To bring in multiple perspectives for this month’s issue on teaching with contemporary art, I asked our SchoolArts contributing editors to offer their thoughts about why students should engage with contemporary art. Read my Editor’s Letter to see what they shared.
Nancy at the Venice Biennale in Italy, several years ago, pointing out where she found her name.
Contemporary art provides students with the ability to see work where the message can shine louder than the aesthetic. It shows how artists have depth, purpose, and meaning. Visual elements combined with conceptual ideas bring current trends and ideas into the forefront and demand that the viewer is actively engaged and often a part of the work itself. Through these means, students can see themselves in the work, reflective in nature but true to the artist’s intentions.
Highlighting contemporary art and artists in our school communities provides opportunities for students to make connections to personal experiences. It allows educators and students alike to gain insight, ask questions and promote curiosity in their learning. It brings about a cultural dialog that concerns the larger context of our world. Contemporary art allows us to celebrate and reflect on our cultural values and helps to preserve the many different communities that make up our art world.
Students should engage in contemporary art because the topics explored, researched, and investigated by artists are currently happening in the world in which they live. As a result, it is important to have those difficult discussions that are free of any obstacle or barrier that would prevent students from voicing their opinions, thoughts, solutions, and concerns. We live in a contemporary world. Shouldn’t our curriculum reflect that?
Teaching contemporary art gets to what is currently relevant both in subject matter and media approaches. Contemporary art is geared towards students’ engagement in personal investigations that lead to essential questions. The importance of ideation is more apparent in contemporary art, and students must investigate their own process rather than developing a preconceived notion or a predictable end product. Students have a real chance to find their own creative voice, and by being exposed to artists working today, multiple media options are opened to them.
In This Issue
At the early childhood level, in “Fit for Service” (p. 20), Sue Liedke describes how her students created artworks for the display of food inspired by contemporary artists.
In “Thinking Like Contemporary Artists” (p. 36), elementary art teacher Megan Jell shares how her students explored the processes of two contemporary artists.
In “Borrowed Photos” (p. 29), middle-school art teacher Rena Winton describes how her students created mixed-media collages inspired by the work of Mark Bradford.
And in “Postmodern Portraits” (p. 17), high-school art teacher Trish Klenow shows how her students work within contemporary art practices.
How can your students engage with contemporary art?
Art teachers share exciting assignments inspired by the work of contemporary artists such as Jihoon Ha, Susan Strazzella, Mark Bradford, Jeff Sonhouse, Susan Rothenberg, Arturo Herrera, and more. Students borrow photos from one another to create meaningful compositions, use clay to make elevated serving pieces, incorporate postmodern principles into mixed-media self-portraits, and much more.