CREATIVITY AND ART EDUCATION: A Personal Journey in Four Acts

By Zimmerman, Enid | Art Education, September 2010 | Go to article overview

CREATIVITY AND ART EDUCATION: A Personal Journey in Four Acts


Zimmerman, Enid, Art Education


The 2010 Lowenfeld Lecture

Over the years, I have noted the ebb and flow of support for creativity in art education with a high point in the 1960s and 1970s, to its fall during the 1980s, and until recendy when it has been rising again. In the 1960s, I began as an art specialist teacher in elementary schools in New York City (Figure 1), then became a coordinator of my own art school in upper state New York, and finally was an art educator at a university in the Midwest United States (Figure 2).

I have always been an advocate for creativity in art education even when it was not popular Hafeli (2009) explains that art education has failed to approach research and practice as a" family of ideas" (p. 369), wrth themes that date back to the years 1 950- 1 970, and spotlight personal histories to create a dialogue through past to the present. I therefore will present my own personal journey with creativity over almost half a century as a play in five acts to insert some drama in what might be a rendition of facts. In each act, I will begin with my personal journey and reflections from the past and compare and contrast these with contemporary scholars' points of view.

There are a few basic assumptions about creativity that provide a supporting role for my journey (Zimmerman, 2009b).

* There are no common definitions of creativity and related dispositional factors.

* Creativity is a complex process with relationships among people, processes, products, and social and cultural contexts relevant to a domain of knowledge.

* People are not creative in a general sense; they are creative in particular domains such as the visual arts.

* Creativity, based on models developed in art education and other fields, can be enhanced and teaching strategies can be developed to stimulate creativity.

* Creativity for visual art education should be inclusive, with ail students viewed as having abilities to be creative,

Act One: The Lowenfeld Era- The 1960s and 1970s

When I was a new art specialist teacher in New York City in the early 1 960s, the text that I used that influenced my conception of creativity and art education was the third edition of Lowenfelds Creative and Mental Growth published in 1 957.1 Burton's (2009) insight that "Lowenfelds vision was at the root a prescription for repairing the world" (p. 324) has meaning for me as Lowenfeld and I share a similar Jewish heritage and I am inspired by a social action notion of tikkum olam, repairing the world. I believe it is the obligation of each individual and groups of individuals to help perform this repairThis can be interpreted today as having each student find personal meaning through his or her study and making of art in which processes and outcomes are socially relevant and allow for creative expression.

Today, some of Lowenfelds ideas may appear outmoded, but it must be remembered that they were influenced by theories held at the time and his background as a psychologist concerned with art therapy and child development in art The purpose of art education for Lowenfeld was to develop creativity so that it could transfer to other subjects and spheres of human activity (Efland, 1990). He viewed the role of art education ultimately as a means for development of students' creative self-expression and not necessarily as an end in itself (Figure 3).

All students, not just those who were artistically talented, were encouraged by Lowenfeld to let their creative abilities unfold over time. His focus was on creative self-expression as a form of individual personality and identity formation as well as development of relationships with others. In any art program, interactions between art teachers and students were of prime importance. Little teacher intervention was required or expected in the early stages as students built skills though their own experiences with materials, As students became older some direct teacher intervention became important for conveying knowledge and understandings about artmaking and the art world. …

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