Teaching Art a Greener Path: Integrating Sustainability Concepts of Interior Design Curriculum into the Art Education Curriculum

By Hasio, Cindy; Crane, Tommy J. | Art Education, November 2014 | Go to article overview

Teaching Art a Greener Path: Integrating Sustainability Concepts of Interior Design Curriculum into the Art Education Curriculum


Hasio, Cindy, Crane, Tommy J., Art Education


Many art educators in public schools and colleges teach students how to recycle and make art out of trash. Low funding and budget cuts that art teachers face normally steer them into this antecedent. So what do students learn from this engagement in the Arts and how does this learning connect to sustainability? Students learn to work on multidisciplinary, cross-functional art; contribute to the life of their community; and value inquiry and project-based activities in the classroom that stimulate authentic learning experiences (Anderson & Milbrandt, 2005).

Interior design is seldom integrated within the general art education curriculum because the subject matter is generally segregated as a commercial art. However, the importance of interior design concepts of sustainability in art education can really help a student understand the scale and proportion of space and mass, and how sustainability is related to elements within the composition and functionality of the form. Integrating interior design concepts of sustainability, arrangement of basic layout of spaces within a building, and color to give the space a sense of unity can reflect the aesthetic perceptions of beauty, power, security, wisdom, achievement, playfulness, or serenity (Pollack & Pillóte, 2006). It will also allow students to make connections on how interior design can promote higher levels of critical thinking within the artistic, aesthetic, psychological, social, cultural, and historical context related to art history and Postmodern architecture.

Like art education, the interior design field uses sustainability, which could enhance the pedagogy of art educators. According to Wheeler and Bijur (2000) and Stegall (2006), the interior design industry felt that providing students with the theories and practical application of sustainability within a holistic approach to interior design was fundamental. The integration of Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle mentality into students' design processes was viewed as a key element within any curriculum (Whitemyer, 2007). In this article, the images were from a high school art class and also from a university level interior design course.

Why Art Educators Should Care

All educators have an environmental, cultural, social, personal, and ethical responsibility not only to protect the public but also to save our planet as well. Many interior design programs have already actively incorporated sustainability within their curricula (McDonough & Braungart, 2002). Ecological topics addressed by interior design educators, such as lifecycle analyses for materials and indoor air quality, can also be included in art education because of the meanings they construct through the design and functionality of form.

The reason why art educators should care to incorporate sustainable design into their curriculum comes from the overactive consumption practices and a consumerist state of mind following the advancements from the Industrial Revolution and the Machine Age, the Information Age, and the growth of technology (McDonough & Braungart, 2002). The consequences have now become apparent with concerns such as global warming, climate change, deforestation, depletion of nonrenewable resources, pollution, soil erosion, endangered and extinct species, population growth and overpopulation, and the loss of cultural identities (Chermayeff & Plunz, 1982; Hutchison, 1998; Robins, 1999; Thompson, 1997).

Interior design professionals and educators felt the development of an environmental, ethical, and socially and globally responsible design education was vital for the continuation of the interior design profession (McDonough & Braungart, 2002). This connects with the same desire for conservation that art educators advocate. Blandy and Hoffman (1993) described that art educators have the responsibility to address relations among art, community, and environment. They also describe that art education should reflect environmental concerns that are globally imminent and promote art teachings to affirm life-sustaining relationships and critical analysis of issues that affect the environment (1993). …

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