I’m super blessed to have recently accepted an art teaching position at Community Christian School. It’s not every day that an art teaching position opens up, so it was Providence that I was offered a job as an Elementary Art Teacher. I also excited to serve as a Co-Director of the Secondary Creative Arts Ensemble, a multi-media performance troupe that will premier this Fall.
I’ll post more about all of this glorious hubbub later. For now, I want to share an excellent post written by the Director of the Creative Arts Department, Tom Argersinger, who explains what Christians believe we are doing when we create works of art.
Without a doubt, I have one of the coolest gigs around. I’m working on curriculum for a summer art camp thats based around the real life stuff that K-6th grade students experience every day. This subject might take over my blog for a little while as I post lesson plans and problems I’m trying to solve.
Here’s the graphic for the camp. I designed it, and I’m unabashedly proud of it. 😀 You can sign up through the Foosnaer Museum’s website.
What originally sent me down this road was an article by Arthur Efland, “The School Art Style: A Functional Analysis”. I know it doesn’t sound very sexy, but, trust me, this is a very sexy article. It clearly explains why the kind of art that students typically make in school settings (especially elementary classrooms) is an individual, isolated style that often has no bearing on students’ lives. This is something I’d like to combat with the curriculum for this art camp.
When mathematics is taught in the school, there is some correspondence between what is taught as mathematics and the mathematical understandings at large in the minds of men and women in the world outside of the school. This is less so with art, where there is little resemblance or relation between what professional artists do and what children are asked to do (Efland, 1976, p. 39).
The example I always think of is a row of nearly identical Santa Clauses who have cotton balls glued to their beards with varying degrees of skill. Because we want so to interact with these pieces as art, we search for any little glimmer of personality. “Oh look, little Johnny’s cotton balls are so straight and neat, just like he is! And Suzy’s cotton balls are wild! We sure can see their personalities in this project!” <—–NO. Sometimes, miraculously, a student’s personality makes a break for it and shines through any crack it can find in such a project, but this certainly wasn’t the goal of the identical cotton ball Santa Claus assignment.
Was this project a satisfactory way to test the students’ fine motor skills and development? Sure. Is it a great art project? Nope. This project does not encourage artistic thinking, behavior, or expression. (If you want to know how I REALLY feel about holiday art, check out this post: Bah-humbug!) This summer, the students at art camp won’t encounter any such cookie-cutter projects.
Another facet of the school art style is the recreational role that art class has been assigned. When it is expected that art making be an escapist, mindless, simple, light process, it is abundantly clear that students are not learning to become artists. We artists STRUGGLE. We experience heartache. We ask hard questions. We are disciplined. Teaching students to cut things out on the dotted lines, to use the correct colors in their coloring books, and to produce work that is identical to their peers is to teach something wholly different from art making. (Disclaimer: Sometimes these kinds of projects are helpful for building skill and technique, but they should not in and of themselves be the end products.)
The typical art program operates in a school where students are regimented into social roles required by society. If the school’s latent functions are repressive in character, what effect does this have on the art program? It’s my speculation that the art program’s manifest functions are subverted by these pressures. As the repression builds, art comes to be regarded as “time off for good behavior” or as “therapy” (Efland, 1976, p. 40)
I believe that summer camp is an ideal setting to begin tackling these issues because the students will have the time, the high quality materials, and some truly superb instructors to guide them as they work not only as students, but also as ARTISTS. 🙂
Info on that awesome article:
“The School Art Style: A Functional Analysis”
by Arthur Efland
Studies in Art Education , Vol. 17, No. 2 (1976) , pp. 37-44