing the spirits of
their gods)? Would we have the work of Donatello, Michelangelo, Leonardo,
Raphael, and other Renaissance masters if the powerful leaders of the church
, of governments and of the shipping industry in that day had not seen art
as a device to manipulate the populace, hedge their chances for a ticket
to heaven and insure their fame on earth beyond the graves?=20

We can look closer to home. Would we have any of the huge, abstract
outdoor sculptures from the 60s, 70s and 80s if major corporations had not
seen support of the arts as a device for "classing up" their images in a
society which was questioning some of their more "profit driven"
undertakings in the community (environmental pollution, unsafe products,
designed obsolescence)? Was it an accident that those companies had profit
in mind when they chose un- associated, non-objective compositions over
representational forms which could be recognized and affiliated as symbols
for (or against) a particular segment of our population? =20

Art in history includes a long story about the relationship between money,
power and the status of art and art education. Unfortunately, the status of
the arts in the minds of the majority seems to rise and fall in direct
relationship to the degree that the arts can serve the accumulation of power
and wealth. =20

"Dance to the beat of your own hart"

We who value the arts and art education have, on occasion, fallen into the
trap of blaming ourselves for the lack status of contemporary arts and our
particular area of education. No doubt these concerns prompt art educators
to do research and to seek additional learning, seek additional experience
with the creative process and to seek new methods of teaching our subject.
Our ongoing commitment to doing a better job encourages us to consider
innovation and change as we look toward raising the status of art and art
education. Certainly every human activity thrives on innovation and
stagnates without some change. However, confidence and stability also
provide positive effects in teaching and learning. Perhaps we need to
accept some of the problems of diminishing status for the arts and art
education as linkages to national (perhaps global) forces of economy,
government and religion, trends and forces beyond our control. Accepting
this, we can turn inward and appreciate that we (and a substantial minority
of individuals) continue to appreciate art related activity and these
activities hold great status in our lives, in spite of what often seems to
be a societal indifference. We can find solace in the fact that the history
of our field has been unfolding from the earliest ages of our species and
it will continue in some form, with or without a role in the accumulation of
power and wealth. Art history teaches us that from paleolithic to the
present, there have existed unique women and men in society who have found
value in and appreciation for the arts. In turn, the lives of these people
have been enriched by that which they have valued. =20

"Or.... think to the tune of your own brain"

I remember seeing a list of brain functions associated with the left and
right hemispheres and noted that those thinking process which are associated
with the right seemed to be the very skills which we seek to develop in our
art students and they are skills which we who are interested in human
creativity seem to appreciate. The list was extensive and included over
thirty functions but they could be simplified into thinking functions which
were diffuse, timeless, intuitive, visuo- spacial, synthetic, holistic and
non-verbal. On the other side of the page were listed over thirty specific
left brain functions which could be summarized as discontinuous,
time-oriented, rational, sequential, reductive-into-parts, analytic and=
verbal.=20

If the right brain list would best serve the artist and those involved in
art education, then the left brain list would best serve individuals who
were after wealth and power with a need to control and manipulate others.
Fortunately most of us develop thinking skills which come from both lists.
Yet, I find it quite interesting that there is a contradiction or
antagonism which seems to be in place. It looks as if the contrasting
brain functions probably seed opposite dominant values in humans. The mind
set and directions for those who experience art making, value the arts and
seek to educate others in the arts contrasts with the values of those who
seek wealth, power and the control of populations. (History has also served
up its share of anomalies, such as Hitler, a frustrated art student who
would seek to rule the planet and Picasso who found greatness and great
success at the manipulation of the art market as it effected the sale of his
art.)

I look forward to learning from the ideas on the subject from others on
artsednet.

Bob Fromme