Art Criticism in Turkey: Prospects and Problems of Exploring a Tapestry
Stokrocki, Mary, Kirisoglu, Olcay, Art Education
From September 1995 to June 1996, Arizona State University's
International Project Division sent me to Ankara, Turkey to offer technical advice in the training of preservice art teachers. Twenty-seven consultants (9 British, 9 American, and 18 Turkish) worked to construct curricula The Art Team consisted of Turkish Professor Olcay Kirisoglu and myself. Thirty-four universities participated; 5 of which formed the Art Subject Panel. The project requested help for experimental teaching from 238 laboratory sites in 22 provinces. The purpose of this article is to report the context, overview the curricula, describe a trial art criticism lesson, discuss evolving issues, and suggest applications for American art teaching.
WHAT PROBLEMS FACE TURKISH SCHOOLS?
Contextual problems, such as a currently downward and immobile economy, mutable social classes, political ambivalence (the government collapsed twice in 1995), and lack of strong leadership due to the temporary coalition government plague developing countries (Leavitt, 1992). The outstanding education problem has been caused by astonishing population growth. Fifty percent of the population is under 20 years of age and will double in 32 years (Institute of Population Studies, 1994). Classes are overcrowded (3040 students); curriculums are outdated; teachers work split shifts; schools are drab; lecture dominates; and art is an elective (National Education Development Project, 1995).
WHAT ARE THE STRENGTHS OF THE TURKISH ART EDUCATION SYSTEM?
Art education programs consist of studio courses, four compulsory art teaching courses (Handwriting I, II, III, IV), and the Art Methods Course. Price and Swift (1992) noted that the quality of art and craft work is high because of time spent in studio training. They noted that artwork seemed influenced by Western models of art education, such as academic copying of ancient Greek plaster models. Crafts include areas such as copper repousse, woodworking, and textile design. Preservice teachers can minor in art by taking additional courses which qualify them to also teach at the secondary level (National Education Development Project, 1995).
WHAT CURRICULAR MODEL DID WE DEVELOP?
The project asked us to establish objectives and design methods courses for training preservice teachers at the primary and secondary levels. We developed six courses and each course contained six to eight units of several activities. We introduced methods of inquiry based on the four art disciplines at subject panel meetings and teaching seminars. Olcay was familiar with these art education trends and favored this approach. We started with art criticism and provided written and photocopy evidence of its success in the schools as described in the following example.
WHY START WITH ART CRITICISM?
Turkey has an authoritarian, studiodominated curriculum. Teachers seldom ask students for their opinions. Because the project promoted a student-centered approach, we wanted to encourage students to share ideas and develop critical thinking skills. We started with Mittler's (1986) framework of "Learning to Look and Looking to Learn" and developed questions about tapestry weaving. Olcay listed the stages on the board and asked a student to insert answers in the appropriate category. We then discussed the tapestry's technical qualities with students so that they would learn about the historical weaving processes. We added aesthetic questions, such as "Is the tapestry art?" and "Why is the tapestry beautiful?" In this way, we could introduce students to the theme "Beauty in art and everyday life." We favored a loose approach in which students naturally flowed from one stage to another (Anderson, 1995).
WHY USE A TAPESTRY FOR ART CRITICISM?
Art teaching often involves the exploration of fine art objects, but rarely focuses on everyday objectscarpets or rugs. Not all carpets are hand-made nor finely woven, so we will use the term "tapestry. …