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Hand-Eye-Mind Coordination: Reforming Art Education

Several of my WolfBrown colleagues have been working tirelessly to promote the understanding that art education, as well as greater focus on math and science, is critical to the creativity and innovation that drive our economic growth and vitality – in other words, the “creative capital” about which so much is written. I was thus astonished to learn, in attending the annual conference of the National Association of Art Educators (NAEA) a couple of weeks ago, how resistant visual art educators remain to mentoring creative process in the classroom.  Instead, most apparently prefer to teach the fundamentals of art (meaning line, form, and the color wheel), despite efforts to elevate the purpose and standards of arts education as championed in The Qualities of Quality: Excellence in Art Education study, underwritten by the Wallace Fund and the Arts Education Partnership.

And yet, there is hope: both “creativity” and reform are hot topics among the field’s leaders.  I attended a session, for example, in which Kerry Freedman, a professor at Northern Illinois University, and three graduate students described their efforts to craft curricula at the district level. Thanks to their efforts, youngsters will now explore the references at work in “visual culture” and how they influence us in both conscious and unconscious ways.  Julia Marshall, a professor at San Francisco State and my sister, offered a fascinating case study in which high school students “invented” tools to address chronic social or environmental problems about which they are concerned. Julia’s case study, “Thinking Outside and On the Box,” was published in the most recent edition of Art Education.**  They both offer cause for optimism.


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