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Re: Is art education dead?


From: henry taylor (tortolitascom_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Tue Jun 04 2002 - 22:39:13 PDT

Curious Larry....
> Is the purpose of art ed to be a vehicle for social
> engineering, enculturation and preparation for future generations to be
> prepared to be citizens of a global community? The United States being a
> microcosm of a United Nations, with the hope that people will be more
> prepared to embrace a One World union?

In a word Larry: NO. Art itself MIGHT be that vehicle but not art ed. And
certainly NOT a ONE WORLD solution a "single vision" such as that deplored
by Wm. Blake.

It's a huge world of art Larry, and I respect the professional fine art
viewpoint even as I long for something more connected. I envy your plein
aire vocation and wish I had the patience to pursue it myself. It would
certainly pay better than the niche I occupy--at least in THIS part of the
world. More comprehensible to potential patrons and less esoteric. I make
more sales and enjoy it less. Changing subjects ans styles probably
wouldn't change that, eh?

How many students will follow in your steps as a professional?

I don't want an Art Ed that is an agent for social change or improvement.
That is exactly what I deplore in so much of the VCAE I've seen from the
NAEA of late. Art is, I think an agent or engine of social or cultural
transformation.. but nothing to do with progress or improvement in any
universal sense. Just something to meet the personal need for change and
novelty or to construct and identity out of. "This is who I am."
People seem to crave judgement. You'll be judged - I'll be judged - and
Judged Wanting by someone somewhere...and it doesn't matter a jot.

> To do that, I have been having to connect them to the works of other artists
> that have made such visual expressions about their world. A "natural" world > that these north wood's students identify with. From this experience they are
> getting their first sense that art history has value and a place in opening
> their eyes. will call such currently devalued
> influences as having the European Western traditions.

Well yes and no Larry.

My primary problem is simply that there is so MUCH Euro-Western stuff
being taught everywhere. And so much more richness of culture being
ignored and abandoned. What you are doing with these students and why you
are doing it are absolutely on target.

Think of it as a form of ecology. Imagine covering the planet with a great
north woods biome displacing everything else. Would the Sahara be a loss?
The Tundra? The Tropics? The Cloud Forests? How are we to preserve and
foster all the myriad "biomes" of art? Our planetary cultural legacy? At
the end of this school year I was presented with a litle plein air
painting by one of my students. Well, not exactly plein air, it was a
"hand painted" oil from a painting factory in China. The little
kindergarten kid who found it for me probably at Wal-Mart was unaware of
the difference as were his parents. Plein Air is being displaced as much
as Sepik River work or Guatemalan embroidery, and by the same economic

Social Engineeering may well prove to be as lethal as some of our early
attempts at Environmental Engineering or Genetic Engineering. I don't like
it no matter how well meant it is; no matter how rational the argument.
What have humans, especially young humans--the age of our students, made
throughout our long human history? In the HipHop world today kids are
shaping the important parts of their world through aesthetic practices.
That's all the "social engineering" I'd ask.

God, I hope no one is ready to embrace a Global Vision for art. Terrifying
thought that. Art may be the only "power" universally accessible to one
and all and its expression hopefully special personal and logal--as far
from Global as possible.

> What I find interesting to muse how we'll appreciate art made say
> perhaps in Africa- (which many argue is really not art at all in the
> traditional sense. I mean, in the sense that art is so much a part of their
> daily functional lives in producing functional art for cooking, for
> spiritual cleansing, etc., in fact, some tribal cultures have no word for
> art). and would cringe, mouth drop, roll over for dead if the thought of
> interferring with their cultural dependency on art making were threatened
> with change from the outside world.

That's a sense of art we've abandoned for some time now hoping to win some
cash bounty from professional art. Whats left for most people is a vastly
impoverished version of what you describe. And remmember too that this
African work IS the OLDER and thereby represents a more truly TRADITIONAL
sense of art.

> expect our micro-costic culture to embrace an open ended United Nation's
> acceptance that does not encourage self-evaluation and the finding of one's
> own priority and values.

We can only evaluate ourselves in the light of what we have encountered or
know...and today we know so little lacking so much of that U.N. broad
awareness of life. We cannot find ur own priorities or values without
exposure to others. We are not evolved to magically invent them for
ourselves without prior knowledge or exposure to ideas.

> We instead insist a de-valuing of our own emphasis's creative interests and
> impetus instead to think and thereby judge or assign all other traditions
> to have a greater value outside one's own culture.

A fellow student from the college of education once told me that being
American, she had no culture and no traditions. Since then I've met many
who are not far off from that perspective. Apparently all thats left to
them is what is merchandised to them. Our culture has been seriously
undermined by Global consumerist merchandising. Its easier to find greater
value outside our own culture. --whether it's there or not.

The specific values held by other cultures are in themselves unimportant.
What is important is discovering how many other ways there are of looking
at the world. If you know 5 solutions for a problem you begin to see how
to find a solution of your own. If you know 5 corporate products that
offer solutions you are constrained to choose among only them and the
world is a poorer place.

Becoming a Global Citizen may be less about learning a global language
than rediscovering a local vernacular and making thwe global environment
all the richer through that new diversity. One size does not fit all. What
can we learn from eachother--NOT to become more alike but to enrich our
own diversity?

Environmental richness and diversity! Environmental richness and
diversity! Divergence not convergence! Art answers personal quetions with
perssonal solutions. it provides small community identies in place of
large commercial demographics.

> Seems to me that one way that students learn "art" appreciation is to
> understand why an individual finds the need to make art in the first place.

Yes! Why THIS individual here Why THAT individual there finds the need...
and that individual and that individual etc etc. Diversity!

Expressing feelings through art. Fascinating 19th early 20th century
psychological theory about art. Unproven or validated as far as I know. A
local superstition. How do others deal with expressing feelings through

An old putterer with an easel on the shady side of the road is not unknown
in the southwest desert. A reasonable way to spend ones retirement I
suppose and as influential as a "sofa-sized painting" offered at a hotel
annex "gallery" by a group of "starving artists" at irresistable prices.
People driving about move in different circles. Some visit more upscale

Local culture and history is preferable to global. We learn about our
local options by visiting what other localities have explored and found
valuable--not to copy but to learn and grow from.

> Back to my first you see the purpose of art ed to be as a
> vehicle to prepare a people for a global community, a one world village?
> Are we merely agents for social engineering?

Not a chance in Gehenna

> Is there a place for art to be personalized and internalized without such
> agents and agenda dominating?

Gee, I hope so!