This post was written December 18th, but it’s taken me weeks to take a second look at my rambles.
It’s finals week at Teachers College. Obviously, I should be working on major papers due next week, but I thought it might be interesting to take a moment and reflect on the semester, what I’ve learned, and what has been inspiring.
Our program at TC is based (so far) on a lot of developmental philosophy. Art, and drawing in particular, as a way of recording their world and how they perceive it. ideas evolve out of experience and exploration with materials, just as their artworks are initially drawn from their own previous experiences. Instead of introducing adult art works immediately, one of my professors said it’s best to show that artwork later in the sequence, to allow students to first make their own, express their own, and then they can look at this artwork and relate it back to their own work. There is a certain amount of guidance, included in the motivational dialogue that precedes the lessons.
I could go on, and on, but I’ll spare myself. Anyway, if anything, I’m learning a lot of about how you “scaffold” lessons to create an overall learning objective, and how these layers can add different, and important, elements that lead you to accomplish these different objectives in different ways.
However, when I went into this program, I had thought a lot about contemporary art and artists. How do they fit into this picture? And why is it that the two exist in such different universes? It’s a bit unfair to assume art teachers aren’t artists themselves (or to be bitter, artists who couldn’t make it!) – but I do think it’s necessary, as an art teacher, to continue your own practice. It should inform your practice as a teacher, right?
We had a lecturer last week who spoke on the matter of including Contemporary Art in a Social Studies curriculum – and the inclusion of Contemporary Art in Art Education. In their book History as Art and Art as History (Dipti Desai, Jessica Hamilton) they state seven principles of post-modern artists (appropriation, juxtaposition, etc.) and Dipti asked us, “we teach children the principles and elements of art, but do all artists today use these elements and principles today?” – the answer is, no, they don’t. I think we were all in shock. Contemporary practice in art today is diverse in method and material..and process. Artists do historical research, they take existing material and recreate it for their own purposes, digitally and traditionally. there are so many infinite ways we work now. It isn’t to say that what we are learning isn’t right – it is. you can’t sit a child in front of a Haegue Yang installation and assume they will understand that she was clearly addressing the relationship between karl marx, the wife, and the mistress – but can the ideas be taken into the curriculum and translated somehow for students? I don’t disagree with my program at all, but there is reason to ask why sometimes the world of art education and the world of “artists” exist in worlds apart. I think there are initiatives and non-profits that change that, but at least in the discourse of our program, I’d like to have more of a connection to the studio art side sometimes. In my own work, I am curious to discover more about curricula and objectives that can fulfill both the material exploration as well as foster a relationship with the way art can exist right now. with everyday objects. in new media. etc. etc.
I am nervous with this post because it is quite honestly a lot of generalizations and bits and pieces from readings and coursework from my first semester at Teachers College. I’m learning quite a bit about education and the arts, and much of it for the first time. The truth is, teaching art itself is an art quite separate from the studio art pedagogies we’ve been exposed to in our undergraduate years; it’s a different training. Just because you’ve been taught to draw and paint doesn’t mean you necessarily understand how to teach it; I think that can be exemplified by the first class I ever taught at the museum – it’s a whole other subject matter and realm with different ways of thinking. Not that I haven’t always known that, but in that way, our studio classes within art education are different and the approaches to art making are very different. I sometimes wonder what’s best. Isn’t the root of it all from the first time we started scribbling with crayons? How do you transition? Everyone is an artist, but in the art world there are “right” ways and “wrong way” and “ironically wrong but right ways”. Sometimes I miss the toughest critic in the room from the studio art days, but at the same time, it’s been a joy to be part of such a supportive and open-minded community. We seem to be all part of this for the greater good, and because we love it absolutely more than anything else we’ve done so far.