Interdisciplinary Art Education: Building Bridges to Connect Disciplines and Cultures

By Wexler, Alice | Studies in Art Education, Winter 2007 | Go to article overview

Interdisciplinary Art Education: Building Bridges to Connect Disciplines and Cultures


Wexler, Alice, Studies in Art Education


Interdisciplinary Art Education: Building Bridges to Connect Disciplines and Cultures Mary Stokrocki, Editor (2005). Reston, VA: National Art Education Association. 243 pages. ISBN 1-890160-31-8.

Mary Stokrocki's anthology, Interdisciplinary Art Education: Building Bridges to Connect Disciplines and Cultures is a response to the International Society for Education through Art's (InSEA) mission of promoting international understanding of education through art. As Vice President, Stokrocki is committed to this mission, and has compiled a rich anthology of interpretive examples of this much debated term, interdisciplinary art education. In both education and the art world, pluralism, globalism, and integration have been growing as subjects of critical study. Art critic Suzi Gablik (2002), in The Reenchantment of Art, cites an emerging body of socially engaged art which builds community through "radical relatedness" (as cited in Garber, 2004, p. 4). Similarly, art critic, Arthur Danto (1986), in The Philosophical Disenfranchisement of Art, argues for artmaking in service of humanity rather than the art world (as cited in Garber, 2004). Educator, Carol Becker (1994), In The Education of Young Artists and the Issue of Audience, describes the repercussions of an isolationist art world and the responsibility of training the next generation of artists to be concerned for their audience and the place of art within a social context.

The issues of educating the next generation to be responsive to art in a social context (Becker, 1994; Gablik, 2002; Garber, 2004; Lippard, 1990), along with a shift toward visual culture and the technology which is officiating this shift, has brought the long held tenets of art education to its feet. Among the tenets that educators have embraced this past century are disciplined-based education, learner-centered education, and the ubiquitous elements and principles of design. Interdisciplinary art education challenges these strategies, which alone, do not educate students for a global, pluralistic, and integrated world.

The anthology is divided into three parts: Historical and Conceptual Explorations, Practical Programs, and Future Directions. Part I begins, wisely, with an analysis of the ambiguous term, interdisciplinary education. Stokrocki and J. Ulbricht grapple with the use and misuse of older terms such as multidisciplinary education, which informs new ones such as integration and transdisciplinary education. Ulbricht writes that "multidisciplinary signifies the juxtaposition of several disciplines. It is essentially additive, but not integrative" (p. 22). On the other hand, integration, "incorporates the idea of unity between several forms of knowledge" (p.22). In a recent article in Studies in Art Education, Julia Marshall (2005) makes a case for "substantive curriculum integration" (p. 228), preferring the term integration rather than interdisciplinary education as it suggests the issue-based (social, political, cultural) conceptual connections among the disciplines. Ulbricht acknowledges the many terms that have been used to describe interdisciplinary education, but do not live up to its purposes. He identifies synthesis and the transfer of knowledge as the primary underlying purposes that distinguish interdisciplinary/integrated/transdisciplinary education from multidisciplinary education. Like Marshall, Ulbricht references new neurological evidence that supports integrated approaches to learning multiple disciplines.

In another chapter in the first section, Jennifer Ann Chappell found that a study conducted to assess an arts-integrated and constructivist approach at a private high school yielded significant learning in both the arts and other disciplines. One student in their study, for example, explained "how artistic representations are reflections of complex situation and ideas in the world" (p. 38). Rita Irwin, Sylvia Wilson Kind, Kit Grauer, and Alex de Cosson move the notion of connectedness still further by getting to the root of what they believe has kept Western education in isolated disciplines. …

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