Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Public Museum Use

There is a vast world of information and knowledge to be had, if only an educator takes it upon themselves to help reveal this world to students. Through many not for profit agencies, this world of knowledge has been protected and shared with the public by way of museums, galleries, national parks, cultural history centers and the like. This uncovery for the student could be done by traveling afar to another portion of the country via the internet, visiting a nearby city by bus, or simply by being encouraged to peer a little bit closer at the immediate, surrounding community and the hidden information that lies beneath the surface. Through these experiences a student will engage in hands-on, first person learning that will remain with them and perhaps influence their world for the rest of their lives. 
A youth’s mind knows only what they experience in their daily lives, in the routine of class schedules, extra curricular practices, and family struggles. If a student lives in an urban or suburban area, or comes from a more affluent family stature, many more opportunities to expand their informational world are available, and more than not, supported. However, if a student resides in small town, USA, or comes from a low-income family existence, little opportunity to expand their horizons exist. Their world remains in an immediate state of cause and effect, with little knowledge of the vastly complex, outside world that they live, unless an educator steps up to the challenge of this need.
In my experience, hailing from a virtually invisible community of 500 residents, my experience of the bigger world beyond its circumference came from yearly, family vacations (until I was ten) to specific destinations, or college prep English classes in high school, where once a year we would take a trip into (three hours away) Chicago to the Shakespeare Theater, The Art Institute or The Science & Industry Museum. Through these experiences, “engaged by rich and meaningful experiences,” (Attenborogh, 92) my awareness of the arts and other relational opportunities for further exposure to new and exciting information was opened up and I became a sponge for new information that made my life less mundane.
Once away at college, a professor took us on a field trip to the nearby Des Moines Art Museum and would occasionally stroll us through the Cedar Rapids Art Museum. I also spent a semester arts term in New York City, where various professors exposed a myriad of avenues of expression and information, then made more “real” to me. Educators made these experiences possible for an under privileged adolescent from “little-nowhere-town” and allowed me to become connected to “our history, from beauty, from other cultures, and from other forms of expression.” (Attenborough, 88). They made the information available, went “to great lengths to encourage the acknowledgement of the arts” (Attenborough, 87) as important to view and understand. But, this was also mainly due to the proximity of the artifacts to my physical being, as I was experiencing a world that was outside my own.
This form of exposure was crucial for my development as a person, let alone a teacher or an artist, and provided “a way into a myriad of subjects, which (made) those subjects more approachable and accessible.” (Attenborogh, 93) For, within these experiences, lies the moment that sparked a cultivating, memorable, lasting effect upon the student (me), and who they (I) will eventually become. One never knows. But, one thing’s for sure that we do know, that the failure to provide these experiences, as an educator, will not produce anything.

Contemporary Issues in Art Education; Yvonne Gaudelius, Peg Speirs; Prentice Hall; Upper Saddle River, New Jersey 07458; 2002

Commemoration & Honorarium

Commemoration of some one person or event at a given period of time is a form of honorarium, to recognize and share the importance of that one person, or many, and what contribution to our immediate family, community or world history they have taken part. Within each cultural region, religion and society, specific events have taken place to shape the common knowledge of the world that they exist in today. “The benefits of developing strategies for a socially engaged curriculum (in the classroom), through the study of contemporary art, are numerous.” (Milbrandt, 319) Whether through war, famine or peaceful goodliness, the historical importance of these events and people who took part in them, have been memorialized (commemorated) in a variety of creative ways to include public sculptures, denominations of money or through Nationally recognized holidays of remembrance. 
People and events have brought us from the dark ages to the democratic and technological age of cyber-sharing and will continue to make breakthrough changes and complications. They have taken part in the shape of the present moment. We honor them through words, through monuments and the fact that we wish them to live on. To continue educating and remembering those historical figures/events is to hold them in highest of esteem, to either repeat or not repeat history from the lessons learned. To use them as a frame of reference in the arts classroom helps in developing “programs that build moral courage and connect, rather than distance...students in learning, with life as the content demanding critical investigation.” (Milbrandt, 324) However our culture has chosen to remember these who have helped to shape and impact our way of life, there is something in the remembering that resonates a message through time: when we view a public work, hold history in our hands or dig deeper.
 The commemoration of the memorium object that is designed to represent the person or event speaks but only if they are continually encouraged, encountered, studied and ultimately remembered. And they can only be remembered if information is continually passes through the ages and shared along with the physical installation of such objects into the flow of society. “Such commemorative works are crucial for us as a culture because they help us remember and understand who we are by the values or actions we choose to honor.” (Milbrandt, 320) We erect monuments, elaborate gravestone markers, karve metal and stone, in the production of statuettes, crafted coins, and larger-than-life sculptures, through whom are passed down heritage and “critique of society” (Milbrandt, 318) through morals and common values that our human nature identifies with. It is in the memory and sharing of that memory that we try to shape history for the betterment of society.
As art educators, we have the opportunity to investigate these commemorative pieces of history in ways that other educators may not have the advantage, mainly because the vast amounts of memorabilia that recognize the specific place in history or person, have been designed by artists. This opens the door for levels of “active intellectual inquiry about a subject...in constructing meaning behind the work” (Milbrandt, 317) for our students. To be able to help students bridge the gap between the historical significance of the event or person and the commemorative value that we as a culture place on that significance in the form of art, will ultimately strengthen them to participate and engage in their learning as more than purely creation of art.

