Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Problem Statement (draft) and Concept Map

For my research focus this semester, I decided on art/education and religion, as first discussed last post. Religion is a topic that many people try to avoid in public discourse, and especially in public schools, myself included.  Similar to many teachers of K-16 education, I was cautious in approaching religious subject matter for fear of not representing the religion correctly, offending students, parents, and administrators, and superficially discussing or even worse- stereotyping important tenements within the selected religion.  Even as an art teacher in a Catholic school (a setting I had been in twice in two different states), I didn't delve deeply into art made for religious purposes. When it finally dawned on me that I could include religious subject matter in my K-6 art curriculum, I stuck to Christian imagery made during the Renaissance by the Italian masters.

It wasn't until I was teaching art appreciation at the college level that I needed to address art from world religions in my lectures in depth and on a consistent basis. How could I not include artwork made for religious purposes or that included religious iconography? So much artwork made during all eras and historical periods and across all cultures was made with religious intentions. But my own educational background did not prepare me for teaching even the basics of world religions. I researched different religions as much as I could in preparation for discussing them with my large lecture classes. I tried to be as matter-of-fact and knowledgeable about the iconography of each religion, but I still felt uncomfortable in doing so for the reasons stated above. Due to the post 9/11 climate, Islam in particular was a difficult subject to approach. I had no strategies in discussing such an important yet touchy subject.

Last year, in researching the artwork of Morocco and Tunisia for my Fulbright-Hays curriculum project, I found the term "Islamic Art" was repeatedly defined in numerous sources as any artwork made in an Islamic country whether it was made for religious purposes or not. What about contemporary art? Secular art? Artwork made by Jewish artists or Christian artists within those countries? Artwork made by non-native artists? It is a problematic definition. Also problematic is addressing Islamic art as a subject in K-12 schools, and I was writing my curriculum project for potential use in elementary, junior high, and high school art classrooms. How could I properly address the meaning and intention of the artwork in Morocco and Tunisia without misrepresenting or generalizing a religion that continues to be considered controversial? In my research I came across the American Academy of Religion Guidelines for Teaching about Religion in K-12 Public Schools in the United States and found it helpful in addressing religion as a topic. During the spring 2012 semester, I included these guidelines as required reading in one of my art education classes prior to introducing my curriculum project Patterns of Complexity: Islamic Art of Morocco and Tunisia.

In further developing a research focus for this current semester, I first scanned numerous articles and resources on how art education and religion intersected. Despite the importance and prevalence of religious iconography in art and its subsequent pedagogical inclusion, I found that there are limited resources for this topic. This lack of scholarly sources is noted in Barrett et al. (2006) (Spirituality and art education is a more common topic. While spirituality does intersect with religion, it is separate.) Considering the religious tensions and conflicts today, it makes it even more relevant and necessary to include religious art in the art curriculum, not only so students learn more about the meaning or intentions of the artwork but also so they become religiously literate, something that the AAR advocates for in its guidelines.


My Concept Map for my topic:
The overall concept map "Religion and [spirituality] in Art/Education"































Map detail of Curriculum Benefits, Strategies, Rationale, and Problems




From the map, I will focus my research statement on specific curriculum concerns.

Research statement #1
The purpose of this concept analysis study is to understand how artwork containing religious iconography and subject matter is used in public K-12 schools in the United States. I will act as participant-observer to explore the difficulty in using, discussing, and analyzing artwork with a religious focus. 

Research statement #2
The purpose of this case study is to explore contributing factors in how eight art educators in K-12 classrooms in both public and private schools in State College include art images they perceive as having religious content in their curriculum. I will act as participant-observer these eight teachers in conducting interviews, observing lessons in their classrooms, and analyzing reflective journal writings.




God, the Taboo Topic of Art Education

Barrett, Terry;Blackson, Valora;Daiello, Vicki;Goffos, Megan The Journal of Social Theory in Art Education; 2006; 26; ProQuest Social Sciences Premium Collection pg. 58



Sunday, September 9, 2012

Another Inspired Consideration

The interior dome in St. Peter's, Vatican City
In thinking about where some of my interests intersect, the idea of spirituality and religion in art and art education kept popping into my head. I am not necessarily a religious person, but religion has certainly been a large part of my life. I was raised Lutheran and went to a Lutheran high school. My family is fairly active in the Lutheran church, and my aunt and uncle were Lutheran school teachers. I taught at three different Catholic elementary schools. Much (all?) of the artwork of the Renaissance and Baroque that I studied in Italy was made for religious purposes. Teaching art appreciation for ten years has given me a great overview of the impact of religion on art through different cultures and traditions.

View of Minaret in Fes
Last year, I traveled with sixteen post-secondary educators to Morocco and Tunisia as part of a Fulbright Hays program focused on the religious diversity of the Maghreb. We visited religious institutions such as mosques, churches, and synagogues, and attended lectures on Judaism and Islam. Surprisingly, in the six weeks we were in the two countries, religious art and architecture were not a focus of the curriculum. I wrote a blog (my first one)-  Patterns of Complexity -  that relates to this experience. I wrote a curriculum project (a requirement of the trip) also entitled Patterns of Complexity: The Art and Design of Morocco and Tunisia that includes links to a 200 slide PowerPoint and to a number of two-page visual handouts on architecture and studio arts. I also have a photostream on Flickr of over a thousand of my favorite images from the trip. These travels were energizing, eye-opening, and transformative.

