SchoolArts Magazine

DEC 2014

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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B ack when I taught middle school, I had a student who went far beyond my expecta - tions with the way he expressed meaning through his artwork. At the time, my students were making simple two-dimensional house shapes with doors that could open and close. The idea was that when the doors were closed, they showed the outside of a structure; when they were open, they showed the inside. Each student deter - mined the subject and meaning of his or he r house. Some of the structures I remember most include a rainforest scene and a football field, but this boy's exterior structure was a dark and forebod- ing prison. He had even constructed a three-dimensional working paper lock. His structure opened to reveal an empty prison cell, with the impli- cation that the prisoner had escaped. This student had a physical disability and rarely spoke up in class, but the meaning I took from his artwork was that he wanted to or was able to escape any "prison" he was in. I have never forgotten this student and his bravery in expressing his deep feelings through this artwork. This student came to mind while I was reading the chapter on "Express" in Studio Thinking 2: The Real Benefits of Visual Arts Education (Teachers Col - lege Press, 2013). The focus here is on f inding meaning in the expression of feelings, concepts, and ideas through art. This chapter presents the best rea - sons why art teachers can and should go f ar beyond teaching the elements of art and principles of design. It also aligns nicely with the new Visual Arts Standard of Connecting: Relating artistic ideas and art with personal meaning and external context. Studio Thinking 2 suggests that the devel- opment of skill and the expression of personal m eaning should go hand-in-hand, as "what hits you first when you look at a work of art is not its technique, but its evocative properties." What can art teachers do to keep meaning at the center of the art-making process? They can develop assign - Visit SchoolArtsRoom.com Follow me on Editor's Letter ments that simultaneously address meaning and feeling as well as skill. They can help students identify what they personally want to express. They can teach their students how to use the ele - ments of art and principles of design and skills o f media and technique to explore that meaning. They can give critiques that focus just as much on meaning as on skill. Any of these approaches can help you better understand and more mean - ingfully engage your students in art-making . The Berlin Wall is covered with visual expressions of peoples' reactions to the fall of the wall. Nancy is shown here with pieces of the wall in Dallas, Texas.

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