Academic journal article Studies in Art Education

Laying a Foundation for Artmaking in the 21st Century: A Description and Some Dilemmas

Academic journal article Studies in Art Education

Laying a Foundation for Artmaking in the 21st Century: A Description and Some Dilemmas

Article excerpt

Research Problem

When I was teaching art in high school, many of my students went off to study at elite art colleges1 around the country. Those students often returned - full of wonder, pain, excitement - to share tales of their first-year experiences. And throughout my many years teaching foundation drawing, painting, and design - in a community college, a private liberal arts college, a large public university, as well as in a top-rated private art college - my undergraduates confided in me as they struggled to make sense of their encounters with college level studio art instruction. Later, when I taught art education courses at an art college, students related discoveries they had made during their first year as they bridged high school and art school. And when I led Master's of Fine Arts seminars in college studio pedagogy, the students, who were at the same time employed as graduate assistants in firstyear studio art classes, reflected on their own art education and discussed their observations of teaching and learning in the first-year studio courses in which they were assisting.

This anecdotal data suggested that, while disconnects occurred at many levels of postsecondary art education, challenges to learning were most apparent in the foundation year of art college. This led me to wonder: what kinds of teaching and learning take place in the first-year studio classrooms of art schools? I, therefore, designed a study intended to illuminate the scope of art school pedagogy and the dimensions of art school learning - as understood by foundation teachers and foundation-year art students. This summary of the study includes a few highlights from the literature review, an outline of the research methodology, a description of teaching and learning, and four quandaries that emerged from the findings. To the extent that the participants in this study represent students, teachers, and content typical of today's foundation studio classes, results from this study, while not generalizable, may indicate what one might expect to find in other post-secondary studio programs.

Literature Review

Consensus in the field has suggested that contemporary art schools are educational settings in which creative work takes place2 (Bass & Jacob, 2010; Becker, 1996, 2009; Buckley & Conomos, 2010; EIDahab, Vidokle, & Waldvogel, 2006; Gregg, 2003; Madoff, 2009; Miles, 2005). Though some of today's art school students may become professional artists, the central purpose of a contemporary art school education is the development of the person as a creative, resourceful individual (Bass & Jacob, 2010; Buckley & Conomos, 2010; Enwezor, Dillemuth, & Rogoff, 2006; Matarasso, 2005). This does not appear to be a new mission for art schools; indeed, results from a 1973 study suggested that students' primary reason for attending art college was to develop as a person (Madge & Weinberger, 1973). Since that time, there have been four scholarly studies of art school teaching and learning, each of which included aspects of the foundation year experience (Bekkala, 1999; Edström, 2008; Kushins, 2007; Tavin, Kushins, & Elniski, 2007). These reports explored student artistic development (Bekkala, 1999; Edström, 2008) orcurricular restructuring (Kushins, 2007; Tavin, et al., 2007) through surveys, interviews, and observations of studio classrooms.

Findings from these studies suggested that first-year students were quick to learn that they no longer had the "art star" status that often contributed to their sense of identity in high school; in art school, there were dozens of young artists just as capable as they (Bekkala, 1 999; Edström, 2008). In addition, students unable to handle the self-direction often required by art school were considered by some faculty to be unfit to become artists - so rather than work to support less successful students, they stood by as students struggled and failed (Edström, 2008). …

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