Academic journal article Studies in Art Education

Toward a Community Model of Art Education History

Academic journal article Studies in Art Education

Toward a Community Model of Art Education History

Article excerpt

Community-level studies enjoy a long tradition of application to historical research in areas such as the physical sciences and politics; however, this approach has not been widely applied to art education history. This article outlines a community-level approach to art education history by first examining and outlining the art education community, its constituencies and structures. Concepts derived from complexity sciences and applied to organizational theorizing are explored for insight about openness or resistance to change in the art education community over time. Finally, an overview of the development and application of community-level studies to historical inquiry is presented.

In each period of 20th-century art education history, a single theme or organizing concept has served to unite curriculum, practice, and inquiry. In the early part of this century, the term of choice was creativity. After 1965 this was eclipsed, at least temporarily, by aesthetics. A new organizing theme, community, is emerging within recent educational discourse, perhaps reflecting a postmodern emphasis on the contextually embedded, socio-political nature of all human endeavors, including art education (Neperud, 1995). Several applications of community to art curriculum development are outlined elsewhere (Marche, 1998) in terms of differing sources utilized, questions asked, and roles advocated for arts students.

Much current discourse about praxis centers upon themes such as climates for learning, classroom communities, and culture of schools (Brandt, 1996; Bruner, 1996; Nathan, 1995), emphasizing the collaborative and communal nature of education. In this article I will outline a communitylevel approach to investigating the history of American art education. Community-level studies, or collective biographies, are frequently used in historical studies of scientific and political arenas, but are rarely applied to education (Marche, 1996). An important aspect of any historical study is perceived change or lack of change across time; this is also true of histories of art education. Recent developments in organizational theory, drawn from complexity science, are useful for understanding educational change or resistance to change (Fullan, 1993; Caine & Caine, 1997a; 19976). These approaches may likewise inform a community-level study of art education history.

I will first outline a framework for understanding the structure of the art education community and for reconstructing art education communities in the past. Next, I will review a series of concepts drawn from complexity science and recently adapted to organizational and educational change theory. These tools may be utilized for understanding complex interactions across the art education community. I will then discuss the application of community to historical inquiry in the form of communitylevel studies, examining development of the genre and its application to scholarship in the history of art education. I


It is 10:30 a.m. at Lincoln Elementary School, on the south side of Madison, Wisconsin, and 16 eager fifth graders are chatting happily as they arrive at Mrs. Goray's art room door.2 There is time for a few minutes of consultation with the classroom teacher as the students take their seats. They spend the next hour examining Guatemalan cloth dolls, selecting colors, counting warp threads, creating a symmetrical arrangement, and threading backstrap looms attached to upturned table legs. Through it all Mrs. Goray answers questions, monitors behaviors, and trouble-shoots with materials. In this interaction between students and art teacher, I find the core of an art education community. However, this introduction yields a picture that is far from complete.

Also present is the entire Lincoln Elementary School community, including the principal who found a few dollars in the school budget to support this special art project for a local children's museum, additional teachers whose classroom curricula on Central America are linked to the art project, and school librarians who helped with student research. …

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