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Re: [teacherartexchange] Respecting diverse cultures in the art curriculum and being willing to adapt


Date: Sat Mar 11 2006 - 06:03:13 PST

Thank you for actaully wriitng this piece. For many years I have been
thought to be opposed to exposing "cultural style " projects to the
classroom. I have refused to recreate proects with my students that
were those of another culture. In fact, the past years often I have
said little to my colleagues because so many state and national
objectives have reinforced this type of thinking.
However, over the past 10 years, I have been able to introduce projects
that included a rich, historical/cultural background by reinventing and
turning the lessons around. For example, when my students are doing a
still life, the objects are from a specific culture and that is where
the cultural factors come into play. Students will see images that are
part of that culture, do research while working on the still life
project and often have a speaker or someone who is from that cultural
background...I realize this may see simple minded to many but you can
never be another culture.
Often I think of one of my sojourns, where I encountered a young woman
who admired an indigenous group -she "became" one of those indigenous
people-but only by dress, taking up their customs, and doing what they
did in daily life. She was living a fantasy and she could not
understand why so many people in that indigenous group refused to
accept her...their culture as wonderful as it is -could not handle a
faux person-you can't be something you are not. The same with
making/creating art of a specific culture-you truly cannot create
soemthing that is not part of your cultural bkgd.


From: Kevan Nitzberg <>
To: TeacherArtExchange Discussion Group
Sent: Sat, 11 Mar 2006 07:15:33 -0600
Subject: [teacherartexchange] Respecting diverse cultures in the art
curriculum and being willing to adapt

    I thought I would start this thread (which might well have already
addressed before at some point), regarding multiple cultures being
represented in the art curriculum and the challenges that sometimes are
posed as a result. In my district we recently had a meeting to address
concerns that had been brought forward by a representative from a local
Native American group regarding the creation of artifacts representing
aspects of Native American religious beliefs in the artroom
(particularly at
the middle school level), that were found to be offensive by this group.
This included sand paintings, some masks, katchina dolls, and totems.
the intent was to share and expose students to Native American cultures
through the creation of these artifacts as art projects, the effect in
cases was to cause some serious although unintended pain and anger.
Throughout the secondary art department leader meeting during which this
issue was brought to light, it was obvious that the situation was a
long way
 from being merely a cut and dry issue of simply eliminating certain
 from the curriculum and substituting others in their place.
Information was
shared during and subsequent to the meeting regarding a range of beliefs
 from different Native American groups as well as individuals within
groups, who held a wide range of beliefs on what in fact was
and what was simply manifestations of culture. I think that it behooves
of us as art educators to be particularly sensitive to the choices that
make in presenting and developing curriculum when we are using those
to represent cultures other than our own. We need to become educated
the range of beliefs that in fact surround those items. The presenter
the meeting who had brought the issue to light had also brought a clown
figure mounted on a cross to symbolize the level of insensitivity that
had experienced with some aspects of the existing curriculum that dealt
her religious beliefs. Of course, the assumption made by this person
that everybody in the room who was not of Native American descent was
Christian by default. What became apparent to me through all of this
that we should be careful to not paint everyone from any given group
the same brush, so to speak, but to be sensitive to the needs of
 from within a group whose beliefs may represent a wide range of levels
what we might consider to be 'reformed' to quite fundamental within
specific culture. As our population continues to grow and become more
diverse in its composition, more and more of these types of scenarios
bound to play out. Hopefully though all of this we can become better
educated ourselves as well as more aware and respectful of cultural


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