Artmaking/Troublemaking: Creativity, Policy, and Leadership in Art Education

By Freedman, Kerry | Studies in Art Education, Winter 2007 | Go to article overview

Artmaking/Troublemaking: Creativity, Policy, and Leadership in Art Education


Freedman, Kerry, Studies in Art Education


International policy is having an increasing impact on creativity in art teaching and learning with some troubling implications for the future of the professional field. I have used the phrase 'troublemaking' in the title of this article to mean constructive action. But, trouble, troubles, troubled, and troubling have various meanings. They can refer to problems, as in the case of having troubles, or danger stated as in trouble, or concern, as in being troubled by something. They can also mean disconcertion, as in I find something troubling. But trouble can also refer to a challenge, as in the practice of troubling an idea or troubling that which is taken-for-granted.

I am troubled by recent policy and I seek to trouble its practice. If we want students to develop a deep knowledge of the power of art, we must see our professional practice as problematic, dangerous, showing concern, disconcerting, and in short, challenging to the minds, hands, and eyes of students. We must help students to understand that creative work can be troubling (some of the best art is) and that art troubles previous ideas and images. Making art often means making trouble and teaching about art can and should make trouble of its own.

The kind of trouble caused by a good art education results in change, change in the way students think, change in the way they behave, and specifically a change of mind leading to creative action. In this context, a reconceptualization of creativity is called for in the professional field. I view creativity in terms of its social and cultural contributions; creativity can be seen as an act of leadership as well as the expression of an individual. From this perspective, to be creative, action must be constructive, and perhaps, even reconstructive.

Historically, as a field, we have made an argument for art education to provide an industrial workforce (late 1800s), to teach lower socioeconomic children good citizenship (early 1900s), as a therapeutic response to a pathological world (1920s), to beautify depressed environments (1930s), to support wartime activities (1940s), as art for art's sake (1950s & 1960s), and to emphasize excellence through the study of fine art disciplines (1970s & 1980s) (Efland, 1990; Freedman, 1989). Not until contemporary times has the aim to help students understand the visual arts as creative, social action been openly expressed.

As I will illustrate, professional practice now requires creative leadership, by both teachers and higher educators, which troubles policy and incites creative action on the part of students and colleagues. I will discuss some of the important dimensions of recent educational and public policy that are influencing art education and some of the exciting ways that art educators are responding to negative impacts of policy in order to enhance their students' learning about the creative, the imaginative, and the inspired.

Creativity and the Educational Effects of Policy

Social scientists and policy-makers in many post-industrial countries are placing a new emphasis on creativity. What is variously called the creative sector, creative industries, and the creative class, includes producers of a wide range of visual culture, from fine arts to popular arts (such as film, television, architecture, crafts, comics, toys, folk art, computer games, advertisements, and fashion). The recent popular and renewed interest in the creative arts and design is changing conceptions of social, political, and economic development. The growth of visual technologies alone, from computer graphics to digital video, has had a tremendous impact on economic and social development.

The economic growth of this sector of the post-industrial global economy is becoming influential enough for even business people and politicians to notice. Richard Florida's (2002) often cited book, The Rise of the Creative Class, has made such a compelling argument that government officials in parts of the United States are changing local policy and investing millions to attract creative workers and companies to their regions. …

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