For me, a culture's greatest religious expression is in the visual arts. Narrative paintings and reliefs have taught many believers in a variety of religions for thousands of years. Many of the iconic buildings in history were built for religious purposes. Once the modern era began, religious artwork and architecture were overshadowed by the secular. However, some modern and contemporary artists have included, have guided by, or have pointedly rejected religious or spiritual practices, such as Rothko's Chapel in Houston, Kandinsky's book Concerning the Spiritual in Art, and the collaborative work by Roberto Sifuentes and Guillermo Gomez-Pena in Temple of Confessions.

Regardless of religious affiliation or current practices, each individual is guided by belief systems which may be associated with spirituality. I am fascinated by how this manifests in art, education, and practice. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Discern a concern



 For A ED 502 Research in Art Education, we had to refer to a “stinging memory” that had a profound effect on our lives and/or teaching. We then had to convey what that memory was to the class without explaining it narratively, such as acting out or performing this general memory. I had a hard time with this. While I am a teacher and am used to being on the classroom stage, I am not a performer otherwise. Plus, I couldn’t even choose one memory that stood out to me. Upon reflection, I think I have figured out why.

A brief intermission of blissfully unaware self-reflection
I grew up in a middle class, blue-collar family in a Chicago suburb. My family was very supportive and molded my strong work ethic. I didn’t feel that there were limitations on me, but I also wasn’t aware of all of the possibilities and opportunities that were out there. I usually tried the best I could with what was presented in front of me, but I didn’t challenge myself or push myself to be an exceptionally high achiever. I settled for being good at being average because I didn’t know any better. Advanced opportunities seemed to be for the rich, the lucky, or those in the know. And I was none of those.

There were certainly disappointments in my life that wounded me, but no specific memories that stung. In reflecting on my childhood and the lack of these types of memories, I realized that any time something negative would happen in my childhood, I felt that I deserved it. Why? Because I thought I could have tried harder or because I thought that someone was better. Or if I did succeed at something, I didn’t attribute it to my achievements or hard work; it was because the applicant pool was small. It wasn’t until high school that I have a first biting memory in which a close friend ran against me for art club president. I was more interested and qualified to be president, but she was more popular and of course won. That stung because I finally realized I was deserving of more.

My current problem
While one of my fellow classmates was performing her memory during the first class, I immediately thought of a recent confrontation that really stung, especially since it was with a colleague that was also a friend. Basically, it was an incident involving the power struggle of art education with another area in the department of Art and Design. I am normally an agreeable person and would comply with the request (or was it a demand?), but I was deeply hurt by this request, both for me personally and for my students.  I was so tired of having art education be degraded and seen as dispensable. It seems like a petty problem, but it was just one event in a series of more frequently occurring instances in which art education is ignored, not respected, or even shunned. Art Education is generally undervalued as a discipline, and resources are taken away because it is often seen a frill or a fringe subject, even within its home disciple of the arts. Maybe the issue was always there, but I was ignorant to the situation and settled for the meager respect and resources Art Education was given. My position at the university was as a lecturer, which only reinforced this feeling of being undervalued.  It wasn’t until I realized that Art Education was deserving that I started getting impassioned about it. (Being on a state art education organization’s board does wonders for bringing about a sense of urgency in advocacy.)

When I began writing this blog entry, I started thinking first of my own experience with the perception of art education and the lack of respect for my field with former university colleagues in fine arts and the design areas. (I should mention that not all of my colleagues treated art education this way. Many were wonderfully supportive.) It seems almost cannibalistic to degrade art education and its students since art education helps to populate the fine arts classes. Without art education students, sections of fine arts classes would be canceled. Plus, how do the art and design faculty think that there are even art students enrolled in the school to begin with? It was most likely because K-12 art teachers inspired and influenced their students to continue with post-secondary study of the arts. And as a member of the College Art Association, I also see the inequalities within the different arts disciplines.  Art Education is not well represented in CAA. For instance, in CAA graduate student fellowships, only MFA students and PhD students in art history are able to apply. Art Education is not eligible. Nor is art education represented well in conference sessions.

Then I began thinking how K-12 art education programs are received. Budget cuts in K-12 education are pervasive nationwide. Unfortunately, one of the first areas to be cut is art education along with its performing arts counterpart of music education. Teacher education in K-12 programs is also changing as a response to state changes in licensure. For example, in Indiana, it was proposed that anyone could become an art teacher with a little bit of college and by passing an exam. No art education classes (or even studio art classes) needed.

From the K-12 art education program, I expanded my thoughts to the public perception and reception of the arts in general. Due to the current financial state of the country, there have been major budget cuts everywhere, especially in visual arts organizations, such as NEA and art museums, and in performing arts organizations (for example, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra is currently facing severe budget cuts that may require firing some of their musicians and substantially reducing pay and programming). Cultural opportunities are diminished and are replaced with mediocrity.  

