Art is a valuable, functioning, and integral part of our culture. As a teacher, I take every opportunity to learn: seeking, creating, and re-evaluating when necessary and I aim for my students to do just this in their artistic journey as well. At present, there are three core beliefs about teaching art that hold true for me. These beliefs are rooted in my own educational experience as an art student but have solidified in my actual teaching experience.

The three “C’s”, or core beliefs that create the foundation of my teaching are:

  • Creative Process: Nurturing the delicate balance of structure and open interpretation for every student in every studio project.
  • Community: The art studio classroom as a learning community where every student is valued as an active contributor.
  • Connection: The visual arts as a means of connecting to other subjects, to people, and to global issues.

The Creative Process
The topic for my M.Ed thesis was on how to best nurture the creative process in students. One purpose of art is to create a dialogue between artwork and viewer. It is imperative that students are solving the creative problem before them in their unique personal way and asking themselves what they want to communicate through the work. As a teacher, I realize the importance of providing students with instruction on how to use visual media and techniques while leaving space for individual experimentation. This balance of structure and creativity involves multiple layers depending on the project, including theme, inspiration, planning and process. I provide a boundary to work within, usually through a theme they must address and with beginning artists, a specific media. In various design firms, it is stated that creative constraints tend to push creativity outputs. Creative constraints are are especially relevant in real life projects and allow class projects to simulate this. Every student comes into class with their own unique perspective and I believe it is empowering for them to be able to choreograph this onto a visual format.

The second core belief in my teaching is the importance of setting up a learning community from the moment the students walk into the art studio door on the first day of school. I want the students to feel safe, respected and that their presence is valued in the class. I also want them to know that they are part of the learning process not only for themselves, but for their peers. I start the year off with group learning activities so students begin to talk to one another and build trust. Our first projects in class not only set up foundational skills for the specific art class, but allow students to share themselves throughout the process as well as the outcome. Collaborative art projects are embedded in curricula so students learn how to work within a team and creatively problem solve together. I am more of a facilitator rather than a teacher in the art classroom.  Through regular studio critiques in class and online, I encourage students to share and receive constructive feedback. Students have voiced to me time and time again how much they appreciate the learning and sharing taking place in the classroom and how it spurs them to further refine their ideas and process. The idea of community also transcends the classroom walls with collaborative projects involving other classes within the school as well as other schools. I challenge my students to answer–how can we give back to the world through art? And moreover, how can collaborative art instill a sense of community and belonging?

Connection is my third core belief in teaching art. Art connects us to culture, values, ideas, and to other individuals. Art itself is a visual language, meant to connect the viewer to an experience, mood and message. Learning about art as a means for communicating ideas is an important way students can learn to create, learn from others, cooperate, and collaborate—all skills beneficial throughout their education as well as for their personal and professional life in the future. Art is naturally a multidisciplinary subject and students are regularly introduced to contemporary artists who successfully incorporate other academic fields into their work. Technology facilitates our connections, making the richness of our world more accessible.

In conclusion, these three principles form the basis of my core beliefs of art teaching. I recognize that my students will go on to pursue a variety of professions, but my hope is for every single student to leave class with a deeper appreciation for the arts. An aesthetic awareness of the visual is a fundamental asset and will serve them in other professions but most importantly, contribute to their ability to better understand the world they live in.

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