SchoolArts Magazine

October 2016

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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S o here's a funny story: Last year, I dedicated a good portion of the articles in this column to exploring how technological skills are becoming fundamental to a comprehensive art education curricu- lum. At the same time, I have been helping to plan a STEAM curriculum at our new school that will involve integrated art and engineering. So, as you can imagine, this sort of thing has been on my mind a lot. Newfound Phenomenon Meanwhile, at home, my six-year-old daughter is constantly asking me to play Minecraft with her. For those of you unfamiliar with this breakout game phenomenon, it is basically a survival game in which you build with blocks to defend yourself from the monsters that appear at night. However, she doesn't care about the monsters, or surviving the game. Instead, like many kids, she plays in the game's creative mode, which allows her to build limitless struc- tures and literally construct the world around her. Immersive Worlds The attraction of Minecraft to young players might not be obvious at first; the graphics are deceptively simple and look outdated by today's stan- dards. However, after experiencing the creativity involved in gameplay, the attraction to players and artists is obvious. Faced with an open land- scape that is literally made of blocks, players are able to easily manipulate and transform their environment. The result: they are able to bring their own vision and imagination to the immersive feel of a video game. The blocks come in various colors and pat- terns, and constructions don't have to conform to arbitrary rules such as gravity. Materials to Mine Most of the materials you can build with Minecraft are, unsurprisingly, materials for which you would mine. You can build with stone and other minerals, but you can also build with wood, glass, or even wool or snow. There is also a special mineral called Surreal Craft "redstone" which in different forms can create or transmit power within the game. This gives players the opportunity to design machines and introduces them to some very basic approaches to circuitry. A STEAM-based Environment If it's not yet apparent why I think this is a funny story, I'll explain: I've spent the last year developing the possibili - ties of a STEAM-based curriculum, and without giving it much thought, I've been playing with my daughter in a STEAM-based environment. There is certainly some irony in my missing that point. The main- stream art world has certainly begun to recognize video games as a legiti- mate form of art. In 2012, the Smith- sonian debuted their Art of Video Games exhibition, and the Museum of Modern Art introduced fourteen video games to its permanent collec- tion the following year. Surreal Craft Minecraft has made a name for itself in the art world. "Tate Worlds: Art Reimagined for Minecraft" is a series of environments inspired by works within the Tate collection and can be found at www.tate.org. uk/about/projects/tate-worlds-art- reimagined-minecraft. To experience these immersive worlds, you'll need to download Minecraft and then the map from the Tate website. Instructions will explain how to import the map into your program. Start with the Sur - real-Craft map. Although the images are constrained within your screen, it's quite a different kind of aesthetic experience to travel through an art - work. Not only do you have a sense of exploring a new world, you have to wonder where this kind of immersive artwork can take us next. David Gran teaches high school art and film classes at the Shanghai American School in China and is the author of The Carrot Revolution, a blog about 21st cen- tury art education. dsgran@yahoo.com It is quite a different kind of aesthetic experience to travel through an artwork. 28 OCTOBER 2016 SchoolArts David Gran M E D I A @ r + s

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