ART325 Introduction to Understanding (PowerPoint)
Ice Breakers (pdf)
The intent of this course is to introduce students to concepts of how artistic learning occurs in children, adolescents, and adults-including special populations. Additionally, students will investigate how these concepts shaped art education practice in the past and how it continues to influence current pedagogical practice. This class is meant to provide a foundation for later course work in art education and K-12 art teaching.
- What is art?
- How do we define art?
- Who makes art?
- How do human beings learn to express themselves visually?
- Is visual expression innate?
- Are there universal aspects to this expression?
- Can it be taught? How should it be taught?
- Why do we create?
In his book, The Shape of Content(1957), the painter Ben Shahn recounted an incident that occurred when he was asked to take over a painting class at the Brooklyn Museum School for Max Beckmann, who died suddenly. On his first morning with students Shahn reviewed their work and noted that the most conspicuous fault in it was a lack of thought. “It was mostly just Beckmann,” he noted (p. 12). Shahn knew that he could not continue, in essence, teaching more Beckmann-even if he did admire his work. He began class, instead, by calling the students together to talk, to uncover any long-range objectives or plans, if there were any, and to find out, simply, what sort of people they were. Shahn remembered the discussion as lengthy and noted that the students became more animated.
In the midst of the discussion one of the students walked up to Shahn and said, “Mr. Shahn, I didn’t come here to learn philosophy. I just want to learn how to paint”(p. 12). Unshaken by the young man’s terse comment, Shahn retorted by asking him which one of the one hundred and forty styles he wanted to learn. In reflecting back upon the experience Shahn wrote:
I could teach him the mixing of colors, certainly, or how to manipulate oils or tempera or watercolor. But I certainly could not teach him a style of painting-at least I wasn’t going to. Style today is the shape of one’s specific meaning. It is developed with an aesthetic view and a set of intentions. It is not how of painting but why. To imitate or teach style alone would be a little like teaching a tone of voice or a personality (p. 12).
Shahn’s encounter points to the complexity involved with defining, making, and teaching art. Out of this situation particular questions arise: What is art? How do we define art? Who makes art? How do human beings learn to express themselves visually? Is visual expression innate? Are there universal aspects to this expression? Can it be taught? Is there an appropriate/inappropriate way to teach art? Should it be taught? Class discussions and readings will examine many of these issues.