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Lesson Plans

Re: Curriculum

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kprs (kprs)
Sat, 08 Mar 1997 16:15:02 -0800

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Glen Williams wrote:
> 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
> game.
> 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

OK, now I'm confused with your conflict. Could you simplify for me
please? Are you feeling conflicted because you have appropriated other
cultures' art forms and have not respected their original intent? All,
as educators, we can do is expose kids to a variety of media, and "talk"
about it's origins, it's usages, and experiences that other cultures
have with it...but I no more can experience the "specialness" of one's
religious experience than I can of one's closeness to the art form.
When we work in clay for example, we are all joined in that eternal line
of potters, our clay bodies tied together with bisque, kilns, and fire,
but our reasons for doing are as varied as the pieces that come out of a
raku firing.

San D

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