Editor's Letter: Compassion

posted on Dec 1, 2020

Has there ever been a time in your memory when compassion and kindness were more needed? What does it mean to have compassion? Compassion is active. To have compassion is to show kindness and empathy to others. To have compassion is to recognize the suffering of others and then taking action to help.

Nancy peeking around Robert Indiana’s Love sculpture at Crystal Bridges.

But how can we best encourage compassion in our students? One significant resource is Anti-Racist Art Teachers, who have a both a website and a Facebook group. Here you can learn why it is more important to be anti-racist than non-racist. (You can learn more about them on page 8.) Eleven years ago, in August/September 2010, we published our first issue with the theme of Compassion.


Looking over it, I came across a list of questions written by Eldon Katter, former SchoolArts editor and art educator extraordinaire. I was fascinated at how his questions for teachers are fully applicable today, especially when considering what you teach:

  • Do you teach art in context so that an artwork, whether already existing or in the process of being created, is seen in relation to social and emotional consequences as well as aesthetic qualities?
  • Do art studio experiences allow students an opportunity to be mindful of the cultural realities that surround them?
  • Do art history and criticism experiences allow students an opportunity to identify with the cultures that gave rise to artworks?
  • Do you incorporate references to general history or provide a historical frame of reference for students’ encounters with art?
  • Do you enrich the study of art with the frequent use of stories, narratives, biographies, autobiographies, and journals?
  • Do you remind students to think about art as the story of artists whose actions, beliefs, concerns, decisions, and struggles help to shape the world?
  • Do you stress the importance of creativity and the role of individual artists in establishing or furthering new norms?
  • Do you focus on human commonalities when you introduce students to the art of a wide range of cultural groups?
  • Do you call attention to the ways that artists can make a difference in how people think about social injustices and suffering in the world?
  • Do you encourage geographic literacy and enable students to understand how people, the arts they create, and the places they inhabit are intertwined and influence each other?


What questions would you add to this list?


View this article in the digital edition.