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artistic integrity and judging for kids


From: Patricia Knott (pknott_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Thu Mar 10 2005 - 19:46:06 PST

Sometimes, I think, all of us, the best and the worst of us, find
ourselves scrambling all the time to-- keep up.
I think a few things:
   Art competitions are not about the teachers; it's about the kids. If
teachers loose perspective and put their own hand into the work, and
that work "wins" then the integrity of all we do and all we advocate
that what we do - is just so false and misleading.
   We advocate about how we develop critical thinking, then turn around
and reward work that is not so "critical?" Well, Ken is very right in
thinking his kids were cheated because "safe" won.

   Sometimes, I look at Scholastic and AP "winners" and have to wonder
---- did that really come from a kid?

I've cut back a lot from competitions. Yes, the art world is plenty
competitive and filled with judging disappointments, but I'm not sure
it's a lesson my kids need to learn yet. I worry about subjecting them
to the whims of judges before they have hardly gotten a chance to get
started. The growth process is so long for an artist, I don't want
to be teaching them to be "safe" in order to get the recognition.

We have to hold to the "artist mind." We have to encourage and develop
the ideas
and well, sometimes I encourage my kids to be extremely critical of the
safe and slick. A forewarning to any student who enters a competition
is -----"you don't know who the judges will be, some are good, some are
bad, and if you are rejected, turn it around and continue to do what
you you feel and connect to, and keep wondering why? It's not personal
at all... and the rest of your life does not depend at all on some blue
ribbon in high school." I guess part of our job is teaching how to be
a "looser" as well as a winner. I think in the long run, the kids will
remember how we make them feel like winners every day, not some
transient, momentary disappointment in some meaningless competition. (
Just today, I had former students visit me who are attending a major
art school. They thanked me for giving them a "tough skin" and the
ability to cope with all the "criticism" they get in art school. I hope
they were saying I taught them that defending their choices was what
they learned from me.)

As for colleagues that "steal" ideas. I have felt this and used to
carry a lot of resentment. I've tried to turn it into a more positive
situation. I try to get around to all my colleagues on a daily basis
and brainstorm ideas. Before something is "taken" from me, I will go
to another teacher and say "this is what I am planning to do ... I'm
not sure how to handle this? what do you think?" I try to engage
the other people in my department in what I am doing and try to suggest
what they can do. Most often it leads to very useful dialogue. All of
us have strengths and weaknesses. One of my "art partners" is fabulous
at presentation, which I often have trouble with. I ask for the help.
I'm great with ideas to get started with and he comes to me for that. I
start he finishes.

Let's be kind, who among us doesn't need help and ideas? When we see
something good and exciting we want to take it and use it . Some may be
  a little rude in how they take, but I will always hope that each finds
their own way to "tweak' the take. And that's how art grows and
  I like to think of "stealing" as something that has always happened in
art . I try to make my kids artful thieves. We are all purposeful and
mindful in what we want to present. Let's hope that the sharing is just
that and we continue to be a community that discovers and enhances and
only moves all of this forward.

Keep minds on driving student discovery-- they don't know what they are
who was it that said there are only 5 or 6 original ideas? --
everything else is a derivation.

There is lots to think about in the competition judging, but not enough
to think about to prevent us from doing what we do best. We are good
people, we are the ones participating in these exchanges going across
the country---- don't give a care to somebody doing less than all the
work we do trying to find the hard answers. All I know is that any time
I tried to find an easy answer it didn't work so well, cause it wasn't
from my heart.

I'm long winded tonight.