Academic journal article Studies in Art Education

Rethinkers

Academic journal article Studies in Art Education

Rethinkers

Article excerpt

A2012 Emmy-nominated HBO documentary, The Great Cafeteria Takeover, features young reformers-members of Kids Rethink New Orleans Schools club-addressing the improvement of school cafeterias. From the inclusion of local food to the removal of the hated sporks (the plastic fork-spoon implement), students worked with food instructor Johanna G il ligan at the New Orleans Food and Farm Network and chef Katie Bingham, veteran of Dante's Kitchen, to rethink the school cafeteria. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, students in six schools in the New Orleans Recovery School District toured schools nationally to come up with ideas for reconstructing and rebuilding their schools. The creation of Rethink Clubs emerged, and from 2006 to the present, youth in Rethink Clubs have reenvisioned multiple aspects of school life-cafeterias, bathrooms, social justice, and dress codes-having their voices heard in public news conferences and other venues that have led to administrative changes in their schools and revised governmental policies.

A Google search of "rethinking" could lead one to conclude that everything in the world today is being rethought: highways, weight loss, parenting, urban planning, homework, health care, security, curating, retirement. You name it; someone is rethinking it. Rethinking Streets (2013), a documentation of rethinking and implementing new street designs in 25 national locations, is an intriguing example for its focus on tackling a mostly invisible area. We travel city streets, barely noticing them, until the subject of rethinking streets emerges as a serious topic, and then suddenly visibility becomes quite tangible. Changing street design and usage can alter lives in significant ways, arousing considerable controversy and resistance. As Rethinking Streets observes, it is often difficult to imagine how streets might be different from their current patterns because immovable and fixed conditions prohibiting change always seem to be present. Rethinking Streets also advises that street redesign most often incurs paradigm shifts and new language, such as when the Complete Streets Movement revamped street design nomenclature from mobility-based design to accessibility-based design, signifying a profound shift in how streets were perceived. Rethinking Streets also admits to an acceptance of trade-offs as a frequent and necessary accompaniment of perceived improvements.

It is not hard to contemplate parallels between rethinking art education and rethinking streets. Not only are many art education practices and areas simply invisible to us, but also, as with street redesign, there are always multiple obstructions to inhibit and counter rethinking. Rethinking art education also similarly demands paradigm shifts, new language, and trade-offs, as well as an acute ability to envision how things might be otherwise. And, as it is with the redesign of streets, rethinking art education can produce changes that trigger controversy, resistance, and anxiety.

The authors of this issue of Studies are definitely art education rethinkers, shifting our attention to ta ken-for-granted areas with a reenvisioning of established art education practices. In considering such rethinking, we might keep in mind that rethinking is always thinking in specificity. We rethink in determined conditions, not generalities. It is the distinct and discrete that compels the authors of this issue to reimagine the practices of art education. For instance, in "The Turn to Experience in Contemporary Art: A Potentiality for Thinking Art Education Differently," Dónal O'Donoghue addresses the possibilities for rethinking artmaking, suggestively questioning, "Is the 'making' of objects of material properties the primary purpose of teaching art in schools, as current curriculum seems to suggest?" In rethinking artmaking in art education, O'Donoghue turns to contemporary participatory artmaking, but resists aggregating it as a singular entity. Instead, O'Donoghue finds differences that he explicates through the concept of experience. …

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