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Laura H. Chapman - Approaches to Art in Education

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Salam n Good Day



The Beginning of Art Education

Early 1870s. A group of industrialists in Massachusetts pressured the state legislature to make drawing a required subject in school. The manufacturers recognized that skilled draftsmen and designers would be needed if American products were to compete favorably in an expanding world market. Walter Smith, an Englishman, was brought to this country to develop the first required course in art and to train teachers in its use. Smith's course, like others of this period, was offered as a prescribed series of exercises in copy work. It reflected a belief that skill in drawing and design could be mastered through imitation, drill, and practice.

. . . . The legacy of Smith's era may be found in step-by-step books Freehand Drawing and DesigningBoston: James R. Osgood, 1873] and exact how-to-do-it instructions that severely restrict children's opportunities to make artistic decisions on their own.

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Art for Cultural Refinement - At the turn of the century, picture-study programs emphasized moral lessons and introduced children to European high culture.

Around the turn of the century, art appreciation was introduced into school programs. Graded "picture study" texts became available. These texts emphasized the virtues of hard work, piety, and loyalty as portrayed in the subject matter of "famous" paintings or in the artists' lives. Artists were often viewed in terms of two stereotypes: the inspired genius or the suffering hero. An appreciation of art was considered one of the finer things in life--a form of culture especially important for young ladies who wanted to become "properly" refined and part of the social elite. . Thus, through an ingenious blend of Puritan and aristocratic values, children received lessons in " moral character" and became familiar with "masterpieces" of art, principally from the Renaissance and the nineteenth-century romantic period in Europe.

Attitudes from the past are still apparent in our society. An appreciation of art is often regarded as a luxury or frill to be enjoyed primarily by wealthy socialites, especially women. Many newspapers, for example, report community art events in the section on society, women, or entertainment. Judgments about the life of artists are frequently based on the same two stereotypes: the inspired genius whose talent is beyond comprehension, or the suffering hero who creates art in spite of personal hardship. The validity of these and other cultural stereotypes about art can and should be examined with children.

Contemporary approaches to art appreciation are varied. In general, children are encouraged to discover individual meanings in works of art. They are engaged in the process of looking at a work and formulating a critical judgment about its significance. Teachers try to acquaint children with community artists and their work as well as with works in local museums and galleries. Although original works are best for teaching art appreciation, substitutes like slides, prints, and reproductions are convenient for immediate classroom use . . . .

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Art as Craft and Folk tradition - In the decades preceding and following 1900, the largest wave of immigration in our history occurred. Faced with increasing numbers of children who spoke little or no English, many schools offered special programs that would teach a useful trade, provide nonverbal success to children, and draw on the ethnic traditions of the immigrants. Vocational skills were developed by manual training in the crafts of wood, metal, leather, and clay. Cooking, sewing, weaving, and embroidery were introduced as well. In the early part of this century, the crafts were approached in the spirit of extending the immigrants' traditional pride and vocational interest in well-made handcrafted items.

In time, manual training in the traditional crafts evolved into industrial arts and home economics . As presently taught, these subjects still emphasize the practical and vocational aspects of woodworking, sewing, and other crafts. Within art programs, however, the crafts now have a different status: they are treated as opportunities for individual design and expression. Programs are no longer based on sexist sterotypes . . . . sewing for girls and woodworking for boys.

In spite of these changes, the attitude persists that art is primarily a manual skill . . . . that children who do not succeed academically are likely to be good at working with their hands. Further this attitude implies that art is not intellectually demanding, that only academic achievement leads to success, and that nonacademic endeavors are second-rate activities At best, this view perpetuates the concept of an elite class of intellectuals whom society should revere above other . . . .

