The Africa Project: A Collaboration between a Creative Movement Consultant, an Anthropologist, and an Art Educator

By Kuper, kate; Bales, Sandra et al. | Art Education, March 2000 | Go to article overview

The Africa Project: A Collaboration between a Creative Movement Consultant, an Anthropologist, and an Art Educator


Kuper, kate, Bales, Sandra, Zilberg, Jonathan, Art Education


This article describes an innovative project in an undergraduate art education class taught by Professor Sandra Bales in the Spring semester of 1998 at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In this class, two different age groups of students were brought into creative interaction with the Krannert Art Museum's Africa collection. The purpose of the class was to experiment with a kinesthetic model for teaching art concepts informed by anthropological knowledge of Africa through collaboration with two consultants, namely Kate Kuper, a creative movement specialist, and Jonathan Zilberg, a museum anthropologist specializing in bringing his knowledge to undergraduates and elementary school students. When the three came together in the Spring of 1998 to wed kinesthetic learning with detailed anthropological information, the project proceeded naturally, rapidly and smoothly. African Art by its nature is created for ceremonial purposes, and came to life for the students when it was placed in the context of music, dance, costume, and community.

BACKGROUND

Sandy Bales and Kate Kuper had collaborated on other movement and visual art lessons prior to this project. Sandy had long been interested in different methods of looking, seeing and experiencing art (Hannaford 1995). She has taught Aesthetic Scanning, Visual Thinking Strategies, and Feldman's models of critical analysis to all age levels (Feldman, 1987,1996). On many occasions Sandy had observed grade school students using body shapes and expression to visualize creating and interpreting art and was anxious to try a kinesthetic approach to teaching art appreciation. Sandy felt that using the body as well as words to interpret works of art would help students retain the art concepts that were taught to them.

For a summer school collaboration, Kate and Sandy taught a class of undergraduate students preparing to become elementary school teachers. Kate modeled movement techniques to teach visual art concepts related to structural and expressive properties of painting, sculpture, and architecture. In hindsight, they thought the value of the kinesthetic approach to understanding art wasn't fully grasped by the students because there were no children present to bring the experience to life.

They decided a more authentic learning situation was necessary in order to give the college students a chance to see how children learn through movement, and to convince them of the efficacy of this educational model. Consequently, the next semester Sandy and Kate teamed up a class of elementary art education majors, ages 18 to 20, with elementary grade students, ages 6 to 9. Each college student had a grade school partner so that two levels of students in the classroom could look at, reflect upon, and make art.

PREPARATION FOR THE AFRICA PROJECT

At their first planning session, Sandy and Kate walked through the galleries in the University of Illinois Krannert Art Museum to decide on a theme for the class. They brainstormed on how they might use ceremonial art from a variety of cultures including Ancient Greece, China, and Africa. They decided to focus on African art and artifacts, specifically West African art, and narrowed the topic to the study of masks.

Sandy knew about the Power and Beauty touring exhibit of African artifacts developed by Jonathan Zilberg and the museum's education department to circulate through the local schools. The theme of the exhibit provided a point of departure, for the words 11 power" and "beauty" helped Sandy, Kate, and Jonathan in seeking, again and again, the ways these ideas were expressed in African art and culture.

They looked at the notion of "power and beauty" in American culture too, in order to help the students make personal connections when the time came.

They wanted to help students understand the spiritual and emotional qualities imbued in the masks which would involve grasping new vocabulary and concepts such as symbolism, exaggeration, and emotion. …

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