Is it just the United States that has this problem where the arts are undervalued? What are the international perceptions on art education? I was in Fes, Morocco’s art capital, last year and visited a school for learning the traditional arts of Morocco, Le Centre de Formation et de Qualification dans les Metiers de l’Artisanat (The Center of Training and Qualifications in the Fields of Handicraft). The school prides itself in its focus on craftsmanship and focuses on career development and marketability of its graduates.  As translated from French in their brochure to English using an on-line translator, their goal is to “modernize an industry that has to fight constantly against the archaic clich├ęs.” According to this goal, it seems that art education in Morocco also struggles to gain respect.

Questions I have for further research include:
What is the perception of art education within the arts, within K-12 education, and within the United States in general? What can be done to change public opinion that the arts are viable? Where is art education a priority? What cultures value the arts and the education of the arts? Advocacy seems to be an important key, but to what extent do advocacy efforts work?

Art Education is undervalued, underappreciated, and is the underdog, even within the umbrella of the arts. How can this be changed? 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Re-search, Re-think, Re-interpret, Re-engage


So what is research?
Early in my schooling, I used to think that research was strictly going to the library, finding books or maybe journal articles on a particular topic, and writing a summary of what I read. Topics were usually not particularly interesting as they were assigned topics or had a very narrow window for selection.  I saw it as a static, rather passive task that needed to be completed as quickly as possible. Research was something to dread.

My idea of research has since changed. Research is based upon curiosity, interests, and questions. Research can take place by examining the written word, but it can also be done through observation, dialog, and experimentation. Research may lead to conclusions, or it may generate a whole new set of questions to answer. Research is investigating, interpreting, and analyzing. Research is about exploration and discovery. Research is about building connections and linking big ideas. Research is thinking actively, not passively receiving. Research is documenting. Research is dynamic and engaging. Research should be systematic, ethical, and trustworthy. Research should be rooted in meaningful questions and should have meaningful outcomes or results. Research is knowledge, and knowledge is power (a good life lesson learned from Schoolhouse Rock).

As an emerging researcher, I will seek out answers to questions not yet fully developed. I have many interests that are floating around right now. What topic(s) will be good for me to explore? That right now is my burning question. I've been such a generalist for years that I am interested in many things.

I am interested in:
  • ·      How art can be integrated across the curriculum
  • ·      The attitudes of pre-service elementary teachers toward art
  • ·      The resistance or apprehension of learning about art
  • ·      Art criticism, analysis, and writing
  • ·      Pedagogy and museum practice
  • ·      Art pedagogy in different cultures
  • ·      Incorporating art history into the curriculum in a meaningful way
  • ·      Children’s art and literature
  • ·      Traveling, travel guides, and how a traveler experiences a new cultural place
  • ·      Cartography, maps, and geography
  • ·      The influence of Italian art, from the Ancient Romans though the Renaissance
  • ·      How art appreciation textbooks have changed over the last few decades
  • ·      Pedagogy and architecture
  • ·      The influence of Froebel on Frank Lloyd Wright
  • ·      Islamic art, especially art of North Africa
  • ·      Art made for and in a religious context
  • ·      The spirituality of art
  • ·      Collections and collecting; Wunderkammer as a teaching tool
  • ·      Books and Bookmaking
  • ·      Printmaking
  • ·      Patterns- design, history, influence, and geometry
  • ·      Jewelry making, especially incorporating natural materials
  • ·      World War II and its effect on art
  • ·      Overcoming art education stereotypes
  • ·      And…and…and… (I may even throw Deleuze in here, once I read more of his work)



Monday, September 3, 2012

Google my way through life


Who was in that movie?
How far away is New York?
When does the concert start?
Where is a good restaurant in that area?

I have questions such as these all the time. If I can’t find the answers in the deep recesses of my mind, I can use a search engine such as Google on my laptop or handy iPhone.  Within moments, I have the answers to all of my questions. Most of them, anyway.  When someone tells you to “look it up,” a search engine on the Internet is the first place you may go. No longer is the set of encyclopedias or paper-based dictionary the go-to place for answers.

For sites I frequent, bookmarking is my preferred way of returning easily to the site. Pinterest has gained in popularity, replacing a boring bookmark with a splashy graphic on its website board. I’m personally not a fan of Pinterest since it seems to dilute the creative juices by making it entirely too easy to repin someone else’s interests, replacing the already semi-easy search. Along the same idea, Facebook has made it easy to share someone else’s post, link, photo, or video with some of these going viral without thought to its place of origin or credibility.

Items are searched, re-posted, and re-pinned all the time. But is it re-search? What does it mean to research, and how is it different than searching? Are we searching again for the answer? Is it for the same answer or do we expect a different one?

This blog will explore what it means to be an emerging researcher. I am now the engine to search the answers, or to perhaps ask new ones to which there may be no answers.  My tools will be my trusty Macbook, the PSU library, my own personal library, the Zotero Research Bibliography, and my ever-present iPhone will help in a pinch. And Google, of course, will continue to be my helping hand.