Art activities based on folk traditions and ethnic holidays are another legacy of the turn-of-the-century immigration period . . . . In spite of the American melting-pot image, various holiday symbols and art forms--turkeys, tulip borders, shamrocks, black cats, and Easter bunnies--have survived to the present . . . . Within the last decade the need for positive recognition of minority groups has led to a rediscovery of the ethnic diversity of our society Because ethnic identity is established partially though distinct visual forms, some art programs now offer concentrated studies in Mexican-American, Appalachian, American-Indian, and Afro-American arts. Children also learn about art forms and symbols created in other cultures.

fleurzsa Publish time 9-5-2010 08:12 PM

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The Progressive Movement

Prior to the early 1920s, children's art was widely regarded as a clumsy and immature version of adult art. Adult art, in turn, was valued if it echoed the great achievements of the old masters. Both of these concepts were challenged in the decades following the first world War.

The New York Armory Show of 1913 was the first large and widely publicized exhibition of modern art ever held in America. The new styles of art demonstrated that the artist's creative energy could turn inward to the subconscious, explore pure visual form and structure, and transform our sense of time, space, and motion. It was soon obvious to many scholars, artists, and teachers that art could no longer be defined exclusively in terms of skillful representation, Renaissance perspective, and classical proportions. By 1920, alert art teachers were aware that nothing short of an artistic revolution had occurred in Europe, and they could see its growing influence on American artists .

The newer forms of expression being explored in the world of art, together with trends in educational theory, helped to shape the concept of art as self-expression.

In the early decades of this century, John Dewey, an American philosopher and educator, articulated a view of education that was as revolutionary for its time as the innovations that were redefining the nature of art. In Dewey's view, children should be treated as active learners whose creative energies center on themselves and their world. The traditional concept of the child as "a miniature but imperfect adult" had supported a host of practices that Dewey and his followers rejected--namely, rote learning of ready-made facts, drill and recitation of text materials, and the imposition of arbitrary rules by adults . According to Dewey, active inquiry, sharing of effort, and experience in decision-making were natural and effective means to nurture learning.

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In 1920, educators who supported the principles of John Dewey's educational philosophy formed the Progressive Education Association. Through this organization, Dewey's ideas were tested and translated into classroom practices. Traditional subject areas, including art, were reinterpreted.

Art teachers who supported Dewey's tenets soon discovered that recent developments in the world of art were compatible with the new philosophy of education. ]. Educators began to recognize that the child 's self-expression in art had its own kind of integrity; it had an authenticity that did not depend on traditional notions of skillful representation. Self-expression was not only a natural mode of behavior for children but was fundamental to their ultimate maturity. Thus, the child's artistic effort, at that time regarded by many teachers as a crude attempt at representation, was recognized by the "progressives" as a genuine form of art. "Child art" was discovered.

The concept of creative self-expression was radical for its time. It was so radical that it was not widely accepted until the years following the Second World War, when, as a nation, we were more conscious of the need to protect and nurture individual expression. Today, the work of children is widely valued as legitimate art and admired for characteristics that distinguish it from adult art. The concept of art as creative self-expression is no longer a new idea; it has been thoroughly assimilated into the philosophy of contemporary art education. It is discussed in less romantic and naive terms than in the 1920s.

We recognize now that the " self" of the child is complex and that authentic expression through art is rarely achieved without active, sympathetic, and structured guidance from adults.

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Integrated & Correlated Art - In Dewey's philosophy of education, the school is a microcosm of everyday life. It functions as a small community facing its own problems and finding solutions through cooperative effort and democratic procedures. In progressive schools of the 1920s and 1930s, group activities were popular. Small groups of children worked on parts of a large problem that interested everyone. Teachers developed a number of activities in order to help children clarify their ideas and communicate the results of their efforts in solving problems of common concern. Among the means of communication were murals, puppet shows, table-top models, charts, displays, and bulletin boards. These activities were integral to the problem-solving process: they served as a method of correlating the ideas of the group and reporting them to a larger audience.

Art educators today are generally skeptical of activities that use art materials merely to illustrate, chart, or graphically represent other subjects . . . . Such activities are uncreative, time-consuming, and do not, in themselves, help children grasp the underlying relevance of Indian art to their own lives . . . . In relating art to other subjects, sensitive teachers give priority to expressive parallels . . . . they do not use art merely to reinforce factual knowledge.

