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Notebook

Notebook, 1993-

Return to - Notes for a Perspective on Art Education

Perspective - The 1880's - 1900-1920, "Composition" - 1900-1920, 'School Arts' - 1900-1920, Art Education Associations - 1900-1920, Art Education in the Museum of Art - 1900-1920, The Modernists - 1914-1920, War and Post War - 1920's, Progressive Education - 1920's-1930's, Professional Stabilization - 1930's, Museum Education during the Depression - 1930's, National Government in Art - 1940's, A Psychology and Philosophy for Art Education

Notes from: Logan, Frederick M . Growth of Art in American Schools, New York: Harper & Brothers, 1955.

Growth of Art
in American Schools

The 1940's, A Psychology and Philosophy for Art Education

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Art As Experience - Creative Thought Comes of Age - 1941 Before Pearl Harbor - Child as Artist - Creative and Mental Growth - Art in the High School - Education Through Art - Contemporary Relationships in the Arts - Two Forms of Aesthetic Judgment - Therapy and the Amateur - Tests and Measurements in Art - Painting and Personality - Psychology and Aesthetic Creation



Art education now is in a state of bewildering contrasts. Never has so much been written and said about the arts; conversely, never in history have the arts been counted so negligible among the forces that supposedly shape or direct society. Potential catastrophic destruction makes the slow achievement of art seem less significant than research in medicine, in nutrition, in biology, in new destructive and constrictive forces of all kinds.

The art teacher finds these contrasting attitudes difficult to accept: on the one hand people eagerly taking up art activity, and on the other a general assumption that art cannot be a crucial factor in the present stage of world convulsion. But that is only a part of the confusion which we face in art education.

We are in a period of embarrassingly plentiful resources. Philosophy, anthropology, psychiatry, therapy, the history of the arts, social history, are all contributing interpretations of historical and contemporary art forms. A literature is growing in numbers of items and quality of thought, dealing with art in its interrelationships with other aspects of human affairs and knowledge. As for the physical plant in which art is taught, all over the country the consolidation of smaller school units, the necessary expansion of buildings, the reasonable prosperity of school districts and systems, create an improving school environment for art education.

Yet the art teacher is in a predicament. He cannot ever be all that might, theoretically, be thought desirable for him to be. When, in 1940, the Progressive Education Association committee published its Visual Arts in General Education, it included a statement on "The Art Teacher: His Qualifications and Preparation." It could have been downright discouraging if taken too literally. For no one individual could have measured up to the qualifications soberly outlined, and by now the requirements might easily be still further expanded.

Statements on the ideal teacher such as this are seldom overwhelming in their impact, with the possible exception of a few too-susceptible undergraduates. Teachers, like other persons, go on about their business as best they can and according to their lights. They frequently know well enough that there are dark spots in their practice and their theory and philosophy--but one has to learn to live with that relative feeling of inadequacy. There is, however, the possibility that in art and art education the dark spots are not slight, individual shortcomings. Rather, it seems possible that we are so diverse in background, point of view, and emphasis that we are talking and teaching too frequently at cross-purposes to one another. More general interest in the basis of contemporary philosophy of art would advance mutual understanding among art teachers.



Art as Experience
[p. 202] . . . . Art as Experience concentrates on developing in detail exactly the thesis of the title. Art as an activity and as a product is considered important when and as it influences human experience. Any experience that is savored primarily for its own sake, and not in terms of how much money may be earned, how much roof may be covered, how much time may be saved, and so on, is considered dominantly an experience that is aesthetic in nature.

A man for a single moment bemused by the rushing crowds in a suburban rail station, a high-school girl who is yelling, whistling, and straining arms, legs, and body in sympathy with the efforts of the players in a basketball game--both are finding satisfaction in an activity for its own sake, for the stimulation it gives their lives for that day. For Dewey, the quality of awareness of the unique aspects of experience constitutes the "raw material" of aesthetic response.

Dewey deplores the "isolation" of art objects in museums. Sometimes artists have been bewildered by such criticism of the museum. As we have seen, the museum in America has improved in its educational efforts to make the arts more widely understood. Yet here is Dewey apparently condemning the museum. A closer attention to his thesis, however, makes possible a distinction between the museum which simply enshrines objects as masterpieces, thereby removing them from their original context, and the art museum which makes a point of presenting each work of art and groups of works so that their place in an active social environment can be grasped.

An exhibition titled " Knife, Fork, and Spoon," sponsored by the Walker Art Gallery in collaboration with one of the larger American silver companies as it prepared to announce a new design in sterling silver, was organized in a scholarly manner, presented in an easily seen and readily understood format, and is being circulated to a nation-wide audience. This hardly makes for remoteness in the minds of gallery visitors toward the arts of design for table cutlery. It serves instead to illuminate a part of daily experience which for most people is likely to have been one of unseeing habit. In this instance, then, the museum serves the best interests of education in the arts by enhancing experience for its visitors, and not merely for the time spent in the gallery.

Dewey, the philosopher, is close to the Gestalt psychologists. He sees order itself as an achievement of harmony emerging from tension. The organism, the human individual, lives through a constant series of incidents in which he finds himself more or less out of step with some part of his environment. Solving his problems never returns the individual to the same status or point of view he held prior to the emergence of the problem. He has enlarged his capacities in one way or another. The simple acts of growing a lawn and putting shrubbery in front of a new house force a consideration of elements of the visual, tangible world that were probably quite unimportant to the same person when he was a dweller in an apartment house. The lawn refuses to grow under a certain tree; the homeowner reorganizes his conception either by chopping out the tree, scattering flagstones under it, or planting shade plants around it.

Some parts of this experience are certainly scientific in nature. There is an appreciable physical effort involved in doing the work. But the whole organization of the problem as to the final appearance of the plot is aesthetic. The householder wishes to preserve and to beautify his land, and to do so he finds he must see the problem as one which involves a number of elements strange to him when he began. The physical aspects of the problem are met and overcome so that an ordered, planned result may be reached . . . . [p. 202-204]

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[Notes from: Logan, Frederick M . Growth of Art in American Schools, New York: Harper & Brothers, 1955.]




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