Academic journal article Studies in Art Education

Home Is Where the Art Is: Exploring the Places People Live through Art Education

Academic journal article Studies in Art Education

Home Is Where the Art Is: Exploring the Places People Live through Art Education

Article excerpt

Think Globally, Art Locally

As humans become increasingly sensitized to the developments and pressures of globalization and environmental change, the fate of the particular places people live-our homes-is a growing concern. Among artists, scholars, and educators, there is renewed interest in "placed communities" aware that their own futures are at stake in the quality of community life and the nature of their relationship to the land (Vitek & Jackson, 1996). Writers describe their attempts to settle down, or more deeply, into a life grounded in community and environment (Elder, 1998; Sanders, 1993; Tall, 1993). Bioregionalist activists claim that place is the most viable starting point for changing humanity's relationship with nature (Berry, 1972; McGinnis, 1999). Academic theorists argue that places are constituted, represented, and negotiated through a variety of discursive, material, and institutional practices (Harvey, 1996, p. 78), including those that are artistic whereby "human creativity is an integral part of the web formed by land, history, culture, and place" (Lippard, 1997, p. 18).

Art educators, as well, are acutely aware of the intimate relationship among art, education, and place. Blandy and Hoffman (1993) raise this issue, calling for "an art education of place" that would "educate and encourage a pro-active environmental stance" (p. 30). Recognizing that anthropocentric assumptions underlie conventional approaches to community-based art education, they draw on eco-theory to expand the notion of community to include the physical environment. They also present examples of art with an ecological message, suggesting to educators that their inclusion in the curriculum would facilitate students' "understanding of the interdependence and interconnectedness of all things" (p. 28). While their study seeks to bring place and environment more centrally into art educators' field of vision, the artworks they examine address the issue of environment in general leaving open the question of place's particularity. This raises the question: How can art facilitate understandings of a specific place?

Subsequently, art educators have been addressing a variety of topics and issues that consider such place-specificity. Neperud, for example, argues for an "environmental design education" that is community-based, "developed around the texture of community" (1995, p. 234). He maintains that investigation of the local environment, moreover, entails both recognition of particular ways people shape their own environments, as well as consideration of how they are shaped by power, ideology, economy, and politics. His approach combines attention to global issues like environmental degradation and multiculturalism with an awareness of the particularity of place, so that "each teacher must particularize her or his approaches in sympathy with local community textures" (p. 237). Irwin, Rogers, and Wan (1997, 1999) explore the relationship between Aboriginal peoples and their particular landscapes as a necessary means for understanding their art. Garoian (1998) promotes an "ecological pedagogy" that "recognizes the community-based experiences of students as a complement to that of the teacher's curriculum" (p. 260). Blandy, Congdon, and Krug (1998), in the context of their discussion of artists promoting ecological restoration, imagine "an art education of place in which art educators and students promote ecological restoration through inter-organizational and inter-institutional cooperation in their local communities" (p. 241). Krug (2002), in treating inquiry about art in the context of everyday lifecentered issues, also touches on place-specificity. For instance, by exploring the concept of nature and culture's interdependency in relation to examples of ecological art, he has shown how some "artists are working collaboratively with members of communities to use their creative energies to solve real life-centered problems" (p. …

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