Academic journal article Studies in Art Education

The Artistic Impetus Model: A Resource for Reawakening Artistic Expression in Adolescents

Academic journal article Studies in Art Education

The Artistic Impetus Model: A Resource for Reawakening Artistic Expression in Adolescents

Article excerpt

The Problem: The Loss of a Natural Intelligence

A long-standing concern in the field of art education has been the seeming atrophication of artistic expression that usually accompanies the onset of late childhood and early adolescence. This decline has generally been accepted as a natural characteristic of development, and consequendy, has not been well addressed in mainstream education. It has also been widely assumed that once atrophied, artistic expression may not be resurrected, and that the continued pursuit of serious artistic learning is most appropriate for those adolescents who demonstrate outstanding abilities in the area.

The apparent demise of artistic expression in late childhood is the result of several conditions which surround the growing individual. First, most preadolescents retain the perception that "good art" is characterized by technically astute, mimetic representation, and view this as an unattainable goal. Second, American schooling, with its emphasis on a narrowly-defined, cognitively-centered notion of intelligence, has largely neglected alternate ways of knowing which involve sensory and emotional processes (Dewey, 1934/1958; Erikson, 1963; Gardner, 1983; James, 1911; Kneller, 1965; Lowenfeld, 1947; Sarason, 1990; Scheffler, 1991; Winnicott, 1971). Third, the inward, reflective, and philosophical preoccupations that accompany adolescence are difficult to identify and depict through the more literal artistic repertoire established in childhood, so students may no longer recognize artmaking as a viable means of representing and communicating personal concerns.

The decline of artistic expression is worthy of our attention as it also signifies a foreclosure of a primal (Gadamer, 1975; Gilmour, 1986; Winnicott, 1971) and uniquely human form of global intellectual engagement (Dewey, 1934/1958; Erikson, 1985; Read, 1963; Schaefer-Simmem, 1948; Within, 1974). This engagement involves an integration of sensory, emotional, kinesthetic, and cognitive ways of knowing and can lead to introspection and truth-producing processes (Cassirer, 1944; Gregory, 1995; Shipley, 1990). The adolescent's sensory-emotional system and life experiences are more multifarious than ever (Izard, 1993; Werner & Kaplan, 1963; Zajonc, 1984). Artistic engagement naturally accommodates the needs of these individuals, who are seeking homeostasis and self identity while experiencing a period of dramatic physical and emotional change accompanied by confusion, internal unrest, and unbalance (Erikson, 1963; Hall, 1904; Kroger, 1996; Marcia, 1980).

The Central Question

These concerns have led to the following question which drives this study: Once seemingly atrophied, can a pedagogical process be constructed through which authentic artistic expression may be resurrected in all or most adolescents?ln response, this article will demonstrate that (a) authentic artistic expression emerges from a specific set of conditions, (b) these conditions may be identified in the form of an Artistic Impetus Model, and (c) these conditions can be systematically re-created in the studio classroom to re-enliven artistic expression. To establish these understandings, I will discuss the question's significance to art education, summarize existing literature which supports the construction of an Artistic Impetus Model, describe a case study in which the model is used as the pedagogical basis for a course, and note conclusions and implications to the field.

Significance to the Field of Art Education

Art education, as a general practice, has made little progress in formally identifying the origins of artistic expression as critical underpinnings which guide its own epistemology. Consequently, many educators preoccupy themselves with a linear, formulaic teaching of studio techniques, skills, history, and formalism, and then verbally beseech their students to "be creative" and to "use your imaginations," as if these complex aspects of thought and feeling are outside the parameters of instruction and may be evoked upon command. …

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