Week in Review: Art in the Classroom


           Friday Dialogue from                

                                      Your Two Favorite Educators 

As Emily and Aubrey look back over the week they use their razor sharp wit to discuss whether or not art belongs in the English classroom.  

1.)  Is there a particular artistic movement that you feel is best associated with literature as a whole?  Impressionism?  Dadaism?  Cubism?Is Aubrey right?

Aubrey: I really like the idea of Impressionism as being indicative of literature.  Up close everything is very purposeful, very tightly constructed. It is distance however that offers perspective, story, overarching purpose and emotional attachment.  Hmmm.  That feels both cliche and deep at the same time.  

What does Emily say?

Emily:  Is it cliche to quote Cher from Clueless and how that girl is a total Monet?  Okay, guess so.  Furthermore, does it make me old that I still know lines to Clueless?  Great American cinema at its finest.  I like your thoughts about Impressionism and agree.  I think that the art has to be abstract but should still be grounded in reality so students can relate the two.  An Abstract Expressionist, like Jackson Pollock, might be interesting to view but would be tough to partner with literature.

2.)  Choose your favorite art museum and explain your reasoning.  

Aubrey: It’s funny.  I can remember at a very young age being dragged around the Detroit Institute of Arts for what seemed like 2-3 three weekends every month.  My mother even has this wonderful photo of my sister sleeping on a bench at the DIA in protest when we were very small.  Now, as an adult I’ve been to any number of art museums but I still love the Detroit Institute of Arts best.   Even as a child I could, to an extent, understand the importance of Diego Rivera’s Detroit Industry Mural.  This is probably because my father always took it upon himself to explain it to us in vast detail.

Emily:  Oh my.  I love stories about your family.  I still need to get my hands on that photo of you with bangs.  Isn’t it funny how our experiences growing up are so centered around our family?  Given your loyalty to the state of Michigan I can just imagine you being raised with a love for images conveying Detroit.  It makes me depressed to think of what the art culture in Detroit is like now with the economic downswing the state has faced.  My favorite museum is probably the Musee d’Orsay.  I remember going to the Louvre when studying abroad and enjoying it but then being blown away by the Musee d’Orsay.  The space, the pieces, the layout.  The entire museum is so amazing.

3.)  A lot of students would argue that they aren’t in an art class and shouldn’t have to learn about art.  My usual response is:  you aren’t learning about art, you are thinking about how it connects to literature.    How would you respond to this complaint?
Aubrey: A lot of my students also argue that they aren’t in history, photography, film, psychology, advertising or speech and debate.  These are the statements of the lazy and ill-informed and I say as much.   I also say, “Reading a ‘text’ means reading everything regardless of format.  You have technology, modern culture and public education to thank for that perspective.  Until we rid ourselves of those three things you’re stuck.” It’s funny.  They’re never quite so quick with a comeback after that one.

Emily:    Right on, sister.  I love your passion.  I’m also thinking we could make a few bucks by putting that on a poster and selling it on etsy.  Teachers would pay at least $4.95 for that if free shipping is involved.

4.)  To what degree is teaching a form of art?  To what degree is bulletin board designing an art?  
Aubrey: Yes it as an art form. But if you ask me to truly define what makes teaching a form of art then I have to contemplate why everything, including the way I drive, is a form of art.  This sounds nightmarishly difficult for me even in the best of  times.  So instead, I will say that without a doubt designing a bulletin board is an art.  An art which I demand my teaching assistant practice since I’m incapable.

Emily:  This is a hard one for me.  I obviously think that teaching is an art form.  It’s something I adamantly believe.  Yet, there are so discussions about teaching
being turned into a science because of the pressures associated with high-stakes testing.  Even now, in Spring, I find myself giving students tutorials on how to get a 12 on the ACT writing.  Also, many critics of the Common Core argue that it is essentially creating a national curriculum and removing the love and creativity that education brings about.  However, I think that even though there might be clearer guidelines, the artform itself exists, which should empower us as creative teachers, not cause us to shirk and use as an excuse.

5.)  Which painting do you think best captures the life of an English teacher and why?

Aubrey: I would like to combine Femme a la Resille, by Picasso, with The Shootings of May 3rd, by Goya, in order to create a super painting wherein the Femme is one of those shot to death on May 3rd.  I feel like that adequately sums up my life.

Emily:  True story.  I think my students see me as the subject in Femme a la Resille, but I feel like the subject being shot in Goya’s painting.  Maybe this is just because the year is winding down, which means the students are winding up.  Ah, Spring.





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