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Notebook

Notebook, 1993-

Return to - Notes for a Perspective on Art Education

Some Basic Beliefs in Contemporary Art Education - Foundations of Contemporary Art Education - A History of Educational Thought - History of Change in Art Education - Development of Psychological thought - The Values of Society - Recent Art History

Notes from: Gaitskell, Charles D., Al Hurwitz, Maryland Institute College of Art, and Michael Day, Univ. of Minnesota, eds. Children and Their Art, Methods for The Elementary School, Fourth Edition, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., 1982.

History of Change in
Art Education

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Fascinating, ongoing tapestry of interwoven threads . . . . the nature of art, conceptions of the learner, and the values of society . . . . works of individual artists, writers, and teachers, and the advances in technology, curriculum projects, and even legislation. It is difficult to gain a view of the emerging pattern while the design is still being developed . . . .


Some of the More Prominent Threads
In the Historical Development of Art Education:

Art Education For Industry - A required subject in US public schools - Walter Smith - 1850s - England's Schools of Design were revitalized and they produced a corps of skilled designers for industry. A few shrewd U. S. businessmen noted cause and effect and urged skeptical merchants and manufacturers to see the practical necessity of education in art for competition in world trade markets. Following British example . . . . Recruited Walter Smith, a graduate of England's South Kensington School, and appointed him concurrently director of drawing in the public schools of Boston and state director of art education for Massachusetts. Smith began task in 1871, just a few months after the Mass legislature passed the first law in the US making drawing a required subject in the public schools . . . . Within nine years he had founded and directed the Massachusetts Normal Art School, the first in the country, and had implemented his curriculum in all Mass primary grades up to high school . . . . his writings and teachers trained at the Normal School extended his influence across the country. Art Education, Scholastic and Industrial . . . . many series of drawing books for instructional purposes. The purpose of the series was "the laying of a good foundation for more advanced art training." The following statements about the particular aims of the books are typical:

l. To train the eye in the accurate perception of form, size, and proportion and to exactness in the measurement of distances and angles.

2. To train the hand to freedom and rapidity of execution.

3. To train the memory to accurate recollection of the forms and arrangements of objects.

4. To cultivate and refine the taste by the study, delineation, and recollection of beautiful forms.

. . . . led teachers and children through a rather rigid sequence of freehand, model, memory, and geometric and perspective drawing. Rote learning, copying, and repetition were common aspects of the sequential curriculum. "Smith's method of presenting the content depended upon class instruction and relied heavily upon the use of the blackboard, from which the students copied the problem the teacher drew. Prints and drawings were also copied by the students. Smith justified copy work in two ways: that it was the only rational way to learn, since drawing was essentially copying; and that it was the only practical way to teach, since classes were large and only a very limited amount of time was allotted in the school week to drawing." . . . . His program broke new ground and gave art education in the US a firm foundation upon which to build . . . .

Cizek and Children's Artistic Expression
Austrian, Franz Cizek, appointed chief of the Department of Experimentation and Research at the Vienna School of Applied Arts in 1904, after studying art, and several successful teaching posts . . . . He encouraged children to present, in visual form, their personal reactions to happenings in their lives . . . . maintained that it was not his aim to develop artists . . . . he held as his one goal the development of the creative power that he found in all children and that he felt could blossom in accordance with "natural laws." [W. Viola, Child Art and Franz Cizek(New York: Reynal and Hitchcock, 1936] . . . . The contemporary belief that children, under certain conditions, are capable of expressing themselves in a personal, creative, and acceptable manner derives largely from his demonstrations in Vienna . . . . unable to develop an adequate pedagogy to make his ideas practicable . . . . resulted in art programs that lacked direction or discipline and that too often became chaotic. When children are left to their own devices in school setting, without stimulus and guidance from a teacher, the educational outcomes are often minimal. Optimal learning can be fostered in a setting where individual expression and creativity are balanced with meaningful structure and guidance by a sensitive teacher.

Arthur Wesley Dow of Columbia University was concerned with analyzing the structure of art and sought to develop a systematic way in which it could be taught . . . . developed and taught . . . . elements and principles of design. The artist works with line, value, and color, composing these elements to create symmetry, repetition, opposition, transition, and subordination, which can be controlled to achieve harmonious relationships. Many contemporary art curricular are organized on the basis of a list of design elements and principles.