Contemporary Issues in Art Education; Yvonne Gaudelius, Peg Speirs; Prentice Hall; Upper Saddle River, New Jersey 07458; 2002

Individual Identity

From the time that we are very young, our developing personalities and ultimate identities are being shaped by what we experience. But what each of us, individually experience is related to many factors included in our environment, “constructed through our interaction within overlapping and intersecting communities to which we belong.” (Congdon, 108), all determinant by our culture, our gender and specific roles that each play in a specific society.
This being said, there are many factors that influenced my perspective and individual identity. What that meant for a working class, caucasian, little girl in rural Illinois was that you could plan on attending Catholic mass each and every Sunday, singing with the choir; you were a member of the Girl Scouts, selling cookies and earning badges; you never broke the rules or stepped out of line to become reprimanded and you were allowed to play anywhere within earshot and with anyone as long as they were not trouble makers. Affected by my gender, geographical, religious and familial upbringing, I perceived my grandmother as the all-omnipotent being in my tiny universe. As my parents were very young, I spent most of my time with her, learning all of my gentle habits, creativity and morals from her, mainly caring for others.
However, as I got older and began to question life itself and was sent off to college as the first ever in my family to attend a four-year undergraduate school, a drastic change happened to my environment and my experience as an individual. For the first time, my role in society changed. No longer did anyone know me by name, or know my family personally and I was able to pursue the queries that lay in my head without question or someone looking over my shoulder to judge me on my decisions. A whole new world opened up. 
Initially, I went off to pursue a degree in physical therapy, but suffered a mental breakdown, forced to reassess my strengths and interests, settling on English Literature and art. My identity changed then and there. No longer was I trying to live up to someone else’s standards of excellence, but I had to become motivated to live up to my own expectations of myself and what I could achieve. The college professors then became my trusted family members.
Now, as I look back on the past, and have come back to my home environment, with the knowledge from my experiences outside this area, my eyes wide open to the possibilities that could be, I tend to still question why things are done a certain way. For a creative child, this environment was not equipped to tend to my needs, and so my private experiences have produced in me a need for public action. I now see how the arts in the schools are overlooked and how individual creativity and curiosity are downplayed to athletic and political mentalities. 
With my experience, my choice in curricular matter for my own students then stemmed from those deep seeded roots of not getting what I needed from the primary and secondary levels of education. I wanted to provide for my students the opportunity to explore their own creativity and the assurance that it was acceptable to do so as they shaped their own identities. However, I also had to keep the mindset of the community and what was preconceived as acceptable about art close at hand while we engaged in our learning.
My hope for my students, and for all people that I come in contact with, is that I am able to help shape their identities in such a way as to encourage them to pursue whatever it is in their interest to pursue without hesitation, no matter the consequence. For, if they are forced to wait too long, as I had to, for their dreams to materialize, they may have forgotten what it was that they dreamed that made them happy once in the first place. However, based upon their own experience, they will no doubtedly find new roads to follow that will continue to shape their identity, for better or worse who is to say. 

Contemporary Issues in Art Education; Yvonne Gaudelius, Peg Speirs; Prentice Hall; Upper Saddle River, New Jersey 07458; 2002