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Re: [teacherartexchange] teaching in schools and college art ed


From: Patricia Knott (pknott_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Thu Jun 21 2007 - 09:04:14 PDT

Jane's post is so powerful and gives so much to consider.

A recent issue of ArtNews (or maybe Art in America) had a long
article on college art teachers discussing and debating what goes on
in art schools and in particular the possibility of a doctorate in
fine arts. What I remember most from the article was one person
saying ( and forgive me I can't remember who) saying ----- "if you
think critical thinking is going on in the arts schools, think
So as I ponder all Jane has to say
I wonder how we best bring critical and original thinking to our
students? How do we mesh the "what is happening" in their lives with
and all the issues they have to deal with and the most effective
ways to make those expressions? That is the real job of the art
teacher, I think.
Jane is so correct in saying that the kids find alternative ways to
make their expressions-- their communication is through forms that
affirm the basic need to make statements and I'm not sure we address
their alternatives. Is My Space another form of cave paintings? Can
we make a correlation? We are so slow to keep up with the many
avenues they find to make a place for their needs.
We exist in systems that are soooooo careful. We get "blocked" from
sources that we need to teach them about. They are finding ways and
means to come up with the desires and attentions the traditional
artists struggled through. They can do it in a click of a button, and
yet we keep plodding through the what was?

My world moves much much too fast for me. By the time I figure
something, "they" have found something else. I truly don't know what
is good art anymore. I AM a history nut, But what I present is "why
did the artist do it?" and how can you take the same questioning
and do it?

The great artists from any era did 2 things--
      They questioned what was... and they valued their importance
in asking the questions
          it wasn't about refining technique it was about
questions and visions and understanding the issues of the time and
finding the ways and means to translate the observations.

I sometimes think that current art making is so convoluted because
some how we forgot to teach them how to observe and connect and we
got so busy "in the style of' they needed to find their own style.


On Jun 21, 2007, at 4:49 AM, wrote:

> Some things that have come to my mind thanks to the current lively
> discussion. You all have really stimulated me. In no particular
> order...
> 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
> "interesting" times.
> 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,
> love, beauty.
> 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
> "school appropriate."
> 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
> institutions.
> 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.
> Jane in Brooklyn
> ---
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