The Return of Visual Culture (Why Not?)

By Carpenter, B. Stephen, II | Art Education, November 2005 | Go to article overview

The Return of Visual Culture (Why Not?)


Carpenter, B. Stephen, II, Art Education


In the March 2003 issue of Art Education, editor Pat Villeneuve asked, "WHY visual culture art education? Why not?" (2003, p. 5). More than 2 years later, these questions are still important to consider beyond their apparently rhetorical tone.

This issue revisits visual culture. But unlike the previous issue, this time, the authors did not respond to a call for submissions. Their collective concern for visual culture with respect to the field of art education suggests that we still have much to talk about, and much to ask, on the subject. The present "theme issue" on visual culture came about because of an undercurrent in the field that seems to resonate with most teachers, students, researchers and others who have been paying attention to what is going on in art classrooms, museums, art centers, and other educational and social contexts.

I have heard some people call visual culture in art education a "movement." Others label it an approach, a pedagogical stance, or a curriculum. Still others point out that visual culture may not have a single, distinct definition. That is, visual culture may in fact comprise three distinct but interrelated concepts or areas of inquiry: various ideas related to its roles in, implications for, and effects on our lives; the objects, events, sites, and experiences that fall into this category of classification; and a curriculum concerned with ways in which this content could be taught, interpreted, and learned (Tavin, 2003). All three concepts are addressed in this issue. Most of the authors approach visual culture from a perspective replete with theory and with the intention to offer meaningful interpretations that inform practice. Also important are the roles of looking to the past to see more clearly the present and future. In short, these authors reflect on the meanings, roles, and implications, of visual culture in art education.

This issue should inspire readers to consider this collection of viewpoints as a starting point for conscious deliberation and debate about visual culture. Not all of these authors share the same views about visual culture or art education. Many directly critique the philosophies and practices of other art educators, scholars, and philosophers, and I anticipate several "Letters to the Editor" in response to this issue. but, different viewpoints do not necessarily have to exist in opposition. The current discussions about the purpose of and place for visual culture within art education at this time instigates scholars, veteran educators, and novice art teachers to carefully examine their goals, messages, methods.

Graeme Chalmers takes a look back to the 1960s and quotes several scholars such as Vincent Lanier, June King McFee, and Corita Kent, all of whom made early contributions to the ongoing discussions of visual culture in art education. J. Ulbricht looks back to the self-initiated comic book drawings of young J.C. Holz through a recent interview in which both remember the child artist, his superheroes, and an article about his work that appeared in Art Education more than 30 years ago. In partnership with Ulbricht's discussion, Brent Wilson-the author of the first J.C. Holz article-also looks back at the comics of HoIz, his past research on children's self-initiated drawing activities, and his current thoughts on art education and visual culture. …

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