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


From: Marvin Bartel (marvinpb_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Sat Mar 11 2006 - 06:18:59 PST


Thanks for sharing and describing these important cultural sensitivity issues and concerns.

I have seen too many examples of what you describe. I wrote and posted CREATIVILY TEACHING MULTICULTURAL ART after seeing a group of particularly derivative look-alike sacred objects made by a middle school art class.

The essay suggests a creative approach based on building a frame of reference to nurture empathy, understanding, and respect (without being derivative or using imitation).


You wrote:
>I thought I would start this thread (which might well have already been
>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 some
>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. While
>the intent was to share and expose students to Native American cultures
>through the creation of these artifacts as art projects, the effect in these
>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 projects
>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 those
>groups, who held a wide range of beliefs on what in fact was sacriligious
>and what was simply manifestations of culture. I think that it behooves all
>of us as art educators to be particularly sensitive to the choices that we
>make in presenting and developing curriculum when we are using those choices
>to represent cultures other than our own. We need to become educated about
>the range of beliefs that in fact surround those items. The presenter at
>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 she
>had experienced with some aspects of the existing curriculum that dealt with
>her religious beliefs. Of course, the assumption made by this person was
>that everybody in the room who was not of Native American descent was also
>Christian by default. What became apparent to me through all of this was
>that we should be careful to not paint everyone from any given group with
>the same brush, so to speak, but to be sensitive to the needs of individuals
>from within a group whose beliefs may represent a wide range of levels from
>what we might consider to be 'reformed' to quite fundamental within their
>specific culture. As our population continues to grow and become more
>diverse in its composition, more and more of these types of scenarios are
>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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