What is “art”?
“Regarding art as a behaviour – an instance of ‘making special’ – shifts the emphasis from the modernist’s point of view of an art object or quality or the post-modernist’s view of it as text or commodity to the activity itself (the making or doing and appreciatining), which is what it is in many pre-modern societies where the object is essentially an occasion for an accoutrement to ceremonial participation.”
Ellen Dissanayake. Homo Aestheticus: Where Art Comes From and Why (1999).
1. Art is not just the object that is produced. It is the process that people (not just artists) go through. What is most important is that people connect with the process, because by engaging in making an object special, they are allowed to participate in the creation of their culture.
I will emphasize the process over the product by assessing for learning, not of learning, so that students can authentically participate in defining their perusal and cultural identity. I will communicate how I am using a variety of assessment strategies (diagnostic, formative, summative) so that students learn to assess their own process.
2. If the artwork is about the process, it means that in theory art does not necessitate the production of a physical artifact. However, because young people are learning about artistic behaviour, the process of making their world special, the require tangible evidence of their experience as a reminder of what they have learned.
I will encourage all students to take their work home as a reminder of the process of what it means to ‘make special’.
3. The products that are created to represent and remember a process of making special are varied. Some products are of a better quality than others but that does not necessarily equate into a greater or lesser understanding of what it means to make special.
I will empower all students to see value in their artistic expression by authenticating their experience through the regular exhibition of their work in the school and community.
Why do I teach art?
“[Children] need to know that art is a microcosm of life in that both are ongoing mental and expressive processes in which curiosity and adventure provoke discovery.”
Robert Godfrey. Civilization, Education and the Visual Arts: A Personal Manifesto (1992).
1. Art is an integral part of our collective and individual human experience. Art is a form of communication and self-expression that allows us to exercise our faculties of imagination. Through art we explore our social roles, and attempt to redefine our understandings of our existence.
I will enable students to participate in the process of forming their identity by establishing real learning opportunities. I will use a variety of individual and group tasks so that students can explore their personal and social identities.
2. An understanding of visual art and culture is necessary for survival in our world which is overly saturated with imagery. The still and moving image carry meanings that must be analyzed, interpreted and evaluated so that we are not vulnerable to propaganda or commercial advertising. The ability to empathize and see multiple points of view, as developed through the study of the visual, is a necessity for maintaining a strong democracy.
I will engage students in critical thinking activities that allow them to develop the skills and processes for analyzing and synthesizing the visual information they are bombarded with on a daily basis. I will use examples of fine art and visual culture to help students see a continuum between the past and present, as well as ‘high culture’ and the everyday.
3. I have a deep affinity for the visual. Through the teaching of art I have the ability, and responsibility, for maintaining a current knowledge and understanding of what is happening in the contemporary visual world. Through teaching art I am able to satisfy my own desire for life long learning in the domain of art, culture and philosophy.
I will model learning. I will make my own learning more transparent for students so that they can see some of the processes that a person goes through while learning by engaging in research within my classroom and extracurricular activity.
To whom am I teaching art?
“The Creative Class derives its identity from its members’ roles as purveyors of creativity. Because creativity is the driving force of economic growth, in terms of influence the Creative Class has become the dominant class in society. Only by understanding the rise of this new class and its values can we begin to understand the sweeping and seemingly disjointed changes in our society and begin to shape our future more intelligently.
Richard Florida. The Rise of the Creative Class: and how its transforming work, leisure, community and everyday life (2004).
1. I am not teaching visual artists. The skills and concepts learned in the art room are not solely for a select few emerging cultural elite that are going to pursue post-secondary college or university art programming. As Richard Florida argues, we have passed the information age and have entered the age of creativity, and therefore students need to be equipped with creative thinking no matter their field of study.
I will develop a balance of technical skill and conceptual thinking to meet the needs of my students. I will use teaching learning strategies that allow students to see how the skills and concepts learned through the visual arts are transferable to other fields of study. I will develop learning opportunities that are interdisciplinary so that ‘non-artist’ students can validate their selection of participating in a visual arts curriculum.
2. I am teaching individuals within a class. Each person is unique in their opinions, beliefs and life experiences – all this and more contributes to the knowledge that is brought into the art room on the very first day of class. What one student needs as a result of their particular time and place in his or her life may be quite different than what another requires.
I will work towards developing a more differentiated art program. I will move towards a program that is more authentic and honours the creative process by allowing students to choose from a variety of mediate that they feel will best communicate their message, and allows them to take responsibility for their own learning.
How do I teach art?
“If one lives in a forest, wood will likely become one’s medium for creative play. If one grows up in a world filled with cheap disposable images, they easily become the stuff of one’s own creative expression.”
Olivia Gude. Postmodern Principles: 7+7? (2004).
1. Art is an experience, and therefore the process of learning about, making special, needs to be experiential.
I will endeavor to teach according to how students will learn best, not just by emulating the methods under which I was a successful learner. I will engage in identifying and implementing new strategies so that students are engaged in constructing their knowledge.
2. Art is a community activity. Art is meant to be seen, experienced and discussed in collaboration.
I will incorporate reflection and discussion time as a fundamental building block in the students’ creative processes. I will provide time for students to get feedback from each other so that they are empowered, and see the art classroom as a learning community.
3. How art is taught depends on the materials that are at hand. To teach art you need to have a wide variety of materials for making art, a large number of visual resources.
I will actively appropriate a wide range of media into the classroom. I will find creative ways of using a variety of materials that allow successful independent and collaborative exploration. I will build my department and personal library with image resources that will assist students in the development of their own artworks. I will become a facilitator of artistic media and imagery who coordinates student learning through thematic investigation. I will acknowledge my teaching as an art from through which I express my self.
What is my curriculum?
“The spectator will always understand more than the artist intended, and the artist will always have intended more than any single spectator understands.”
Richard Wollheim. Art and Its Objects (1971).
1. Curriculum is to be student driven. It is to be developed with consideration of who the student is first and foremost. Students have the capacity for determining what they need to know. It is the responsibility of the teacher to facilitate their learning within the frame work of known principles, concepts and skills that are detailed within the curriculum document that outline the criteria and standards on which students are assessed.
I will approach the development of my curriculum as a fluid and on-going activity, acknowledging its dynamic qualities. I will reflexively review my curriculum on a regular basis to ensure that it reflects current issues and interests of my students, as well as current movements in the art world.
2. Curriculum relates to what needs to be taught now. There needs to be a balance between what is taught in terms of fine art history (and its entire tradition) and that of visual culture (and the plethora of potential imagery that enters into the curriculum as a result of our image saturated environment).
I will encourage a postmodern perspective in my classroom that acknowledges and validates our history as an informative part of our cultural identity when it is seen in light of its original context, and within a contemporary milieu.
3. Curriculum is a human endeavour. Technology has a place within the arts classroom, but it is not to be taught for its own sake. Technology is to be explored thematically so that students have a better understanding of its role in the creative process.
I will foster students’ understanding that technology is to be creatively manipulated through play. I will cultivate an appreciation in my students that technology can be more than a tool for expressing your self, it can also be a medium (i.e. net art, techno art, etc.) through which they can communicate their thinking.
Originally Written 2006. Revised 2009, 2012, 2016.