SchoolArts Magazine

MAR 2013

SchoolArts is a national art education magazine committed to promoting excellence, advocacy, and professional support for educators in the visual arts since 1901.

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Editor's Letter W hen I went back to teaching elementary art after a ten-year stint at the university level, I had much to learn about the communities of my school (students, teachers, administrators, and families), other art teachers in the district, and the district itself. Fortunately, my district had an incredibly supportive, helpful, and collaborative community of art teachers who responded to every need. Even though I was the only art teacher at my school, I never felt alone or isolated. We all belong to multiple communities. In Community Art in Action (Davis Publications, 2004), Kristin G. Congdon argues that artistic activities can build community and bind members together, that communities both adhere to tradition and change at the same time, and that what she calls "folklife" or "folklore" is the cultural practice that holds many communities together. Folklife can include traditional shared languages, cultural practices, or understandings, often artistically communicated through play, storytelling, dance, drama, music, and the visual arts. I am especially drawn to the idea of folklife by my love of folk art and its often playful, colorful aspects. I also enjoy seeing different traditional, transitional, and transformative approaches to it. One example of such a playful approach to community is found in contemporary artist Oliver Herring's invention, the TASK party. The best description of a TASK party is found on Herring's website: A designated work area or space, a variety of materials (often recycled such as cardboard, plastic and plastic bags, tape, markers, etc.) and the participation of people who agree to follow two simple, procedural rules: to write down a task on a piece of paper and add it to a designated "TASK pool," and, secondly, to pull a task from that pool and interpret it any which way he or she wants, using whatever is on (or potentially off) stage. When a task is completed, a participant writes a new task, pulls a new task, and so on . . . TASK's open-ended, participatory structure creates almost unlimited opportunities for a group of people to interact with one another and their environment. Follow me on Nancy with artist Oliver Herring at the 2012 NAEA TASK party in New York City. Why Should Art Programs Focus on Community? To promote individual and group mental health. To promote multicultural art education. To recognize and celebrate local customs. To recognize local artists and artworks. To develop active citizenry. To promote the connection between art and life. To understand, celebrate, and build on local history. To interact positively with the environment. To expand on the aesthetic dimensions of one's life. At the National Art Education Association conference last year in New York City, Herring worked with SchoolArts to lead a community of participants through our own version of TASK. We covered the floor in the hotel with paper and set to work using the myriad supplies and materials on hand to allow multiple, engaging interpretations of TASK. (Learn more and see video at arted20.ning.com/group/TASK). Whether you host your own TASK party in your artroom or are inspired by any of the articles featured this month, we hope we have offered some ideas that will help make your communities—and those of your students— inclusive, honored, and respected. Check out my blog at SchoolArtsRoom.com

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