30 Americans: An Inspiration for Culturally Responsive Teaching

By Powell, Linda S. | Art Education, September 2012 | Go to article overview

30 Americans: An Inspiration for Culturally Responsive Teaching


Powell, Linda S., Art Education


Issues of diversity and multiculturalism continue to be in the forefront of educational and social concerns (Andrus, 2001). Educators have a responsibility to develop and implement culturally responsive curricula through inclusion of content that goes beyond cultural holidays and celebration days or months (Andrus, 2001). Current educational initiatives call fora multicultural approach (for a definition of multiculturalism, see Ballengee-Morris and Stuhr, 2001, p. 8) for several reasons, the most important being to meet the needs of a school population rich in diversity. Students from various cultural groups need to know that they are heard, respected, valued, and capable of achieving success. Art museums and other institutions of informal learning can be resources that explore and support diversity by collaborating with community cultural groups and designing exhibitions and curricula that provide a contextual understanding of the culture represented (Andrus, 2001).

Through the lens of educational programming for the exhibition 30 Americans, this article describes how both the Corcoran Gallery of Art and Corcoran College of Art and Design strive to engage with culturally responsive teaching through curriculum content and its delivery in our museum, school, and community-based programs. It also explores how a programmatic focus on contemporary art by people of color positively impacts the Corcoran s art education preservice programs (Knight, 2006).

History

The Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, which opened its doors in 1874, has a long tradition of exhibiting, collecting, and teaching about works of art created by African American artists. Situated in our nations capital, which according to the 2010 census is a city whose population is over 50% black, the Corcoran has presented 49 exhibitions of African American art since 1972. In addition, the education department has employed culturally responsive teaching methods in designing curriculum that engages Washingtons public school and public charter school populations of 76% and 83% black, respectively (United States Census Bureau, 2010). For example, a resource packet for educators focusing on work by 28 African American artists in the collection was created and distributed to teachers in 1999 (African American Educators' Resource Packet, 1999). The Corcoran s recent educational initiative for middle schools included the creation of an extensive resource packet with teaching posters, texts, artist biographies, and lesson plans for a new in -school outreach program that focuses on American art in the Corcoran s collection. Of the 16 works selected, half are by African Americans artists (Arts 101 Educators' Resource, 2010).

Supporting DC standards of learning for visual arts and other content areas, the curricula created by Corcoran staff, faculty, and graduate students are based on a culturally responsive pedagogy that more democratically represents the sociocultural and ethnic diversity existing in the DC community (Ballengee-Morris and Stuhr, 2001). Many of the artists represented in the collection- based curriculum were also included in the 30 Americans exhibition on which this article focuses. Because of these connections, educators felt that the curriculum created for the special exhibition was connected to works in the Corcorans collection and was not just a several-month curriculum intervention that would no longer be valid once the exhibition closed.

30 Americans Exhibition

30 Americans, a wide-ranging survey of the work of many of the most important African American artists of the last three decades, highlights issues of racial, sexual, and historical identity in contemporary culture. It also explores how each artist reckons with the notion of black identity in America, navigating such concerns as the struggle for civil rights, popular culture, and media imagery.

30 Americans was originally displayed in a much larger format at the Rub ell Family Foundation in Miami, Florida in 2008. …

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