Monday, February 28, 2011

Drawing Education, Past & Present

Advancement in any chosen field, even that of drawing, means that basic ideas have evolved and change has taken place. Through the use of more productive methods, technology has thusly lead to a more productive livelihood for the individuals performing the tasks, technology, referring to the instrument, the tool used in enhancing a concept. But, the constant question that permeates in the educator’s mind is “will this help my students achieve more?”
Our civilization is and has always been advancing toward a more productive future, grounded with a base of forward thinkers, because the conversation about and for ideas of change have spurred the interlocutors to be creative in imagining the possibilities, when faced with a challenge. “Inventions made it possible” to learn “more efficiently…” (Stankiewicz, 6) When the “common school” was formed, and all children in our nation were provided an education, measures needed to be taken to ensure the best delivery possible, of the most important information. The tools were provided and then the methods of issuing a certain thought were conveyed.
Today, tools have changed considerably, but the delivery method has not quite caught up within the schools, but rather outside of them. The world wide web offers tutorials on almost any topic imaginable, showing step-by-step processes, pulling from collegiate institutions to the average person sitting at home. and other similar sites allow you to possess the information and then relay the information to others. Now, more than ever, drawing can be taught at any level with a few clicks of the mouse, the world at our finger tips, literally.
To leave out any method of instruction, and the tools needed to convey them, whether from such art interlocutors’ concepts as Jacob Bigelow’s use of visual models, Walter Smith’s constructive drawing emphasis, G. Stanley Hall’s pedocentric approach, or Louis Prang’s methodology of representational drawing, is not even thought of and would be detrimental to any student. For, as a child develops, each method can be found useful, if incorporated together, infusing all disciplines to make the world more relevant to the student.
Art teachers now have an opportunity to teach their students that drawing is not only pleasurable, but that it teaches the mind to work harder. Their job is largely more complex than the regular classroom educator, in that they have can explore every subject through hands-on, dimensional projects. Within their classroom, topics can be aptly enhanced by the incorporation of technology, but it is up to the teacher to use them to the advantage of their student’s present-relevancy, seeking minds.  
There are a plethora of methods, interpretations and information available in our cultural history that can only enhance our future thinking if presented to the absorbent, young, developing minds of our changing society. If a drawing education can incorporate each of the aforementioned interlocutor’s methods and also the new uses of technological tools that each year springs forth, our student’s advancement in any chosen field will surely shorten the achievement gap in our schools.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Sheppard & Price: Art Teachers

To read the interviews of both Donald Sheppard and Jean Price as art educators was more than interesting, to hear their separate views, not only in their aesthetic approach to the basic information, but also their personal level of interest in the arts. The theory behind their craft and a shared vision of what they inherently want students to walk away from their class with, being better people in the end, was thrilling. Both teachers were seen to wear many hats outside of their profession, exhibiting their personal determination through their work ethics, passing their passion for the possibilities of art on to their students.
While Sheppard’s roots come from a “practicing” artist background of what would now be termed as graphic design, he was able to use that important knowledge in his classroom. Also, through his involvement with his church community, he was able to gain valuable insight to the needs and abilities of the youth around him, “from the fact that he really cares about the kids, and they know it” (Sheppard, 4) which led to fostering respect from and among his students.
Price, though a self-proclaimed “non-practicing” artist, has similarly brought with her a charisma for helping students to “understand that forms are a means of communication, that they represent something beyond themselves.” (Price, 9) She engages in conversations that lead to a better understanding of art, “addressing line quality, composition, value, forms, textures, and so on,” (Price, 7), trying to reveal the misconceptions and increase the appreciation of art in every day life.
Sheppard realizes the embedding emphasis of moral values that the art room provides, not only in the crafting of the product, but of sharing, cooperative learning, time management and respect for one another, that “they’re going to have to find a way to get along” (Sheppard, 8), but does he realize the impact that his personal life lends to the way his classroom is run, the effects of his temperament because of his involvement with family and community through the church and his being a pillar and role model as pastor? He has stated that it seems to help with discipline issues.
“They’re motivated because they love art” (Price, 4), but could that be fostered from the teacher’s knowledge of the expanse of the profession beyond the classroom walls, the value that is placed in opening a closed mind to new possibilities? The best inference that I could make would point to the affirmative in both cases. They holistically seem to care about the individual.
Sheppard and Price’s lives established a lack of information about the arts as a whole and the careers that could be sought out in art, where the vast amount of possibilities were not expounded upon. One can only surmise where their passion for teaching art comes from: to help future generations know that “It’s not that you have to be able to draw. It’s that you have the ability to see” (Sheppard, 9) the world in its entirety. 
Read: Anderson, Tom. "Donald Sheppard: Shepherd to the Community." Real Lives: Art Teachers and the Cultures of Schools. 92-112. Chicago: Heinemann, 2000.
Anderson, Tom. "Jean Price: Changing with the Times." Real Lives: Art Teachers and the Cultures of Schools. Chicago: Heinemann, 2000. 45-60.  