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Art in Everyday Living - During the depression of the 1930s, nothing seemed more important than the routine of day-to-day life, doing useful things, and getting a job. Art teachers were forced to find free, inexpensive, or discarded materials for school activities. Because new household items were costly, children were encouraged to make decorative yet practical items to brighten their homes. Art teachers also acquainted students with vocational possibilities in art and emphasized skills in applied design for advertising, interiors, and crafts. In effect, the social and practical aspects of art were given more attention than the creative, self-expressive ones.

The concept of art in every day life was the basis for an unusual experimental program during the 1930s. With the aid of a grant from the Carnegie Corporation, the small town of Owatonna, Minnesota, became a center for total community involvement in art. The five-year program centered on artistic decisions in daily life--in city planning, architecture and interior design, landscaping, clothing, utensils, advertising, and recreation. Special teaching units on art in daily living were introduced in the schools. This comprehensive community program offered the public numerous exhibitions and lectures on art while providing individual residents, business executives, and city officials with consultations on artistic decisions.

The spirit of the Owatonna Project can be found in contemporary art education. Environmental design, architecture, advertising, and other arts of daily living are essential considerations in a comprehensive art program. Problems of designing spaces for living, working, playing, and traveling are considered in relation to the school and the neighborhood. Some teachers provide space and materials for children to create mini-environments that express a mood. Although children are still encouraged to make useful objects, they are taught to consider how the design of an object can be tailored to suit a specific purpose, person, or location. Art teachers also help children become aware of the ways that their everyday purchases may be influenced by advertising and package design.

fleurzsa Publish time 9-5-2010 08:16 PM


Mid-Century Developments

Experimentation with materials

As a result of Hitler's rise to power in the early 1930s, many refugees fled to America. Among them were teachers at the Bauhaus, a German school of design that sought to merge the skill of the individual artisan with the requirements of mass production. According to the Bauhaus philosophy of education, it is important for the artist to explore qualities of materials and to experiment with different forms that might be suited to mass production.

American teachers of art who were trained by refugee Bauhaus teachers found, in the Bauhaus emphasis an experimentation, an approach to art that seemed in accord with Dewey's emphasis on creative activity for children and the experimental method in learning. By the mid-1940s, experimentation with materials had virtually become a doctrine in art education, and few art teachers questioned the value of this means of involving children in creative art activities.

fleurzsa Publish time 9-5-2010 08:17 PM

By the early 1950s, however, it became apparent to some art educators that teachers had lost sight of the meaning of experimentation as a systematic inquiry into the nature of materials. In practice, it had come to mean little more than improvisation with media, and the more media the better. Although children were indeed inspired by opportunities to explore art materials, teachers too often accepted the superficial manipulation of materials as a genuine experiment or creative effort.

Today, most art teachers recognize that the expressive possibilities of a material are not limited to those that can be discovered by improvisation. Indeed, when the Bauhaus philosophy is practiced seriously, children's experiments with art media are quite deliberate and in the spirit of scientific experimentation: Their discoveries lead to greater control in achieving their expressive intent. Ideally, children are conscious of the decisions they make in designing their work and can apply their discoveries to new situations.

fleurzsa Publish time 9-5-2010 08:17 PM

Art Education During the Second World War - During the Second World War, the nation 's activities were concentrated on victory. In publications and at conferences, at educators stressed the freedom of expression ejoyed by citizens of a democracy, condemned the censorship imposed on people living under a totalitarian form of government, and advocated the development of well-rounded personalities as a remedy to f uture wars. , and "Art Education and the War," in Art Education Today,Fine Arts Staff, Teachers College, Columbia Univ. NY: Teachers College Press, 1943] In schools, however, children made stereotyped posters for the war effort and they mass-produced patriotic mementos and decorative items for organizations like the USA and the Red Cross. Since art materials were in short supply, art teachers exchanged recipes for paste, paint, and modeling materials and found ingenious ways to use all sorts of scraps . . . . . . . . theory and practice rationalized by patriotism . . . .

