'What's the point of art class?
The answer probably depends on the teacher. As part of a three person department that represents different philosophical viewpoints and goals I realized that it's very important for me to let my kids know what my educational values are.
So I started my new classes with a question:
What is good art?
"Good" is such a weak-kneed, watered down term for an opinion, in my estimation. I hear "good" used in the context of art and what art should be all the time from students. Is it good, they ask, often wondering if it's realistic enough or if it's finished enough or if I like it.
"Good" is problematic, but it's the word I most often hear, so we spent the first part of the first class unpacking it. I asked each table group to make a mindmap of their thinking about what defines good art. The responses (see above and below) were diverse and thoughtful, defining "good" anywhere from aesthetically pleasing, by stylistic/content preferences or by ability to provoke thought and emotion.
During this discussion I realized something important; I had been operating under the misconception that many of my students were defining "good" as representational. Based on their responses I realized this was obviously wrong. Maybe, I realized, "good" meant what they thought I wanted from them.
Next I shared some of the art I personally enjoy, pictured below. I briefly talked about the personal connection that I have to each one and how they'd been impactful to me. They saw that "good" for me could be a lot of different things.
Then I ended the discussion by telling my students that what I want most for them to do during their time with me is to make the art that they want to make, whatever that is.
My job, I said, is to help and support you in achieving your artistic goals.
Then gave them each a 6x8 paper and asked them to fill it. They did!
This lesson felt like a really positive start in a discussion that needs to be ongoing, a discussion where I'm absolutely clear about my goals as a teacher and I listen to the goals my students have. It makes sense that this needs to happen because my kids have had many different visual arts teachers with a range of goals. Some of those teachers are far away in the elementary school past while other are right down the hall. I can't control differences in philosophy but I can make sure I'm clear with students about the how and why of mine.
I'm interested in creating a student student centered space for my high school students through choice and abundant opportunity for self expression. I'm also a writer for SchoolArts co-author of The Open Art Room.