Magazine article Art Education

Community, Art and Culture

Magazine article Art Education

Community, Art and Culture

Article excerpt

The fifth of Florida's Sunshine State Standards for the Visual Arts states: '"he student makes connections between the visual arts, other disciplines, and the real world." For most of us, the most immediate part of "the real world" is the community in which we live. During the vast year. I visited several communities where "the arts are the heart of our community," as the mayor of flood-and-fire-ravaged Grand Forks, North Dakota, put it (Swanson, 1997, Sec. 2, p. 1).

During the International Society for Education through Art (InSEA) European Regional Congress in July 1997, a number of speakers described how Glasgow, traditionally a workingclass industrial city in the west of Scotland, is using the arts as catalysts for cultural renewal in a postindustrial economy. Richard Gurin told InSEA members how Easton, Pennsylvania, the home of Binney & Smith, has encouraged local economic development by supporting community arts organizations.

Later in the summer, I spent several days in Lowell, Massachusetts, a city that has worked "to recapture its past and to revitalize its present" through the arts (Larson, 1997, p. 38). I was impressed by the contemporary sculptures addressing themes from America's industrial revolution placed throughout the city center. An arts magnet school faces the National Historical Park where former textile mill buildings now house a museum. Lowell is using the arts to interpret its past history as one of the first American industrial cities, but also to explore the rich cultural heritage of recent residents. In the lobby outside the Center for Lowell History library an exhibition of children's drawings described traditional medicines from their parents' southeast Asian cultures. Outside, in Boarding House Park, children attended lunchtime concerts.

In between Glasgow and Lowell, I spent a weekend with my cousin in her Vermont hometown. Cathy has developed instructional units on local architecture and state history, including the experiences of immigrants like our grandparents, for middle and high school students. With others she is working to develop a museum and seasonal events to attract cultural tourism. She jokes about making the village the "front porch capital" of New England, to highlight the Victorian houses that line many streets.

Glasgow, Easton, Lowell, and Bellows Falls-like Stinesville, Indiana; Talcott, West Virginia; Kutztown, Pennsylvania; Brentwood, Missouri; and other communities mentioned in this issue-are reconnecting the arts with life. These efforts recall the early-20th-century Owatonna Project and the 19th-century Village Improvement movement which sought to make communities more beautiful, encourage residents to play an active role in civic life, and bring the arts into the community. Farwell (1913) recommended commissioning works of public art, developing a local art collection which might be housed in the public library, and beautifying local schools and their grounds. …

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