Saturday @ NAEA

The conference kicked into high gear on Saturday, with an opening general session and the opening of the exhibitors’ area. Over the course of the day I met several people I’ve only known virtually up until now, which was a treat. I also made it through the exhibitors’ area, where there were the usual make-and-take set-ups and crowds around booths where various tools and materials were being demonstrated (or given away).

Two Saturday sessions rose to the top for me, one by Kristin Farr from KQED Public Broadcasting in San Francisco and the other by the always provocative and entertaining Olivia Gude. Here are some of my takeaways from both sessions.

Kristin is an arts educator who works at KQED developing media resources and curricular materials for arts education professionals. She began her 25-minute session by sharing the KQED Education Web page, where you’ll find links to podcasts, lesson plans, resources for integrating digital media into the classroom, and more.

Kristin also talked about two art programs produced by KQED: Spark, a weekly television series about San Francisco Bay Area artists and arts organizations, and Gallery Crawl, a monthly video tour of Northern California’s galleries. Both are available on iTunes.

Kristin played a short remix video of clips from the Spark series that featured three bi-cultural artists talking about their work. She briefly mentioned an interesting idea about using a documentary series like Sparks to inspire students to document their own work. She also suggested that making art work is only half the equation. Sharing and talking about the work is the other half. Finally, she proposed that showing videos/podcasts like those from the Sparks series can serve two purposes in the classroom: (1) to promote cultural competency; and (2) to serve as springboards for projects.

The other Saturday session that I’m glad I didn’t miss was Olivia Gude’s talk titled “Meaningful Making, New School Art Styles.” I knew that this wasn’t going to be a typical conference session when I walked in and saw flashing on the screen in big, bold letters “WARNING! WARNING! You may need to change your curriculum” and “Don’t stay for this session unless you are prepared to consider whether ALL of your curriculum projects engage students in making meaning through meaningful making.”

Gude began her talk by giving a nod to Arthur Efland and his 1776 seminal article on the “school art style,” in which he distinguished between the type of art kids make in school art classes as opposed to the art kids make and encounter outside of the classroom. Although I once had my graduate students read this article, it’s not made it into my reading list lately. But, I’ll be putting it back on there in the Fall.

While sitting in Gude’s session was thought-provoking it also was a little frustrating for me, at first. She tosses out little jewels (which I’ll call “Gudeisms”) in rapid-fire succession and my attempts at jotting them all down failed. Here are some that I did get:

  • Because something [a student’s art project] looks meaningful, doesn’t mean it is meaningful.
  • We don’t take seriously that youth have something to say.
  • We [postmodern art teachers] are bricoleurs and eclectic (i.e., we get ideas from a lot of sources, past and present).
  • What are the underlying values being taught by your projects?
  • Consider what’s worth keeping [in your curriculum], and what needs to be discarded.
  • When students are not introduced to new [and rich] image-making techniques, they resort to familiar, hackneyed image-making techniques.
  • Art projects are the building blocks of the curriculum.
  • A good project is an open forum in which meaning can be made.

After a while, rather than trying to keep up with my note-taking, I simply took out my camera and snapped pictures of Gude’s comments that were displayed on the screen. They reminded me of Jenny Holzer’s truisms:

As I sat there absorbing what I could, I realized that while Gude fills her talks with lots of quotable statements and offers numerous strategies and examples of projects for applying her ideas and methods in the art classroom (see her Spiral site), it’s really the overriding message that she began her session with that is most critical to take away here:

Are you prepared to consider whether ALL of your curriculum projects engage students in making meaning through meaningful making.

Thanks to Kristin and Olivia for filling my mind. Now, I’m off to find breakfast and day three.