SchoolArts Room

The Power of Transformation

By Nancy Walkup, posted on Mar 7, 2011

If my recollections are correct, I am pretty sure that the new student teacher I am getting this week will be my 25th.

I know he will be my 20th in my current district. Where did all that time go? Yet, when I think back, the transformations in art education over the 28 years I have been teaching have been remarkable and profound.

The first three years I taught in Louisiana, our school was not air-conditioned (later I would have to turn the window air-conditioner off so my students could hear me!). My art supplies consisted mostly of recycled and donated materials. I tried, not very successfully, to use the filmstrips and a movie projector I discovered in the library (though the films and filmstrips were already faded and brittle by the time I got my hands on them).

There were very few print reproductions of artworks available at the time anywhere. The only prints I found in my classroom were black and white photographic art prints from Davis Publications (SchoolArts’ publisher); the first ones I remember buying myself were the Getty Center’s MAPS study print sets. I must confess I subscribed to both SchoolArts and Arts & Activities (I needed all the help I could get!). I also joined NAEA.

Through these publications and my graduate program, I learned about DBAE – discipline-based art education – including art history, art criticism, and aesthetics along with art production. I was happy to find out there was a name for my approach to teaching (it just seemed sensible to me).

Now we have at our disposal state and national standards for the visual arts and a plethora of contemporary theoretical approaches (in no particular order) including (but not limited to) critical thinking, visual culture, interdisciplinary connections, cross-curricular, multiculturalism, design thinking, community-based, postmodernism, relational aesthetics, choice-based, and technology-based. Nowadays we have a wealth of visual resources available to us, both in print and online.

Yet the most thoughtful transformation of all may be that of our teaching, if we are willing to take risks and experiment along with our students with the understanding that artmaking is about meaning. That idea can change your life and the lives of your students.