Cross-Cultural Practices in Art Education: The Art Lunch Project in Turkey
Acer, Dilek, Childhood Education
One of the many important functions of art is to encourage people to see different cultural perspectives and enable them to better understand and appreciate themselves and others. Engagement with art from other cultures may help us transform our understanding of learning (Joseph & Southcott, 2009). Art has the tremendous potential to develop children's cross-cultural competence and experience, and it can reveal the values and beliefs of a culture, while helping children view the world from new perspectives (Graham, 2009).
This article presents a selective review of the literature on cross-cultural art studies, with the aim of identifying their commonalities. The article includes a specific cross-cultural case study, the Art Lunch Project, which the author attended as a representative of Turkey, that aims to exchange practical teaching experiences. The participants come from nine countries across Europe and Asia. It is an ongoing project in which art or homeroom teachers in schools interpret the common theme of "an art lunch," in collaboration with university-based researchers in art education. The project involves making two- and three-dimensional artistic representations of food using recycled materials. Work completed by children is uploaded to a website for mutual viewing by participating teachers and children. The reasons for selecting this theme were that curricula organized around the fundamental human need for food are likely to have universal appeal, and the results would thus reflect national cultural differences (Fukumoto, 2007).
During the Art Lunch Project, participants engaged in a mutual information exchange by sharing their food cultures. The children received help from their grandparents while researching the traditional food of their own cultures, learning about the names of foods and how they are prepared. Thus, this process contributed to the strengthening of communication between different generations as the children gained valuable new insights into their own traditional food cultures. Additionally, the children designed two- and three-dimensional models of foods to share with children of other countries. In this process, they learned about different art materials and techniques. As the children shared their artwork, they learned more about the food cultures of different countries, thus gaining a different perspective.
The definition of the word "culture" is under continuous and serious debate. Social scientists study it from diverse perspectives, and the many differences in definition may stem from these different ways of considering the concept (McFee & Degge, 1980). Nevertheless, a few definitions may be helpful here. Culture may refer to the totality of ideas, customs, skills, and arts that belong to a people or group. This cultural totality is communicated or passed along to succeeding generations. Culture may refer to a particular people or group with their own ideas, customs, and arts (Lazzari & Schlesier, 2008). People's attitudes toward the culture they belong to reflect the culture's worth. As people react to the culture they live in, they become its creators. Thus, each individual is also a carrier of culture.
Despite such definitions, some people lack awareness of their own culture or the effects that it has on other people. For this reason, it is especially important for children in multicultural societies to understand both their own culture and that of others. In their everyday lives, individuals are exposed to several cultural elements, including language, visual symbols, values, beliefs, the status and roles of people at different ages. Children invariably belong to at least one culture (Sahasrabudhe, 1992), and as they grow they begin to recognize and discriminate among particular environments (McFee & Degge, 1980).
As children develop into adults, they are nourished by culture (Guvenc, 1997). …