. . . . It is important to recognize that schools are social institutions, that they are influenced by national priorities and social problems. Because art forms are an effective means of communicating ideas and beliefs, they are often used for political or social ends. Today, art teachers are exploring ways to help children understand both the use and abuse of visual forms in shaping the attitudes of people. Advertising, product design, and visual symbols of various groups are examined as transmitters of social values and beliefs.

fleurzsa Publish time 9-5-2010 08:18 PM

Art as a Developmental Activity - After the 2nd World War, and largely as a consequence of that experience, the literature of art education considered the humanizing potentials of art. Making the world " safe for peace" seemed to depend on developing human creative capacities through freedom of expression. and Art Education in a Free Society: Yearbook 1947Kutztown, PA.: Kutztown State Teachers College, 1947]. Also National Art Education Association, Art Education and Human Values: Yearbook 1953Kutztown, PA.: Kutztown State Teachers College, 1953] and Art: A Frontier for Freedom: Yearbook 1955Kutztown, PA.: Kutztown State Teachers College, 1955.] The coercive influence of authority was recognized. Art activities were viewed as broadly therapeutic--a means for children to give expression to their experiences in a creative manner, free from the possible coercive influence of adult standards. Art educators believed that the intellectual, emotional, physical, and creative processes involved in producing art would help the child achieve an integrated, well-rounded personality. Thus, in the post war years, the dominant theme in art education became human development through creative self-expression.

Today, this philosophy of art education is called the developmental point of view; in the process of giving visual form to experiences, the child 's whole being is active. Ideally, there is such a complete integration of thought with feeling and of purpose with effective action that the process of creating art contributes to the development of personal maturity.

Contemporary art educators do not reject the developmental perspective, but they believe that children can benefit from studying works of art that have been created by adults. Exposure to adult art can become a satisfying experience if children gain a personal knowledge of how art is created, what it can express, and how it pervades everyday life. Through their comprehension of art, children become sensitive to the varieties of human experience that can be captured in visual form. Many art educators recognize the complementary relationship of education though art and education in art.

fleurzsa Publish time 9-5-2010 08:18 PM

Art and Creative Behavior - In the late 1950s, the space race began, and interest in the relationship between artistic and general creativity reached a peak. At that time, Russian technological achievements in space spurred Congress to fund educational programs in mathematics, science, and foreign languages in order to catch up with the Soviet Union in producing creative scientists and engineers. In the interests of strengthening the position of the art curriculum, some art educators believed it important to relate artistic creativity to the development of a general creativity in life, especially in mathematics and the sciences. Numerous publications justifying the development of creativity through art were issued. Although this justification of art education is still pervasive, it is not totally adequate.

Many educators assume that creativity is a desirable characteristic to nurture, that creative behavior is always manifested in socially worthwhile ways. We might call this the fallacy of creativity as a moral good. History teaches us that creative behavior can serve morally offensive ends as well. Both Einstein and Hitler, for example, could be counted among the most creative people of this century.

The problems of defining creativity is not simple. One can hardly compare the traits and performance of Michelangelo or Picasso with those of elementary school children. In addition, there is little evidence of the existence of a general creativity trait that carries into every aspect of life. Instead, creativity in each field of endeavor seems to hinge as much on a sound command of knowledge as it does on flexibility and openness. : 43-85] In short, there is no firm basis for claiming that artistic creativity contributes to a more general pattern of creative behavior.

fleurzsa Publish time 9-5-2010 08:19 PM

1960 to Present

Art as a Body of Knowledge

The first Russian achievements in space led to many changes in American education. In 1958, Congress passed the National Defense Education Act to encourage curriculum reform in mathematics, science, and foreign languages. Academic excellence became the keynote of education in the 1960s. In response to the new concern for educational achievement, art educators began to reexamine the academic status of art and to view it as a body of knowledge that should be transmitted to children. Efforts centered on the identification of key concepts and fundamental behavior that would foster an understanding of the nature of art .

