Knowledge Mushohwe Art Zone
IN 1949, the American National Art Education Association issued an interesting policy regarding art education. The statement read in part, “Art experiences are essential to the fullest development of all people at all levels of growth. Art is especially well suited to such growth because it encourages freedom of expression. Art classes should be taught with full recognition that art is less a body of subject matter than a developmental activity”
The statement makes it clear that the job of art education, at least in America and at that particular time, was to teach the whole child rather than to try to make an artist out of him.
In Zimbabwe today, just about every primary and secondary school appears to make the same mistake – demoting art into a somewhat therapeutic tool.
Putting it that way regrettably makes art appear to be all too simple and all too much fun.
Art may indeed be fun and soothing that can be enjoyed.
However, it should be viewed as a serious subject with the ability to turn raw talent into an accomplished, finished product.
When a science student is in class, he learns the science trade by practicing as if he were a scientist.
Primary school art class is somewhat different.
Students do not get the chance to practice as an artist.
Instead, he gets to paint with fingers and splash paint all over flat surfaces at the expense of learning methods and techniques in drawing and painting, for example.
Not all science students get to be scientists.
Similarly, not all art students become artists but neglecting basic art principles and elements disadvantages the more serious would-be professional artist.
In addition, because art education appears to be viewed as a ‘joke’ or rather something that schools can do without, it is in prime position to have its working budgets scaled down in times of economic hardships.
It is also unfortunate that many art teachers judge the effectiveness of their teaching in terms of the number of different media they include.
If they are asking students to use charcoal, pencil, water colours, wax and inks for example, they most likely consider that they have succeeded in providing art education to their students.
The more the media they provide, the better they think they are teaching — the more varieties of media their children experience, the better they assume the learning to be.
There may be great value in a variety of media, but the value is now being lost through the ways in which so very many art programmes are organised, and the ways in which so many art teachers use the media at their command.
The student, like the artist, needs some degree of exploration in order to find the medium he enjoys using, because through that medium he is able to formulate ideas of aesthetic significance at his level of development.
This means that the student needs enough time to experiment with one media at a time.
Flooding the student with an array of drawing tools does not in any way improve the capabilities of the student.
He needs to learn to finish many works and to begin even more using one particular medium at a time.
He needs to learn that to enjoy the thrill of creation requires him to shape his own purposes now, not later.
In a certain sense, learning to create in art is no different than learning to create with verbal language.
It is not necessary and it is in fact a hindrance, for children to accumulate a huge amount of vocabulary before they even try to write a story.
Similarly, it may be a hindrance for children to collect knowledge through haphazard experiences with many different media before settling down to the serious business of behaving like artists.
Children use the words at their disposal in order to say what they want to say.
The important thing is that they write about ideas that interest them in story after story.
In art, it is important for them to learn to like a medium and to use it to express their ideas in art work after art work.
For the art teacher, all the media in the catalogue are teaching tools to be used for no other purpose than to teach children how to learn to behave like artists.
This means creating the atmosphere of an artist’s studio in the classroom.
It also means encouraging children to try different media for the primary purpose of discovering the one worth sticking with.
It means using media selectively to help children achieve insights into important ideas and problems in their own work.
It means having many media available for use by a whole class.
But at the same time, it means teaching children how to make individual choices in order for each child to be able to exploit the medium of his choice for the fruits it can provide.