Art History, Criticism and the TMR Art Experience

Article excerpt

When first confronted with the idea of incorporating art history and criticism activities in the Trainable Mentally Retarded (TMR) art experience, many responded with surprise and disbelief. Criticism? Response? With TMR's? You are kidding? No, it is true. Incorporating art history and criticism activities within the studio art curriculum is a rewarding experience for the students and for the instructor.

Recently the TMR classes at Williamsport Area High School in Williamsport, Pennsylvania completed three units of study based on using oil pastel, watercolor markers, and tempera paint. Teaching basic art skills is an important objective. Students need to develop and enhance fine and gross motor skills through the use of art media. Task analysis (the breaking down of art processes into small steps) is used to teach the skills. By using this process the students can successfully master any given media.

But what about thinking and verbal communication skills? Most TMR students have poor skills in these areas. Art can be one portion of their total curriculum where these skills can be improved upon. TMR students enjoy talking about art, looking at art, and learning about the artist who created the artwork. Basic criticism and art history skills for TMR students fall under the following objectives.

1. Ability to attend to a work of art.

2. Ability to identify the subject matter.

3. Ability to identify the elements of design.

4. Ability to identify compositional elements.

5. Ability to discuss some aspect(s) of the artist's life.

6. Ability to identify and discuss cultures other than their own.

7. Ability to evoke feelings of emotions from the artwork.

8. Ability to discuss likes and dislikes.

The key to success with these objectives is to remember that the skills are and should remain basic. These students can identify color, shape, texture, subject matter and, some times, media. …