In contemporary educational thought, art is defined both as a body of knowledge and as a developmental activity. Children are introduced to basic concepts in art and to methods of inquiry that permit them to learn about the subject of art. At the same time, art educators are committed to art experiences as a means of nurturing personal maturity. The process of creating art and of responding to visual forms develop the child's identity and openness to experience. It is worth repeating that personal development through art is as important as learning about art.

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Art and the Social Order - During the 1960s, the civil-rights movement focused attention on minority groups and the problems of living in urban areas. Questions were raised about the quality of life one could hope for in an abused, polluted environment. These and other social issues have caused art educators to reassess the bearing of art on social problems. Environmental awareness is now an essential aspect of school art programs.

Almost every new program in the last decade can be considered a contemporary variation on earlier ideas. Newer environmental awareness programs, for example, although less ambitious than the Owatonna Project, are in the spirit of that earlier attempt at integrating art into everyday life. The concept of emphasizing career education in art was in evidence in Walter Smith's time, in the early manual-training programs, and in the years of the depression. Current interest in ethnic-arts programs are an effort to reverse the melting-pot trend that began in the early decades of this century. Recent interdisciplinary studies linking the arts or relating art to science have their roots in earlier concepts of correlated and integrated art. Other parallels have been pointed out in the discussion of each period, and even more could be noted in a more detailed treatment of historical developments in art education . . . .

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At various times, art programs have been dominated by one of three overriding concerns:
1. Developing the well-rounded child through art,

2. Promoting the knowledge and appreciation of art as a subject, and

3. Fostering the ability to relate art to daily living.

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In general, art educators have shown greater interest in children as creators of art than as appreciators of visual forms. The highly personal and creative nature of art has received more attention than the influence of art on society. The time is ripe for a fusion of these three concerns:

1. Personal fulfillment through art;

2. Appreciation of the artistic heritage;

3. Awareness of the role of art in society.

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The historical comparisons reveal that it is not difficult for art educators to indoctrinate children with a particular view of society and the proper role of art within it. Indeed, at no time have we been so aware of the stereotypes--social, racial, sexual, vocational--that past educational practices and narrow concepts of art have helped to create. If it is easy to endorse a single doctrine of art education, it is also hazardous. What we need is a concept of art education that will help children to appreciate the artistry in varied life styles and to wisely shape their own. This is one of the main challenges facing art education in this decade.

fleurzsa Publish time 9-5-2010 08:21 PM

Purposes of Art Education
In a democratic society, the power to determine the quality of life is shared by all the people, not just one person or a self-appointed few. The need for enlightened citizens leads to three primary responsibilities of general public education and, by implication, of art education. General education provides for personal fulfillment, nurtures social consciousness, and transmits the cultural heritage to each generation. In practice, we say that school programs should be planned in relation to the child, the subjects that comprise the cultural heritage, and society.

Three major purposes of art education stem from the personal, social, and historical responsibilities of general education . School art programs encourage personal fulfillment by helping children respond to their immediate world and express its significance to them in visual form. Through studies of the artistic heritage, children learn that art is related to cultural endeavors of the past and present. By studying the role of art in society, children can begin to appreciate art as a way of encountering life and not view it as simply an esoteric frill . . . .

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1. Personal Fulfillment Through Art

When children use art as a means of expression and as a way of responding to life, it becomes a source of personal fulfillment. Learning to perceive expressive forms is just as important as learning to create them. The two modes of art experience are dynamically interrelated; both are essentially creative processes. Children's perceptual awareness and expressive powers have to be cultivated so that children can clarify their feelings and make sense of the booming, buzzing confusion of raw experience. The educational task is to develop children's independence in creating art and in fully perceiving the world.

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2. Appreciation of the Artistic Heritage

The artistic heritage is broadly defined as organized knowledge about art as well as specific works that have been created by artists, designers, architects, and artisans of the past and present. When children's lives and artistic efforts are related to the artistic heritage, the entire experience is personalized, and children are helped to value the work of others. At the same time, their encounters with the artistic heritage confirm the authenticity of their own creative efforts.
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