I went to the annual MAEA Conference this past weekend, and I had an amazing time sharing what I do in my classroom with blended learning and then learning and seeing so many awesome ideas about assessment, lesson development, and delving into the purpose of Art Education through a series of thought-provoking sessions.
One thing I was a little alarmed by, though, was also something I heard more than once. I can't quite recall the exact wording, and it wasn't something that was said exactly the same between the sessions I went to, but it was a theme that bothered me. The theme that studying old white guys who made art a long time ago is not important or something that we should do on in our classes. Now, I understand where this notion is stemming from, but I think the disdain is a little misdirected.
I agree that it is probably not the best lesson to sit a bunch of kids down and say here is a picture of Picasso's Three Musicians, now copy it. There is not much critical thinking going on in that type of situation. We do not want to train our students to be a bunch of puppets; instead we want them to be free-thinkers who come up with their own solutions to problems. However, that doesn't mean you can't ever bring up Picasso to look at something else happening now in the Art world or to be inspired by him (he is, after all, the one who said the best artists steal).
Just because something is old, doesn't mean it should not be spoken of, or used as a tool to study from, or that it no longer has significance in the classroom. I have learned from a variety of Art teachers that it is not about who you study, it is all about how you study them. For example, when I teach Printmaking, students look at a variety of examples throughout history and compare and contrast them before creating their own. We look at Kathe Kollwitz, Andy Warhol, Banksy, and Swoon before students take images and create their own prints to share a point of view. When we study Greek Art, I have students look at how contemporary artists Karen Lamonte, Michael Stutz, and Igor Mitoraj have strong influences from the ancient aesthetic and then we create a piece inspired by Red and Black figure pottery.
It really bothered me to hear such a lack of respect for teachers who use Art History as a staple in their room (maybe because I do).
I appreciate being able to go to Conferences and exchange ideas, even if I don't agree with all of them. Sometimes you find out more about what you believe when you are faced with that other point of view and get a chance to hash it out on a blog post like this.
Now I want to hear from you - am I out of line and old in my thinking? Do I need to reboot and update my notion of what and how I teach? Does this bother anyone else?