NAEA: Community Art

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The NAEA convention always seems to offer a number of opportunities to learn about community art. I understand that many artists and art educators have a deep interest and passion for engaging with the community, but I have always struggled with the implications of community art in the context of art education. Even after attending a couple of seasons on the topic today, I am left with more questions than answers.

I imagine an individual teacher, with a specific school community in mind, would not struggle with this as I do. The teacher can connect knowledge of her community with the ideas presented to develop new instructional ideas relevant to her students (I hope). My challenge comes from my perspective.  As an art supervisor, how can I promote the benefits of community-based art practice to many schools across diverse communities? How do I provide training, support and resources to teachers when the reality of each community is distinct from the next?

I am reminded of what I believe is the challenge with Problem/Project-Based Learning. PBL is getting a lot of attention in my district, but it is successful only in pockets. Those pockets form where there is a particular teacher or group of teachers who get excited about an idea and work to develop and deliver it. But the nature of PBL is that you can’t just write up the lesson plan of an authentic problem that worked in your school, and expect it to work someplace else. Likewise, the nature of community art is so place-specific and dependent upon the personal knowledge and passion of the teacher.

I don’t know if it is scaleable, and I don’t know if it is shareable. From my perspective, that means there is little that can be done to ensure it is done in a way that is both appropriate and aligned with best practices.

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