I enjoyed reading the excellent articles in your September 2006 issue from front to back, in particular, "Back to the Basics: Multicultural Theories Revisited and Put into Practice" by Deborah Kuster. I was thrilled to encounter an art educator who shares my philosophy of teaching art. The author argued, "Multicultural competence causes students to better understand how each person within a society affects and is influenced by others, thus contributing to the on-going definition and the creation of culture" (p. 33). I similarly believe that one of the significant roles of art educators/teachers is to help students understand people of different cultural identities and backgrounds. As an elementary school teacher in Daegu, South Korea, I tried to apply multicultural art education theories in my classes. I felt that because my country had a racially homogenous population, the students lacked an understanding of other peoples, nations, and cultures.
Kuster's article awoke in me a hibernating memory, because the author designed a curricular unit based on cultural understanding through artworks for fifth graders that was much like my own work. I found many similarities between the article and unit plans I had developed. My unit plans similarly included interdisciplinary connections with social studies, language arts, and science. They also employed several artworks, such as Diego Rivera's mural Allegory of California, as well as other local murals, because our class theme was community. Few teachers in South Korea utilize the work of Mexican and other artists from the Third World when they teach art, history, and social studies in elementary schools. Typically they use visual images that derive from the United States and European countries.
In my classes, I asked students to talk about their experiences with murals in their daily lives. I showed them many examples of murals to help students understand their definitions, origins, history, functions, meanings, and values. I enabled students to create visual images, texts, icons, and symbols representing their hometowns, society, and community using various media, such as photos, crayons, colored pencils, magazines, assorted tissues, newspapers, and markers. Finally, I showed students how to incorporate the stages of art criticism-reaction, description, analysis, interpretation, and evaluation-as they presented their artworks to their classmates.
Kuster's article is valuable because the author tried to apply multicultural art education theories for elementary students, demonstrate an interdisciplinary model of instruction that connects social studies and literature and artists' life stories, and provide elementary students with the chance to engage in cultural inquiry and appreciation. Sometimes, teachers have no idea about how to apply art education theories in their actual classrooms. This article, then, is valuable in that it fully mediates between theory and practice. As such, it serves as a good guide for teaching cultural understanding, diversity, and tolerance.
The Florida State University
The title of Dr. Stockrocki's (January 2006) article, "Searching for Meaning: Visual Culture from an Anthropological Perspective," is a very provocative title. However, perhaps I might ask, "What is the purpose of art or searching for the purpose of art?" as critical to art education in general.
I offer the following [response] to that question:
The purpose of art is
1. To show us what life could be and not what is.
2. To teach us humility but at the same time to inspire us to strive when confronted with a talent and craft brought to perfection.
3. To engender a joyfulness of life and a childlike spirit.
4. To raise us to higher consciousness of our humanity and our limitations if we find ourselves less than a "genius."