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A Contemporary Art & Visual Culture Curriculum

A Contemporary Art & Visual Culture Curriculum

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A Contemporary Art & Visual Culture Curriculum

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  1. A Contemporary Art & Visual Culture Curriculum Stephanie Jordan ARE6666 11/18/2009 Policy Paper

  2. Introduction • Current education reform - narrowing the curriculum • Rigor, Academic, Standardized Testing, Skills for the global economy • Art - Already viewed as viewed as a hobby, expensive, «with uncertain benefits,» «activities to do or experience, not study» (Chapman, 2007, p.4) • More emphasis on testable subjects --> arts status drops even lower

  3. Introduction • HOWEVER - Change? • « In addition to giving our children the science and math skills they need to compete in the new global context, we should also encourage the ability to think creatively that comes from a meaningful arts education » (Obama, 2008, as cited in Learning in Visual Age, 2009, p.4) • So - What is a meaningful arts education? What would students learn from a meaningful visual art curriculum? • I propose that the answer - a strengthening of the curriculum that will provide students with an academically & aesthetically challenging curriculum that develops essential thinking skills, visual literacy, AND stifles the claims that art is solely for fun and not for serious study. • My purpose - to provide evidence & recommendations for the value in incorporating contemporary themes and critical thinking skills into the art curriculum.

  4. Review of Literature • This curricular focus - pushing art further off to the sidelines • But art can, « restore balance and depth to an educational system increasingly skewed toward readily testable skills and information » (Hetland & Winner, 2008, p.31). • What do we do to eliminate the view of art as disposable and for entertainment only while simultaneously improving the quality of art education??? • Include contemporary art and visual culture examples (mass media and popular culture) together with critical analysis of these images. • SECAC Policy for Visual Arts Education (2004) reflects support of this: • Position 1c: «broad audience development through the visual arts by comprehensive programs that incorporate contemporary & relevant issues in art» • Olivia Gude shows similar beliefs: • « Artists and educators who are responsive to the needs of their current students must consider contemporary as well as traditional artistic and critical practice and ask what students need to know to successfully make and understand art and culture today » (2007, p.12)

  5. Review of Literature:Contemporary Art • SECAC Position 1c: incorporate contemporary & relevant issues in art» & Gude: …what students need to know to successfully make and understand art and culture today » (2007, p.12) • directly show support for embracing Contemporary art in the curriculum. • But why? What are the benefits? • Contemporary art is about the world in which students live; the issues that matter to them. • Reflects the current values, ideals, troubles, experiences that shape society’s sensibilities. • It enables students to, «generate new insights into their lives & into contemporary times» (Gude, 2007, p.14). 2009 1784 Which do you think students would be more excited to learn about? Which is more relevant to them TODAY?

  6. Review of Literature:Contemporary Art • « Contemporary art is about now! It’s about figuring out who we are, who we are becoming, and how to live, know and act. Just as our students are looking at the worlds around them and wondering what their role might be, what events mean, or what difference they can make, today’s artists are pondering the same questions through their art. When we teach with contemporary art, the potential is present for learning that is centered not only in the classroom, but in all the worlds beyond it and students’ efforts to negotiate their relationship to those worlds. What could be more relevant??? » - Considerations for a Contemporary Art Curriculum (Mayer, 2008, p.77)

  7. Review of Literature:Contemporary Art • Competitiveness in the global economy, developing internationally marketable set of skills - A guiding principle behind the restrictive educational reforms of NCLB. • Scholars say contemporary art inherently is an expression of the world’s diverse cultures and perspectives - « something that is increasingly important in a global society » («Learning in Visual Age», 2009, p.7) • Therefore - art can be a valuable part of fostering America’s competitiveness in the international economy

  8. Review of Literature:Contemporary Art • Opportunities for profound ‘’academic’’ learning • A particular kind of contemporary art is best to use to accomplish this: • ‘’the kind that not only puts ideas and concepts into visual form but also reveals the thought processes by which that form was conceived. These works make the thinking (or cognition) behind their forms visible’’ -Visible Thinking: Using Contemporary Art to Teach Conceptual Skills (Marshall, 2008, p.39) • Socio-political themes • Students can see the conceptual processes used by the artist, and use in their own art. • Students will become familiar with this conceptual nature in these works, and in turn, will learn to relate these ideas to more elusive works of art.

  9. Review of Literature:Contemporary Art For example: Superama(2003) by Gabriel Kuri (Mexico) Gabriel Kuri addresses new economic and cultural realities in the NAFTA-created world. In his Superama, he displayed a Wal-Mart receipt as a decorative pattern on a hand-woven rug. This is a good example of superimposing a common iconic image from contemporary global culture onto a traditional handmade form to communicate a concept and comment on its effect – in this case the overwhelming power of global corporations to overtake and undermine local communities and economies, and to replace local indigenous patterns with global capitalistic ones.

