Some things that have come to my mind thanks to the current lively
discussion. You all have really stimulated me. In no particular
College and University study for a masters or doctorate in art
education presumes an excellent basic undergraduate education with
lots of studio art and many courses in art history to build on.
Graduate art ed students come from varied backgrounds. Some have
never taught in schools, some are excellent and seasoned teachers.
The realm all enter is one of research and scholarship. The
advanced degree allows time to ponder the big questions.
These questions don't often have much connection to the challenges
of art teaching on-the-ground in low performing public schools. Or
even engaging students in good schools and wealthy districts to be
original and creative whose young lives are spent multitasking and
making relationships through technology.
I have found art teachers I've have surveyed removed from
contemporary art and the issues artists are addressing in their
works today. These are the issues that evolve from living in
Professional artists' art production today can give teachers clues
to what might be going on in the lives of their students, and what
important concerns their students have about identity, violence,
Few teachers I have surveyed go to galleries of contemporary art or
know any contemporary art practioners in the "art world." They
often list a blockbuster show at a museum as the last art work they
have seen. Most of the art preferred is pre-postmodernism.
The personal art practices of most art teachers I have surveyed are
tied to craft and technique rather than contemporary, issue-based
expression. They have difficulty finding time or energy to keep up
an art practice. They rely on summers and vacations to do that.
The world of art education and the "art world" do not meet in any
meaningful way. (This has been pointed out by Kavoulis, Efland,
Jeffers et. al.)
What we can offer students of authentic art practice is only what we
deeply know and understand about ourselves and how we relate to
art's expression todau - expression that tackles all the complexity
of society today and asks a lot of viewers.
Art expression right now reflects what is happening in the world. So
it is challenging. Also, contemporary art is sometimes very
opaque...difficult to understand and often controversial.
Schools discourage controversial expressions By students. Currently
newspapers are being censored as are drama productions and art.
Teachers are expected to understand what is expected of them and to
limit student art expression to subjects and content that are
Subjects of salient interest to students will engage them, as will
translating those subjects with adept handling of materials.
Some students I surveyed said they make their most meaningful work
outside the school. They refer to their Saturday and summer
programs sponsored by college art departments and art
conservatories or community settings and their own art-making
buddies as places where they make "real art." "Real artists teach
me," they say of their part-time education available in higher ed
How far school art teachers are willing to go to self-educate beyond
what their formal studies offered them must be considered in the
current teaching environment.
We trust our physicians are up on the latest in their practices. We
hope they go to conferences and take courses to learn new ways to
heal us. If our doctor says "the 19th century is good enough for
me" and practices as if she has no access to the knowlege of
medicine after 100 years ago, we would seek another doctor.
Many art teachers I have surveyed consider Picasso a contemporary
artist. Demoiselles d'Avignon is 100 years old this year.
The responsibility to "teach as if art matters" is up to us. We
can't rely on our schools and school personel to get that message
out. First of all we have to believe it ourselves.
Art education is defanged, dumbed down, disrespected and finally
eliminated as a frill of no use, though our material world gives
ample evidence that artists built and furnished it with every
object we see and every technology we use. Somewhere an
artist/designer has been involved. Yet another cognitive
dissonance, along with "art education." Is it an oxymoron?
I teach art studio and art history in a college, and every week I go
to several low-performing schools to work with classroom teachers
and their students. I experience the lived subject of art
education, every day, in practical ways. I think about all the
above constantly and try to understand as I pursue my doctorate.
This list gives me valuable insights, thanks to hard-working art
education practitioners willing to take time to post the kinds of
messages we have had this week. I am so grateful to all of you.