Born of a disagreement, this group of art educators came together to address different approaches to choice in art education. The question comes down to this: Should we have “projects” in art instruction and if so, why and how should we do this that provides an appropriate amount of choice to our students.
Each presenter shared some of their own experiences and approaches. Katherine Douglas presented her experience as a teacher in a primary choice-based art classroom.
Anne Thulson made an analogy to the Prime Directive from Star Trek in which the crew of the Starship Enterprise were not to interfere with cultures of the planets they visit. She argued that the art teacher should interfere and intervene with the students as they learn. She shared a collection of Dérive strategies to engage with spaces which she uses in the School of the Poetic City summer project.
Olivia Gude provided a number of approaches to presenting conceptual projects without making art seem too important. The subject of ordinary life is used through concepts such as mapping, telling stories, being dirty, awkward silence, punishment, weirdness, and lies.
Sharif Bey shared approaches to exploration of material process to find unique entry points into learning. He points out that discovery can’t happen in the absence of circumstances that allow for it.
Each of us probably has an approach that we feel more aligned with, but I believe all of our students will benefit from opportunities to engage in a variety of approaches and practices in making choices for the artmaking process.
Eloquent speaker, Dr. David Driskell, called on his audience — the art educators of the National Art Education Association — to evaluate our role and the role of art education in the 21st Century.
His vast experience in education from attending a segregated high school in the South, to receiving many honorary degrees and a National Humanities Medal from President Clinton (among many other honors), he reminds us that while progress has been made we have much work to do.
Dr. Driskell and his audience share the core belief that art resides at the core of human existence. It is not only for the wealthy and elite but for all, no matter their social or economic status.
Art educators must continue to work toward equitable arts education opportunities for all children, no matter their zip code, and to ensure the curriculum is inclusive of artists who reflect the diversity of our world.
Based in installation and incorporating a variety of materials and media approaches, Sam Vernon’s work defies categization. Drawing, photography, printmaking, photo copies, and appropriation, are often combined with performance, collaboration, recontextualization, and activism.
“As the only school system with its own arts integration office” Prince George’s County Public Schools presented their progress and successes in bringing arts integration to all of its 208 schools.
This is work in progress, but student engagement and test scores are improving — and the work is continuing. One reason for its success is the degree of support this effort is receiving. Evidence of the support is here in the room. Elizabeth Stuart, the visual art supervisor, is joined by division leaders including Amy Rosenkrans, Executive Coordinator for Arts Integration, John Ceschini, Arts Integration Officer, and their Chief Executive Officer (superintendent) Dr. Kevin Maxwell.
You read that right! The superintendent from a large Maryland school district came to NYC to help present this work to art educators.
Each year I look forward to the Emerging Themes presentation from the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers.
As a long time regional coordinator for the Scholastic Art Awards, I feel a deep connection to this program and would not miss the opportunity to see a big picture look at the trends that can be seen by looking at artwork from young artists across the country.
Some of the themes and subjects that were seen in great numbers include:
- Whimsy & fantasy (imagination, childhood)
- Gender & identity (sexuality, gender definitions, self-image)
- Home & family (food, cultur, generations, relationships)
- Technology (impact of technology, gaming, relationship to technology)
A couple of categories were featured as well including Film & Animation and Future New where students were just as likely to address powerful themes like those above and: race, bullying, personality, safe spaces, and immigration.
If you want to learn more about the Scholastic Awards, check out their website at artandwriting.org.
Education is often criticized as being stagnant, but new ideas — new designs for schools are being developed and tested around the country.
Grants such as those through the XQ Super School Project are allowing a few great ideas to be implemented and tested, including the design-thinking-based school ideas shared this morning.
The challenge of designing a new and different school is valuable, and the need is real, but it is a far different and monumental task to redesign our public school systems. Integral to the challenge is the need to provide equitable education opportunities to all students across the country.
Gino Molfino and Jaye Ayres, friends and colleagues from neighboring Maryland, addressed a real and ongoing problem in education: How do teachers deal with the continuous stream of changes and initiatives in schools?
The answer, in short, is to identify and focus on what is most important about teaching. What are the most important learning outcomes? In their division, Howard County Schools, teachers are able to do this by focusing on a set of five long-term transfer goals for all students.
- Inquiry / Innovation
- Application / Process
I hope it is clear that these goals are not about art. They are what all of us want for our students. FCPS has a solar list we call a Portrait of a Graduate. We want each of our graduates to be a:
- Creative & Critical Thinker
- Ethical & Global Citizen
- Goal-Directed & Resilient Individual
Quality art instruction that challenges students to wrestle with challenging concepts and use the creative process to generate a unique solution goes a long way to meet each of these expectations. Balance personal meaning and technique in your instruction, and perhaps you can find your own balance in dealing with other changes that come your way.
Make efforts to focus on the goals in your division. Don’t have any? Make some. Persevere! And as Jaye would say, fail up!