Tuesday, May 8, 2012

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

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