Multimedia, Curriculum, & Public Art

By Coutts, Glen | Art Education, July 2004 | Go to article overview

Multimedia, Curriculum, & Public Art


Coutts, Glen, Art Education


Most of the art teaching in Scottish secondary (high) schools is classroom based and delivered by specialist teachers of art and design. In primary (elementary) schools, generalist teachers deliver the art and design curriculum. Funding, and sometimes geography, limits the opportunity for artists, designers, or architects to contribute to the education of young people. What can be done to enrich our students' experience and assist the classroom teacher? How can the increasingly important contributions of artists' and public art be explored meaningfully in the classroom? Could recent advances in computing and multimedia be of assistance? A key theme of this article is the potential of multimedia to engage young people, and teachers, in debate about public art for students ages 10-14, at the interface of primary and secondary schools.

Scanning the City, a multimedia CD-ROM (Dougall, Coutts, & Dawes, 1999), presents, as a possible model for replication in other cities, a range of interactive scenarios for young people using stills, video interviews, and text. What the CD-ROM sets out to do is something unique: document the range of public art in the city of Glasgow, Scotland, from traditional commemorative monuments to new and challenging work such as street performance and temporary works. To the writer and his team2, multimedia offers a unique first line of engagement with public art for young people-artwork they might walk past on a daily basis without giving a second thought. The CD-ROM aims to present as wide a range of public art practice as possible. Everything from graffiti and installation work to bronze memorials is included.

Glasgow is a vibrant city-a city that has reinvented itself over the last decade or so. In 1990, it was named as European City of Culture, and more recently as United Kingdom City of Architecture and Design in 1999. In short, Glasgow is a city with a long history of art in public spaces. In several areas of the city, within a relatively short walk, a visitor will come across artworks imbued with a variety of references and meanings. What might this public art mean to young people? Will students in city schools be aware of the different intentions and functions of public art? What is the educational potential of public art?

Multimedia and Curriculum

The curriculum in Scottish schools has, like many countries around the world, been subject to reform. The publication of the National Guidelines for Expressive Arts (SOEID, 1992) marked an attempt, for the first time, to map out a coherent and progressive curriculum of art and design education for ages 5 to 14. Despite being published in 1992, the guidelines have not been extensively revised. Ait and design is grouped in the Expressive Arts area along with music, drama, and physical education. The guidelines advise primary teachers and those teaching the first 2 years of secondary education to design activities and locate learning within three broad attainment outcomes:

* Using materials, techniques, skills and media;

* Expressing feelings, ideas, thoughts and solutions;

* Evaluating and appreciating.

For the specialist secondary teacher of art and design, there is no problem with each of these outcomes or the accompanying programmes of study, but for the generalist teacher in the primary school, the outcomes look daunting, particularly the last of them, Evaluating and Appreciating. What sort of artwork is suitable for study? Where might resources be found and how should the topics be introduced? An additional problem for teachers today is taking young people out of school. Despite the clear advice in guidelines for teachers, a crowded curriculum and increasing bureaucracy act as inhibitors to educational visits to museums, galleries, and artists' studios. There is an increasingly urgent need to look again at the curriculum in art education in the United Kingdom (Atkinson, 1999; Hughes, 1998; Swift & Steers, 1999), and in Scotland in particular (Coutts, 2003; MacDonald, 1999; Robertson, 2003; SOEID, 1998). …

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