SchoolArts Room

Art 2 Day

By Nancy Walkup, posted on Mar 9, 2016

One of the most personally rewarding parts of being the editor of SchoolArts is that I am constantly learning—learning from art teachers around the globe, learning their ideas and best practices, and learning how they teach about art and artists, especially from a contemporary perspective.

Art 2 Day
Nancy at the world-renown contemporary art exhibition, the Venice Biennale. This photo was taken in 2011 at the American Pavilion of a functional pipe organ ATM that plays music while it dispenses money, created by Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla.

Why, you may ask, should we include contemporary art in schools? As art reflects the times in which it was created, contemporary art may not always be “attractive” in a conventional sense, but it expresses current events, ideas, issues, and concerns of present-day life that are likely to engage students and be meaningful to them. Contemporary art may also use new, emerging technologies that reflect students’ interests.

The Web has been extremely useful regarding contemporary art, providing immediate access to contemporary museum and gallery exhibi- tions, artists’ personal websites, videos, inter- views, and more. Artists’ personal websites also open the possibility of dialogue between artists and students.

How do you go about finding contemporary artists to share with students? How do you choose them? Do you only share work that you like? I encourage you to go outside your comfort zone—you are likely to learn just as much or even more than your students.

What are some valuable resources for contemporary art? Every month SchoolArts has a Looking and Learning feature that is most often based on contemporary art and artists, and includes beginning, intermediate, and advanced activities for students.

One of the best resources for contemporary art is Art21 from PBS. Art:21 is a nonprofit dedicated to engaging audiences with contemporary visual art, inspiring creative thinking and educating students of all ages about today’s artists. One of its most useful features is its artist video series that features conversations with contemporary visual artists (Pre-screen these before sharing them with students).

Websites, blogs, social media pages, and the like abound for contemporary art and ideas. I personally follow Colossal, My Modern Metropolis, Artsy, ArtFix, Hi-Fructose, and Juxtapose. There are plenty of others to discover.

Have you had success introducing contemporary art to your students? Please share your experience with SchoolArts for possible future publication. You can find our writer’s guidelines here.