  10. Review of Literature:Contemporary Art • So WHY NOT contemporary art? • Fears of « value-laden content » (Chapman, 2007, p.7) • (But it’s important to remember that even Impressionism was offensive to 19th Century Viewers!) • While the familiar is COMFORTABLE, it is «the unfamiliar that requires us to, « stretch & examine our norms, which is also what good education should do » (Mayer, 2008, p.78) • Many people are not prepared to tackle it • Timely, complex content • Complex also in medium (film, installation, performance, media/technology, a combination of forms, etc) • But lack of understanding should not be an excuse! • Museums & their education departments, Galleries, magazines like ARTnews, Artforum, Internet • Examples of appropriate artworks, ideas for instruction, sample lesson plans • Marshall’s Visible Thinking Using Contemporary Art to Teach Conceptual Skills(2008) • Mayer’s Considerations for a Contepmprary Art Curriculum (2008)

  11. Review of Literature:Visual Culture • SECAC Policy Position 1c: «broad audience development through the visual arts by comprehensive programs that incorporate contemporary & relevant issues in art» & Gude: « …what students need to know to successfully make and understand art and culture today » (2007, p.12) • Clear reference to contemporary art. But what ELSE? • Today, young people, « spent a third of their waking hours in front of a screen » and « are exposed to an estimated 3,500 images » daily (« Learning in Visual Age, » 2009, p.4; Green, 2000, p.19) • Images from TV, movies, computers, video games, magazines, billboards, etc - all have tremendous ability to transmit meaning. • Has « transformed the way [we] learn and perceive the world, » and « created a demand for new skills to enable all young people to make sense of the visual world » (« Learning in Visual Age, 2009, p.3)

  12. Review of Literature:Visual Culture The rate of teens taking up smoking grew at an epidemic rate during the years of the Joe Camel advertising campaign (PR Newswire, 1998) • How can this imagery affect young students? • Joe Camel cartoon, exploits childrens’ (’’tomorrow’s cigarette business’’) desire to fit in, be cool, and popular in order to sell a product (Green, 2000, p.21) • The Thinning of Women on Television(Marcus, 2000) reports an increasingly occuring trend to replace curvaceous stars of the past with actresses that weigh only about 100 LBS.Paralleling this trend, NEDA(2005) states every decade from 1930 onward there has been an increase in anorexia, girls 15 - 19 years old. 42% of 1st - 3rd grade girls want to be thinner (Collins, 1991, as cited in NEDA, 2005)

  13. Review of Literature:Visual Culture • It is evident that new requirements for full participation in contemporary society include understanding the power of mass media and popular culture imagery. • Expansion of the material for study to include a broader scope of images • Visual Culture Art Education, includes images, objects and texts from everyday life and popular culture (Eisenhauer, 2006). • How images in everyday life are intended to affect them, how to identify what the images mean, and what they promote (both directly and indirectly) • «It’s time to include curricula that exposes questionable media practice, illuminates the power of imgaes, and teaches students to critically analyze the visual culture that permeates their lives. Not only will your students appreciate the timeliness of such content, but ultimately society will benefit» (Green, 2000, p.24)

  14. Review of Literature • This does NOT mean the elimination of studio art making. • Knowledge and skills should go hand in hand with creativity (Hope, 1993). • Art making and Knowledge/Content should be thoughtfully planned to complement each other

  15. Recommendations • The curriculum should prominently feature examples of contemporary art and visual culture imagery • This may mean defining what appropriate examples are to educators unfamiliar with these as themes for instruction • These images must be included meaningfully instruction • Not simply as source of copying or for illustration • Used in conjunction with studio artmaking • Used with written and oral criticism skills • Should use 1 + of many formal methodologies of criticism to teach students to critical process. Ex): • Feldman: Describe, Analyze, Interpret and Judge allows students to «carry on the search for meaning or pleasure systematically» (1992, p.457) • Parsons: 5-Stage theory of how people understand art. Encourage students to see which stage their responses fall under, and challenge them to elevate their reponse to the next stage

  16. Recommendations • Revise standards to have precise language regarding the use of contemporary art, visual culture, & the critical process • Follow the lead of Fehr’s recommended changes to NCLB language: • «(f) To teach children to interpret media messages critically, arts curricula shall include study of mass media and popular culture with attention to the manipulations of arts and aesthetic content in advertising and propaganda» (2008, p.383). • National Standards say they, «present educational goals. It is the responsibility of practitioners to choose appropriately from this rich array of content and processes to fulfill these goals…» • Borrow Fehr’s precision to make it explicit that contemporary art examples, visual culture imagery (a range of images, objects, and texts from everyday life and popular culture to include, but not limited to, TV, movies, computers, video games, magazines, etc). • Must be specific enough, but allow room for art ed specialistis to choose the methods they feel most appropriate.

