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Lesson Plans


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Glen Williams (gw1944)
Sat, 8 Mar 1997 09:55:36 -0600

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Dear Fellow Teachers:
I was recently flummoxed by a visit to an American Indian Art Museum and
a companion juried American Indian Arts and Crafts Show in Phoenix. I was
brought face to face with years of my appropriation of various
ethnic/cultural/national concepts for my art room activities: some in the
name of multi-culturism, some because of a visual appeal to my students,
and others because of serendipitous reading on my part.
Historical distance(time) and a reasonable historical awareness were my
usual intellectual props for such activity. I have also considered that a
heritage of Judeo-Christian experience made religious iconography fair
Seeing the pots, baskets, fetishes, and weapons in the museum, and the
living history being sold next door really got to me. The experience
certainly brought some questions to life for me.
1. How legitimate is it to use cultural concepts and iconography in
teaching art projects when those very records of living or dead cultures
are largely "unearned " by teachers and students alike?

2. If the basic experiences of culture are cumulative and world wide, are
there really concepts broad enough to be inclusive and still meaningful?
What can and do we actually share?

3. Despite the heresy of the statement is the exclusivity of culture (our
own) a more legitimate format to employ in any student art activity? Is
it best to leave the study of non-western cultures to the purview of a
straight art history class?

I can not express how powerful an experience it was to see a living face
and watch the hands move in the process of art where the product had its
cousin next door in a museum.
Conflicted Glen Williams

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