New Genre Public Art Education

Article excerpt

"We live in a toxic world," asserts Suzi Gablik in The Reenchantment of Art, "not just environmentally but spiritually."1 For Gablik, remediation lies in the paradigm of art as participation, whereby art making is redefined in terms of "social relatedness and ecological healing, so that artists will gravitate towards different activities, attitudes, and roles than those that operated under the aesthetics of modernism."2 In Mapping the Terrain: New Genre Public Art, Suzanne Lacy terms such work new genre public art and characterizes it as "visual art that uses both traditional and nontraditional media to communicate and interact with a broad diversified audience about issues directly relevant to their lives."3 Differentiating new genre public art from what has been called public art, Lacy distinguishes the former by the level of engagement shared by artist and audience, the propensity for attacking media boundaries, and the effective implementation of social strategies.

Theorists such as Henry Giroux have addressed similar concerns in education. The critical theories Giroux presents in Border Crossings: Cultural Workers and the Politics of Education, for example, question existing power structures and argue for the democratization of education through interdisciplinary endeavors. Art educators such as Ronald Neperud and Donald Krug likewise advocate a culturally responsive approach to education that emphasizes "community orientation, recognizes diversity as a force in the lives of people, and investigates the formation of interests, satisfaction, practices, and values in the construction of the maker's cultural identity."4

Reconceptualizing art education as cultural criticism is a social-based pedagogy that can be fostered by the inclusion of new genre public art into the studio curricula. Such instruction encourages students to conceptualize new art forms, engage the community in projects that are socially constructive, and recognize art making as an intellectual, scholarly endeavor.

Media as Metaphor

Traversing the boundaries between conventional and unique art constructions, new genre public art education encourages students to reconceptualize media usage by integrating two or more forms into unique hybrids. Broadening the ever-expanding canon of accepted art forms, this work runs the gamut from conventional media such as photography to innovative forms such as performance, digital collage, and phone installation. Indeed, student works such as a van that housed a photography installation illustrating alternative lifestyles and a performance piece whereby four students dressed as Barbie dolls to enact a burial ritual for a seemingly innocuous toy exemplify the range of artistic possibility. Further, the juxtaposition of disparate elements combined to form unexpected relationships epitomizes the unique meaning derived from the metaphorical use of media in both the processes and products of art making.

Social Transformation through Community Interaction

Consider what would transpire if the goal of student studio production were to effectively engage audiences in dialogue that demystified artistic processes, incorporates audience input, and seeks cultural transformation. Interacting with the community with works that both edify and engage, community-based education focuses on social issues such as gender, class, race, and sexual orientation. Supplanting modernist-inspired pedagogy that trained artists for the pursuit of personal authorship, rethinking studio curricula to include socially relevant content encourages the merger between art and life, contemporary theory and pedagogy, and, more specifically, between artist and audience.

Certainly, unique issues regarding audiences must be addressed. Questions such as, "What is the potential meaning in the life of the community?" "Who are the potential collaborators?" and "What are the values expressed through both image and process? …