Walter Sargent of the Univ. of Chicago . . . . focus on the process by which children learn to drawv . . . . three factors that he believed influence children's ability to draw:

First, the child must want to say something, must have some idea or image to express through drawing.

Second, the child needs to work from devices such as three-dimensional models or pictures in making his drawings.

Finally, children often learn to draw one thing well but not others, so that skill in drawing is specific; a person could be good at drawing houses or boats and not good at drawing horses or cows.

. . . . echoed in current literature of art education . . . . Brent & Marjorie Wilson: "Tony's drawings, like the spontaneous drawings of most children, are produced to tell a story, to relate an event or to tell what some subject is like . . . . The process of losing innocence in art involves the acquisition of rationalistic conventions--this imitative process which has for too long remained hidden . . . . this borrowing and working from pre-existing images sometimes began before the age of six . . . . Our third major observation is that individuals employ a separate program for each object which they depict . . . . In the case of those objects that are well drawn, they have repeatedly played essentially the same program, sharpening their ability to recall the desired configuration easily from memory . . . . On the other hand, programs that are poorly run are characterized by vague memories of graphic configurations, halting movements and transitions, few established sequences with which to flow through . . . . " [Wilson and Wilson, "An Iconoclastic View," p. 9]

Royal B. Farnum, Rhode Island School of Design, involved in the picture study movement during the 1920s, 1930s and onward. Education Through Pictures: The Practical Picture Study Course (1931).

Easy to be critical of these early attempts at art appreciation . . . . It was characteristic that the pictures chosen for study were not contemporary with the time, represented a narrow standard of "beauty," and often carried a religious or moral message . . . . "until very recently art education as a field has been guite unresponsive to contemporary developments in the world of art. Art education until as late as the middle of the 20th cent. was more a reflection of lay artistic taste than it was a leader in shaping those tastes and in enabling students to experience the work on the artistic frontiers of their day." [Eisner and Ecker, Readings in Art Education,p. 6]

The Owatonna Art Project in Minnesota , the most successful of several community art projects funded by the federal government in the 1930s. The objective (of this particular project) was to create art activities based on the aesthetic interests of community members. The idea was to apply principles of art in everyday life for a richer experience . . . . rather than importing exhibits of avant-garde art from the city . . . . this project promoted "home decoration, school and public park plantings, visually interesting window displays in commercial areas." . . . . cooperative effort that involved many sectors of the community, the local schools, and the Univ. of Minnesota. Interrupted by the outbreak of World War II--never achieved the impact it might have had under different circumstances.

Bauhaus. Late 1930s. Integrating the technology of its day into the artist's work . . . . as a result of its influence, modern art materials, photography and visual investigation involving sensory awareness found their way into the secondary-school art program. Interest in the technology of art--notably in the communications media-concern for the elements of design, and an adventurous attitude toward new materials are all consistent with the Bauhaus attitude. The Bauhaus stimulated a growing interest in a multisensory approach to art as well as a tendency to incorporate aesthetic concerns into environmental and industrial design, esp. in secondary schools. [The environment evolved from a design problem--"Bauhaus can be your house . . . . "]

Creativity and Art Education - Guilford
Victor D'Amico's Creative Teaching in Art(1942) - Viktor Lowenfeld's Creative and Mental Growth(1947)

Two of the most influential books of many published in 1940s and 50s on the development of creativity. The creativity rationale for art education and the interest in personality development so strongly advocated by Lowenfeld and others dominated the field well into the 1960s.

Of interest to psychologists as well as art educators. The progressive education movement laid the groundwork by relating the free and expressive aspects of art creativity to a theory of personality development. When the movement expired in the late 1950s, members of the American Psychological Association, acting on the suggestion of their president, J. P. Guilford, assumed leadership in applying more rigorous techniques to problems such as the analysis of creative behavior and the identification of characteristic behavior of professionals in both the arts and the sciences . . . . philosophical mystique had been replaced by a science.

Tests, measurements, computers--were brought to bear on the delicate, mercurial process whereby people of all ages and in all areas of learning arrive at fresh solutions to problems. It was no longer a private preserve of the art room. For example, as a result of discovering how the creative process served the teacher of mathematics, ideas emerged that would permit art teachers to view their profession with new understanding. Art teachers have always suspected that art, taught under proper conditions, can promote values that transcend the boundaries of the art lesson . . . . The movement to examine creative behavior has been a key factor in educational reform of learning theory to the present day. One effect of the new research has been to question the validity of the I.Q. test . . . . relied so heavily on cognitive learning, and they felt that whole areas of a child's intellectual makeup were ignored by objective, machine-scored tests. It is precisely the nonverbal capabilities neglected by the I.Q. test that much research in creativity has concentrated on. Belated attention has been given, for example, to the speculative and intuitive factors in problem-solving.