  17. Implications • If accepted and implemented… • For Students: • More equipped to deal with visual culture & the contemporary world • More discerning, less susceptible to the power of images • Appreciate multiple diverse perspectives and cultures - « marketability » • Sustain long term relationship with art • For Art Education: • Engaging students in higher order thinking and critical thinking - Art could be considered ‘rigorous’ (an adjective whose value is reflected in its repetition in NCLB) and rid itself of the view «Not academic in any way» (Chapman, 2007, p.4). --> more stable place in education • Links to skills for the global economy (diverse perspective), attaches the arts to the possibility of American competitiveness (another primary consideration in recent education reforms) --> Earn the arts a more stable place within education.

  18. Implementation/Dissemination • Begin Local! • Raise awareness of the benefits of learning about these themes • Gain support of local artists and art centers • Partnerships can provide additional ways to engage students in contemporary art (class speakers, class trips) • Can provide a stronger voice for promoting this expanded curriculum • Gain support of Parents, School personnel and administration - Crucial! • Letters can be written to legislators and decision-makers starting with local school boards

  19. Implementation/Dissemination • Further research should be done to prove the effectiveness of instruction using contemporary themes. • Develop a brochure • highlight the benefits of such curricula • Provide helpful advice for those for which this content is unfamiliar • A list of resources to help educators translate this into lessons • Possibly a website with links to resources • Art Education Specialists should collaborate to develop precise language for standards. Specific enough to require contemporary art, visual culture and the critical process, but leaving room for art educators to choose methods they feel appropriate.

  20. Conclusion Test questions with one right answer and skill and drill exam prep is now emphasized in the name of gaining a competitive edge in the global economy But in our current visual and global society, the skills the arts inherently provide and becoming increasingly valuable. These recommendations would improve the art curriculum and have many positive ramifications for society *Important to note that they are realistic and achievable. Maybe NOW is the time to bolster the arts to a more secure place in the curriculum.

  21. References • Brewer, T. (2005). Revising the SECAC visual arts education policy statement: putting the teeth into it. Arts Education Policy Review, 106(5), 21-27. • Chapman, L. H. (2007). Issues in advocating art education for all in public schools. National Art Education Conference, 1-31. • Eisenhauer, J. F. (2006). Beyond bombardment: subjectivity, visual culture, and art education. Studies in Art Education, 47(2), 155-169 • Fehr, D. (2008). Developing arts education policy at the federal level: The first ten months of national education taskforce. Studies in Art Education, 49(4), 28-33. • Feldman, E. B. (1992). Varieties in Visual Form. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. • Feldman, E. B. (1994). Practical Art Criticism. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. • Florida Department of Education. (1996) Sunshine State Standards. Retrieved November 11, 2009 from

  22. References • Green, G.L. (2000). Imagery as ethical inquiry.Art Education, November, 19-24. • Gude, O. (2007). Principles of Possibility: Considerations for a 21st-Century Art & Culture Curriculum. Art Education, January, 6-17. • Hope, S. (1993). An open letter on standards. Arts Education Policy Review, 95(1), 37-39. • Kennedy Center. (n.d.). The National Standards for Arts Education. Retrieved November 11, 2009 from • Marcus, C. L. (2000). The thinning of women on television. Retrieved October 24, 2009 from • Marshall, J. (2008). Visible Thinking: Using contemporary art to teach conceptual skills. Art Education, 61(2) 38-45. • Mayer, M. M (2008). Considerations for a contemporary art curriculum. Art Education, 61(2), 77-79.

  23. References • National Art Education Association. (2009). Learning in a visual age: the critical importance of visual arts education. Reston, VA. Retrieved from • NEDA. (2005). Statistics: eating disorders and their precursors. Retrieved October 22, 2009 from atingdisorderstatistics.pfd • Parsons, M. J. (1992). How We Understand Art: A Cognitive Developmental Account of Aesthetic Experience. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press. • Villenueve, P. & Erickson, M. (2008). The trouble with contemporary art is… Art Education, 61(2), 92-97. • Winner, E. & Hetland, D. (2000). The arts and academic achievement. National Art Education Association. • Winner, E. & Hetland, D. (2007). Art for our sake, school arts classes matter more than ever, but not for the reason you think. Arts Education Policy Review, 109(5), 29-31.