This new blog endeavor is a way for me to process how, what, when, why and who I teach art history for and about. Sometimes I will use run on sentences and sometimes the connections I am making might take a few moments or an email to ask me what I was thinking. I often write in a stream of consciousness style. If You can deal with that, well then, here we go!
I have many questions, which I hope to incorporate into my teaching, because if I want students to ask questions then modeling that behavior as part of my teaching style is important. I want to demonstrate why curiosity is important and inspire students to go beyond and make their own connections with art history. I mean, if I am tired of it being stuffed into my face, then there’s gotta be a few others out there sick of it too- ya?
It is time to let the Sistine Chapel, The Last Supper, the Mona Lisa and Starry Night rest. There’s no need for those in the art room. Look around, anyone who thinks they are a smarty pants references these art works along with The Thinker, those oh so famous ponds and flowers and the “oh so famous and hip portraits of those forgone to history only to be preserved and valued for their likenesses in golden painted and intricately carved wooden frames”. Let’s talk art history through modern art. To be clear when I reference art history I will be speaking of modern art- because history does not have to be decades, centuries and generations ago. As they say, history is always in the making.
There is too much art history in our world for me to decide what is crucial for each student and their own experience. I will end up deciding and teaching certain things knowing that I am leaving out plenty. How I decide to teach what I teach will depend on what I am reading and seeing being created, as well as, students’ interests. The important part about teaching modern art and is that You as the educator are LISTENING. Listening to the students by asking them questions, listening to their stories to better understand their interests, curiosities and struggles. Listening to sources in the art world from different cultures and perspectives. Put the New York Times down and scour the social medias for artists of all walks of life.
Why do we teach art history through slides and memorization? Can it be a different experience? Can it include that with other ways that connect to the students’ world in a more personable way? Or how do we modernize the old slideshow? Or is there purpose in the good old slideshow? I don’t have all the answers. What do You think? What do Your students think? Have You asked them? Have You read or listened to Dr. Christopher Emdin? He changed my approach of leaving all the pressures of lesson planning on myself and to listen to students. To engage with them and relate the knowledge and skills of my subject area to their lives.
I never much enjoyed art history until I took a course on how to teach art history during school for a Master’s of Education. The professor taught us how to teach art history in fun, engaging and relatable ways. The professor taught us through having us do the lessons and experiencing them ourselves. So simple, so intuitive and yet so on the the next level and game changing. That professor was Craig Farmer, high school students are graced with his teaching every year at Perpich Arts High School in Minnesota. Craig adds creativity to art history. Craig was not afraid to teach us about what was happening here and now. Craig was open to conversations and how to adapt an interest of ours. Craig listened to us, his students.
We must listen. Listening is the most underrated and pushed aside skill of an educator. I mean it makes sense, how many educators of Yours listened to You? Most of us were not taught by educators that listen to us, so we continue the cycle. It is time to break the cycle. It is time to push Your comfort- especially if You expect to push Your students’ comfort zones. I mean, right? C’mon!
Listen to Your students. They have nuggets to teach You. And they can sure push Your comfort zone. What do You know about those creating the different types of art Your students are consuming everyday? What do You know about the designers of the brands they admire? What do You know about the studios and creatives kicking out the content they are are consuming? What do You know about their culture and the art that celebrates it?
Isn’t there a little something or other that says “seek first to understand”? Seek first to understand to help build connections. Then You have their trust as You begin to expand their experience to other connections. So, LISTEN UP 🙂