Your digital native students are immersed and engaged in visual culture in every aspect of their lives through their computers, digital devices, television, video games, and more. Developing visual and digital literacy—learning to interpret and understand the visual messages they are receiving—is incredibly important for them. We hope the lessons in this issue will inspire your students to share powerful visual messages.
This contemporary Russian nesting doll sculpture by Kasia Polkowska can be found at the Mystic Valley Sculpture Park near Mosca, Colorado.
Video games, web design, animation, comics, film and video, television, fine art, folk art, performance art, advertising, apparel design, body art, and other forms of visual production—what do they have in common? When I first started teaching, we called this popular culture, but the term more appropriate today is visual culture.
Visual culture is an interdisciplinary concept that is visual and multisensory and often overlaps with the realms of technology, aesthetics, and contemporary art and life. Anything in our current lives that communicates through visual images can be considered visual culture. Visual literacy is a close relation of visual culture, as it is concerned with interpreting and understanding the messages received through visual images.
The safety movie on KLM Royal Dutch Airlines during my flight to Amsterdam last summer was an entertaining and whimsical example of visual culture. It was created with more than a thousand hand-painted clay tiles that were filmed as stop-motion animation. It paid homage to the Dutch tradition of hand-painted blue and white tiles while recognizing the artists who made it. You can watch the making of it on YouTube at bit.ly/KLMFlightSafety.
Why Teach Visual Culture?
Your digital native students are immersed and engaged in visual culture in every aspect of their lives through their computers, digital devices, television, video games, and more. Developing visual and digital literacy—learning to interpret and understand the visual messages they are receiving—is incredibly important for them.
Terry Barrett, in “Cut and Paste: Interpreting Visual Culture” (Art Education, March 2003) proposes that it is “immensely important that we interpret the images and designed objects with which we live. Images and objects present opinions as if they were truth, reinforce attitudes, and confirm or deny beliefs and values. If the messages carried by visual culture are not interpreted, we will be unwittingly buying, wearing, promoting, and otherwise consuming opinions with which we may or may not agree.”
In This Issue
Our studio lessons this month include “Froebel’s Gifts” (page 30) from Ruth Byrne, which focuses on the importance of developing visual literacy and vocabulary in young students.
In “Hello Comics” (page 20) by Rama Hughes, elementary students create comics to introduce themselves, communicating their names and three things they want to share.
In “Surf’s Up” (page 18), middle-school teacher Jessica Provow details a surfboard design collaboration between her students and a local surf shop.
At the high-school level, “Oodles of Doodles” (page 15) by John Zilewicz shares imaginative fantasy-based drawings from his students.
We hope the lessons in this issue will inspire your students to share powerful visual messages.
Art teachers encourage students to develop visual and digital literacy skills. Young students learn about Froebel’s Gifts and participate in a series of scaffolded lessons, elementary students explore the concept of unity in art-making and photograph compositional designs, middle-school students use surprising materials to construct hyperrealistic food items, and high-school students create imaginative Doodle Art inspired compositions.