Academic journal article Journal of Cultural Research in Art Education (Online)

Examining Fair Trade as an Art Education Opportunity

Academic journal article Journal of Cultural Research in Art Education (Online)

Examining Fair Trade as an Art Education Opportunity

Article excerpt


For decades, art educators have advocated for social justice and equality in the classroom, within their communities, and at national and international scholarly assemblies. As a field we have expanded and developed ways to educate through art about visual culture, various global practices and traditions, and how to critically examine global power structures across social, political, and economic contexts and conditions (Ballengee-Morris, 2002; Delacruz, Arnold, Kuo & Parsons, 2009; Desai, 2005; Garber, 2004; Stuhr, 1994). Currently, art educators not only teach aesthetics and the principles of design, but also advise students how to use social action skills to participate in shaping and controlling their destinies. Helping shape these destinies, educating students to be critical thinkers, and demonstrating an understanding of how the world is affected by all humans is key to the work we share.

In the field of development studies, particular emphasis is placed on issues related to social and economic research with a focus on commodity systems for which examples include consumption, marketing, and product placement (Goodman, 2004). In art education, one can study issues of commodity systems through the lenses of visual culture and integrated art education. Art educators can critically examine not only everyday images and various cultures through art, but also many of the economic and ecological dilemmas facing society (Duncum, 2000, 2001; Garber, 2010; jagodzinski, 2007, 2008; Tavin & Hausman, 2004). In this paper, we argue that commerce involving trade of cultural products could be a part of those pedagogical practices as wellexamining the social, economic, political, and ecological issues circulating around exchanges of cultural products.

The authors of this article consider how addressing Fair Trade within arts education can open up opportunities for intertwining many disciplines (e.g., development studies, anthropology, and sociology). Through discussions of Fair Trade, educators can encourage students to act in ways that lead them to or reaffirm their commitments to social justice (Freire, 1970). Fair Trade can open up opportunities for discussing indigenous art aesthetics, intercultural power dynamics, personal accountability, and cultural exchange-serving as a subject and space for dialogue.

In this article, we offer our understanding of Fair Trade in global contexts, discuss how we as art educators have connected to a Fair Trade organization in Columbus, Ohio, and offer one example of how a Fair Trade curriculum might be introduced to undergraduate students as a concern for social justice. We discuss the ways art education can chal- lenge and change how indigenous artists' works might be studied, (re)presented, and taught to multiple populations (Sanders, Ballengee-Morris, Smith-Shank, & Staikidis, 2010). Moreover, we believe much can be learned through forms of art education pedagogy that study the foundations, policies, and practices of Fair Trade.

What is Fair Trade?

Foundations, Policies, and Practices

The inception of Fair Trade was brought about by a mix of post-World War II socioeconomic problems, altruism, and religion. "Some trace the Alternative Trade Organizations (ATOs) or the Fair Traders movement to the late-19th-century Italy and the United Kingdom, when cooperatives began building an integrated economy from production to retail outlet" (Ericson, 2006, p. 13). Contemporary ATOs began during the mid-20th century as missionary projects, humanitarian efforts, or political/economic action statements.

Although many trace the inception solely to Europe, there were almost simultaneous developments underway in both Europe and the United States. In the 1940s, the work of three organizations first emerged: 1) SERRV International, 2) Self Help Crafts (also known as Ten Thousand Villages), and 3) Oxfam. Fair Trade quickly gained recognition in Europe early on; however in the United States, it has taken a slower path (Ericson, 2006). …

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