Education: Using Art to Bridge Cultures

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), December 6, 2002 | Go to article overview

Education: Using Art to Bridge Cultures


Byline: BEVERLEY JONES

THEY have often said that Britain and America are two countries divided by a common language.

But this did not affect Art teacher Angela Tiley from Bishop Gore secondary school in Swansea who discovered there was a lot of truth in the adage ``a picture paints a thousand words'' when she travelled to Kentucky.

What became clear to her was that art could be used as effectively as words to express ideas and feelings about culture and history.

Mrs Tiley embarked on her adventure after winning a sponsorship package from the Teaching Council for Wales to study the theme ``the environment'' is being taught within an artistic context.

Faced with a multitude of possibilities she decided to visit two American high schools in the towns of Pikeville and Hazard in Kentucky to see if she could learn from their methods.

She chose the area because Kentucky, like Wales, is an ex-coal mining community and despite the thousands of miles that separate them they share many of the features and problems associated with post industrialism.

``Many similarities can be drawn between the Americans and us, like the controversy that surrounds open cast or strip mining, loss of jobs within the locality and the problems that economic decline and change can bring,'' said Mrs Tiley.

``These are mainly social problems of poverty, drugs, crime, racial tensions and lower living standards.''

At Pikeville there are still several strip mines and some shaft mines and many students have relatives working in the industry.

What became clear was that many school and community festivals use the coal mining heritage of the area as subject matter for displays, artwork and projects.

The second school, Perry County High School is in the town of Hazard, which gave its name to the popular 1980s hit TV show The Dukes of Hazard and in both schools there were similar ideologies in art teaching.

``The pupils focused on looking to articulate shape, form and patterns that can be found in the biological order of the environment and were encouraged to experiment with different media and techniques,'' she explained.

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