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Interlocutors

There are many interlocutors that take their place at the tables of our vast conversations about art education. They lend their voices to the important issues that they feel determine our success as a future civilization, sometimes overlapping their view points and therefore lending to influence social change. However, the focus on two of these interlocutors, mainly the TED Conference ( and The Figge Art Museum ( may be a helpful start in determining one side of the geometric art education equation.
            “Becoming a TED partner means you share in our mission of spreading ideas that might change the world,” states the group’s partnership page. TED, a conference that started in 1984 with the initial focus of bringing three conversations together, technology, entertainment and design, has become broader in its scope becoming “a beacon for thought leaders across every demographic.” Through video broadcasts of some of the world’s leading thinkers and doers, the group’s goal is to “tackle humanity's toughest questions, answering with innovation, enterprise and enduring optimism”, one of their many topics including art education and the importance of creativity in our schools.
            TED’s major sponsors and contributors come from rather hard hitters in today’s market, including The Coca-Cola Company, GE and AT&T just to name a few, which only says that what the TED group is doing for the world is bringing a more intelligent conversation to the table and one in which these organizations admire. The TED videos of their conference topics are made available to anyone with an internet connection and a computer, thereby sharing their knowledge with anyone seeking to further develop their personal or professional selves.
            While TED has made these conversations accessible, so are many museums around the country that realize the impact of the internet on the learning and interest of humanity. The Figge Art Museum, located in Davenport, Iowa, established in 2005, a predecessor of the Davenport Art Association, founded in 1878, “actively serves the public by promoting appreciation and creation of visual art through education,” enriching the lives of the community.”
Their launching of programs such as the Midwest Art Education Center, where studio space, lectures and workshops are provided for local colleges and universities, “allowing them to expand their humanities and arts education programs,” and their partnership Western Illinois University-Quad Cities Graduate Museum Studies Program, act as “a laboratory for learning through direct experience,” placing them “at the forefront of developing future museum professionals.” Their interested investors include local industries like that of John Deere, working artists and various others including the vast majority of colleges and universities near by.
With the investments from larger bodies and that of their patron supporters, these two organizations have been able to spread their scope in lending opportunities for the discussion and implementation of the arts and education in their immediate area and to the world. By sharing their voices, they could together reach an impact that could help reform education as we know it, leading by example into a better future.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Reasons for Teaching Art

Although there are many different players that add their voice to the Arts Education conversation, many of them with their own reasons for the integration of the fine arts in the classroom, we must step back and realize the umbrella for which they all advocate: to educate our youth in the best possible fashion, which includes the inclusion of such programs for the betterment of our society as a whole.
            My earliest art educators were few and far between, but I do remember that they were enthusiastic about making or crafting things, cutting and gluing, but not necessarily given enough time to teach why those things were learned in accordance to any other discipline and the benefits each held in developing us for our future. It was determined that I was gifted in art, but it was my self-motivation that gave me the confidence that propelled me further as an artist much later in life.
            In the last seven years, the population of teaching and working artists within close proximal distance from my community, very near where I grew up and where I never envisioned coming back to, has grown and what has followed is a stronger conversation and sense from the members of our communities for why the arts should be valued and taught in our schools. Those peers with whom I questioned for what teaching the arts should do, not surprisingly linked very closely with my own idea on the topic, mainly because of our close working relationship.
Their opinions valued that the arts increased higher order thinking skills, developed hand-eye coordination along with developing critically thinking, self-expressive and confident individuals. But, their views also included the notions for a promotion of social change, which is self-evident as I’ve been witness to the growth and awareness here. Very similar to what Superintendent Carlos Garcia’s mission disclosed, Reimagine Learning: Building a District on Arts Education, the members of our communities are becoming more adamant that the arts are a way of closing the achievement gaps, creating motivation and energy for students to engage in their learning and that by including the community in this conversation this educational reform, that has been discussed in length for years, can be realized and fostered.
Through a not for profit art organization that I helped start in this area four years ago, artists, teachers, parents, community officials and members have risen and banned together to one, make the arts and artisans living here more visible to the public and two, to educate those individuals who wish to realize the self-fulfilling qualities that come from the arts. We have become promoters of artists, artisans, thespians, musicians, writers and the like, finding that the enthusiasm and interest for these efforts has only increased.
By becoming leaders in our communities, teachers and advocates, much like Mr. Garcia, including the different players in the conversation of the importance of the arts, our successes have and will only help facilitate economic growth, the future of our youth, and the betterment of our society as a whole.