Academic journal article Studies in Art Education

"The Siege of the Cultural City Is Underway:" Adolescents with Developmental Disabilities Make "Art"

Academic journal article Studies in Art Education

"The Siege of the Cultural City Is Underway:" Adolescents with Developmental Disabilities Make "Art"

Article excerpt

Totally alien, the new art (an art that has always been) proliferates quietly round the outskirts of the cultural city. The present survey of what this art can offer, being only provisional and partial, thus ends not with the complacent humming emitted by art-books that fit snug next to what has gone before, but with the busy, uneven clattering made by the nameless creators presently engaged in erecting alternative realities, sounds which - such is the present state of our sensibility - are yet too disparate for us to apprehend as a single message. Whether or not the time will ever come when those untutored hands will fashion a Trojan Horse, the siege of the cultural city is underway." (Cardinal, 1973, p. 180)

Within the past two decades, artists with disabilities have emerged with voices that announce that they seek to establish new metaphors from their own experience of the world. The intrusion of self-representations of people with disabilities through literary, visual, and performative narratives has disrupted "the way disabled subjects are often used, then erased"from the public sphere (Brueggemann, 2002, p. 318). The paradox that confronts this large minority has been the "very instability of the category" itself which, in its ambiguity, attempts to normalize and justify its "indeterminate boundaries" (p. 319). These narratives have produced critical and experiential insight; they destabilize the binary relationship between the signifier and signified as theory gives way to raw lived experience, and continues to rattle the developing field of disabilities in the arts and humanities. Rather than simply an academic pursuit, the theories of disability studies now exist side by side with profound questions of social and cultural justice, corporeality, social construction, and aesthetic and political representation (Brueggemann, 2002).

Art educators can no longer rely on prescriptive approaches; rather, they must "become flexible, dynamic, and adaptable to meet the needs of all participants" (Blandy, 1994, p. 184). Firstperson lived experiences of artists and authors with disabilities have captured the attention of K-12 educators who struggle to create parity among a diverse student body, as well as higher education educators who want to provide preservice teachers tangible experiences with real children. This article narrates the experience of the author as an art educator and her undergraduate students fulfilling their fieldwork internship requirement within a new program called Arts-2-gether.1 The children who apply to the program from local public schools have developmental disabilities and range between 12 and 19 years old. Through this experience, the instructor and interns were permitted to step outside the formal limits of classroom dialogue, the pretend students, and the theoretical lesson plans, all of which are important but nevertheless provisional. The classroom became a living laboratory in which we searched for our own values, and the values of children, on which to build mutual learning.

Corporeal and Theoretical Knowing

The medical model, which still persists in education, has suggested that people with disabilities should be cured (Blandy, 1994; Brueggemann, 2002; Davis, 1997, 2002; Siebers, 2008). "In contrast, a sociopolitical orientation to disability encourages a view in which disability is attributable to the failure of social systems" (Blandy, 1994, p. 180). In the last few decades, disability has become a subject of study comparable in critique and analysis to ethnicity, gender, and sexuality in its lived and constructed realities. Along with these social and political disciplines, disability has now found its significance in first-person experiential knowing. How do people within the label of disability, contribute to this conversation? How do they compare to other silenced groups now finding their own voices? In Disability Studies: Enabling the Humanities (2002), Jim Swan echoes these ideas by positioning the body as a site of knowledge. …

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