Saturday, May 2, 2015

A Poet Ponders Teaching Art Appreciation

One of the challenges of being an administrator at my school:  I'd like to have a wide pool of potential instructors, but because I have so few classes to offer, I can't keep people employed.  After 6 months of not teaching, faculty are removed from the roster, and if I need them later, I have to go through the hiring process again, which is cumbersome.

And thus, I don't have a pool of instructors beyond those who teach for us already.

Ordinarily, that's fine.  But I do shudder at the thought of someone getting sick or getting a better offer or any other kind of life event that would be so compelling that they'd leave the class half-taught or I'd get to the first day to find a class unstaffed.

Worst case scenario:  I could teach the class.  Well, I could teach most of the classes in my department.  I'd have trouble with Physics.  The others might take a lot of scrambling on my part, but I could teach them. 

Lately, I've been thinking about Art Appreciation.  The students who would be taking the class in an upcoming start would not be students going on to Graphic Design or Animation.  Most of them will be Culinary students.  If I had to teach Art Appreciation, how would I do it?

Yesterday, during a conversation with a graphic designer colleague friend at school, we came up with such good ideas that I want to record them here, just in case they're useful to someone else, and so that I remember them later.

I would not want to teach the course the way I was taught it, as an Art History overview course with lots of slides.  That would require far too much scrambling on my part.  Plus, I think there are more interesting approaches.

My Art Appreciation class would combine techniques:  field trips, guest lectures, and hands-on activities.  The class objectives direct the class to cover a variety of types of 2D and 3D art; luckily, I know a wide variety of those kinds of artists.

I'd want to begin by discussing how we define art and who decides what makes art great.  Early on, I'd want to take a field trip to a museum.  Then I'd divide the class so that each day, we'd be exploring a different aspect of art.  We'd talk about the history of painting, I'd hope to have a guest lecture by a painter, and we'd do some painting.  For sculpture, I'd talk about both traditional sculpture and assemblage; I see a simple exercise with clay for that day too.  I think collaging could make an interesting session.  We have filmmakers on staff; I'd love to talk about film for a day or too.

And then I'd end by talking about the broader definition of art and what we'll be studying 100 years from now.

I think this approach would work, plus I think it would be more interesting than a traditional, here's art from prehistory to present, approach.  I think it would foster an appreciation of art in a much vaster sense of that word.

It all began as a trouble shooting, contingency session, and now I find myself intrigued--and wondering what other types of courses could use a fresh approach.

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