Friday, March 30, 2012

How Not to Teach Art

In the NYTimes today, a review of Draw it With Your Eyes Closed, a book about teaching art.

Apparently this is a compilation of terrible art assignments that various art teachers thought were a good idea. I admit I was momentarily intrigued by "Redesign the human genitals so that they might be more equitable", but I wouldn't want to do that assignment, nor do I think it teaches art. Mechanical engineering, maybe, but art?

There’s a lot of (legitimate) pushback to the notion that art can be taught, or that assignments do anything except promote subservience and callow grade grubbing.

While I agree with the observation about the effects of assignments, I believe a great deal of art can and should be taught; namely the basic skills, such as drawing, perspective, color mixing, etc. Heck, one of the most useful things I ever learned from a painting teacher was how to clean my brushes! Art history is well worth teaching too. The part that can't be taught is the creative spark, and art teachers should step carefully and try not to extinguish it.

The editors note that “many of the anti-assignments collected in this book use the slippery logic of ‘I command you to disobey me’ and other infamous tricks of the oracle.”

Hmm ... this reminds me of Jessica Lahey and her attempt to make deep connections with her students by ordering them to write revealing personal essays, graded by her.

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