. . . . One way to characterize creative behavior is to project a composite picture of the kind of adults we might want our children to be. In this manner we can identify as creative those children who are flexible in coping with new problems, who are not intimidated by the unknown, and who, in later years, can maintain the spontaneity of childhood. The teacher's task, then, is to teach for such characteristics. But this is difficult if the teachers themselves do not value creative behavior as defined by psychologists or if, as teachers, they are highly structured persons, wedded to a subject rather than a process. As Ashael Woodruff views the situation: "The creativity problem transcends the field of art, and it seems to me its significance can be enhanced by looking at it as part of the broader concept. I am not sure how best to approach it, so I will just start listing some of the elements of the problem . . . . [C]reativity is often associated with rebellion, delinquency and social disruption. Studies of creative people tend to support this notion by showing that creativity is associated with preference for change rather than stability; tendency to delay closure rather than to structure ideas; tendency to challenge old structure; tendency to let incoming perceptions dictate their own patterns, rather than to force preconceived patterns on them, and so on. Opposed to these tendencies are the overwhelmingly dominant tendencies of most people to maintain structure, and to find security in the maintenance of an unchanging environment. This tendency is deep-seated in the facts of human adjustment. It is perfectly natural, then, for most people to resent those who are unstructured and who are responsive to freshness and differences because they are threats to security." [Quoted in R. C. Burkhart and H. M. McNeil, Identity and Teacher Learning (Scranton, PA: International Textbook, 1968), p. xvii.]

It is difficult to separate concern for creativity from philosophical belief . . . .

Art as a Body of Knowledge
Awareness of the world of art and of the concepts, language, and approaches useful in responding to art. "Emphasizes the kinds of contributions to human experience and understanding that only art can provide; it emphasizes what is indigenous and unique to art." [Eisner] Offers art-learning activities that foster understanding and response to art as well as activities that result primarily in art production. Students are exposed to the visual arts of the ancient and modern eras through films, slides, and reproductions as well as actual art objects in galleries, studios, and museums, when possible.

The creativity rationale for art education and the interest in personality development so strongly advocated by Lowenfeld and others dominated the field well into the 1960s, when a new generation of scholars and educators began to question that direction and to suggest, for the first time, that the study of art was worthwhile per se. Attention was focused on art considered as a body of knowledge that could be learned by children, as well as a series of developmental activities. Justifications for art in the schools had followed a long tradition of contextual rationales: the study of art is warranted because of its contribution to some other valued goal, such as development of competent industrial designers, development of creativity, achievement of general educational goals, or personality integration. Writers such as Edmund Feldman, Elliot Eisner, Ralph Smith, June McFee have justified the study of art on the basis of what functions art performs and why those functions are important to understand. This position, as Eisner points out, is that of an essentialist, and it "emphasizes the kinds of contributions to human experience and understanding that only art can provide; it emphasizes what is indigenous and unique to art." [as a contribution to human experience and understanding - and to broader education concerns and often to objectives other than within the field of visual arts . . . . ]

Texts:
Feldman, Edmund. Art as Image and Idea.Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall. 1967

Eisner, Elliot. Educating Artistic Vision.New York: Macmillan, 1972

Smith, Ralph, ed. Aesthetics and Criticism in Art Education.Chicago: Rand McNally, 1966.

McFee, June. Preparation for Art.Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1966.



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Contemporary art programs often explicitly recognize the body of art knowledge and offer art-learning activities that foster understanding and response to art as well as activities that result primarily in art production. Students are exposed to the visual arts of the ancient and modern eras through films, slides, and reproductions as well as actual art objects in galleries, studios, and museums, when possible. Awareness of the world of art and of the concepts, language, and approaches useful in responding to art can help students understand and appreciate the art of others and become increasingly sensitive in their own art production. . . . . It is imperative . . . . that competent art teachers see beyond their own experiences to the expertise of others . . . . this is why graduate programs, professional literature, and conventions exist.

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[Notes from: Gaitskell, Charles D., Al Hurwitz, Maryland Institute College of Art, and Michael Day, Univ. of Minnesota, eds. Children and Their Art, Methods for The Elementary School, Fourth Edition, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., 1982.]




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