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Lesson Plans

Re: What's Worth teaching in Art?

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brenda jones (cfifly)
Thu, 16 Jul 1998 13:03:28 -0500

This is a brief response to Bob's reply to Craig about what is worth
teaching in art. I agree that art teaches us to understand and make
sense of the world around us...both in a personal sense and a societal
sense. I think it provides us with ways to respond to issues important
to us and to express those thoughts with others. Artists do that. They
may show us a unique way of interpreting the physical world like April
Gornik does or they may present to us social issues that need to be
addressed, like Barbara Kruger, etc. Our art courses should reflect what
art is about. It is sometimes personal, sometimes collaborative. It
sometimes is presented to us in a gallery, very often presented to us in
installations or performances. We can't always use traditional methods
to understand art today. Not all art allows an easy "describe, analyze,
interpret and evaluate" attitude. Some art disregards principles of
design and I think that in fairness we should give our students the
opportunity to encounter art that is outside of the traditional way of
classification (i.e. "drawing one class, ceramics one, etc. )
I do think that many of us as art teachers do have a few obstacles to
address. One powerful (at least with the art teachers that I know)
obstacle is the Scholastic Arts show. It is an exhibit that is important
to administrators in our area. It is the "football game" of art. In
other words, it is often used as a competition between adminstrators
(and art teachers for that matter)... Schools are compared on the amount
of keys they received from the scholastic show. Scholarships are awarded
to students based on their performance in the show. Universities award
money to students who do well in the show. Here's a concern: In our
area, maybe this is true everywhere, the pieces that are typically
awarded are those that stress traditional methods, subject matter and
materials. Emphasis is put on skill and less on innovation. While
collaboration is accepted, it is collaboration within a very traditional
realm. Judges, at least in our area, are often very traditional, looking
for refined skills. These are skills which involve hours of 'perfect'
shading, etc. I am not saying we should throw the baby out with the bath
water. I am saying, though, that we have artists that are dealing with
some very important issues and I think that in some respects the
Scholastic competition can get in the way when the emphasis in the
classroom is put on the show. I also think it happens a lot even when we
say we don't teach for Scholastic. We all want to keep our jobs and want
our administrators happy with the art department.
Anyway, just a thought.