On the highschool level we have to deal with censorship minute by
minute. I tell kids they are "artists" the minute they walk in the door,
so as they say "aye, there's the rub".
So...we begin with the premise of "no drug or sex related images"
because taxpayers are paying for your supplies. Then this always leads
into a discussion of the NEA, Jess Helms, your mother's taste, etc.....I
DO encourage my students to express themselves on every level, BUT, they
must realize WHO their patrons are at this point! So, on their own,
they are encouraged to think about those issues, and make important art,
which I will help them critique if necessary. This takes them to the
next level of realizing that art is and can be made OUTSIDE of the
context of the artroom in the public school.
That said, I have had some very controversial art produced out of our
art department, one censored piece that was mentioned in "Art in
America" and was consequently purchased by a local chapter of The
American Cancer Society. Another piece, entitled "The Prostitution of
Christ" won an award, and was a student's view of the commercialization
and exploitation of the basic tenants of religion....
As a facilitator, it is my responsibility to read ahead to see what the
controversies may be, and see if the risks to student, teacher and
school, are worth it....so far, so good. Yet as I get older, I can not
help but feel that I need a younger collegue around to remind me of the
artists' role of "canary in the mine" of our society. So I try to be as
open as reasonably possible to ideas my students might have.
On a funny note, 20 years ago I put up an exhibit of one of my student's
life drawings done at a local art college in Saturday classes. Within
20 minutes the place was buzzing, of course everyone agreed with their
clicking tongues, that the drawings of the nude women could stay, but
those men----well,---they had to be taken down...It was down in 30
minutes, only because I said they all stay up, or none of them stay up,
and I think the principal was relieved as well.