Thursday, 21 May 2015

Connecting Visual Arts to World Issues

The concept of personalized learning is likely most applicable to the visual arts when students are taught to see better, to envision, to persist, to be playful and learn from mistakes, and to make and justify critical judgments. Art teacher Colleen Petch shares how, in the senior visual arts program at Greenwood, students are provided with a tremendous amount of choice and are consistently challenged to problem-solve, persevere, be resilient and to find a personal connection to their work.

Recently, in Grade 11 Visual Arts class, students inquired about the correct technical approach to paint an acrylic portrait. My response was, "Well, that depends...on your comfort level with acrylic paint, your level of experience, how you want the viewer to feel about this person, what style of painting you appreciate, if you want to work on blocking the form or defining specific details first, how many tones of one colour you want to use, what your intended final product might look like, etc." Each student requires a different personalized discussion with the teacher and spends time developing an individual plan to approach creative assignments. One-on-one meetings and discussions are common during each period.

Grade 12 Visual Arts students recently completed their first independent large-scale work for their final exhibition, based on their year's personal theme. They were required to
  • create a large-scale work of art based on a current social, environmental, global or political issue of their choice;
  • take a stance on this personal interest and then express this stance visually; and
  • connect this issue to their personal theme.
The students were challenged to find an interesting way to connect the issue and their personal theme visually, which then became the subject matter for a creation in a medium of their choice.

The process involved individual and group process work, such as:
  • An evaluation of each student's technical strengths, weaknesses and goals
  • Class critiques in which students expressed issues of interest, as well as their personal and thematic connection to the issue
  • An exploration of materials, subject matter, techniques and approaches.
The final works are thought-provoking and technically impressive. Each represents aspects of the students' identities and creativity, local and global and concerns, and a superb commitment to their artistic studies. As the students reflected:

"I am proud of the message I represented and how I have portrayed it. My main goal was not just to represent the issue, but to [also] evoke guilt and responsibility for the issue, which I feel I have accomplished."

"The one main thing that I have learned is that, once I go deeper into [the] thought [process] of making a more creative piece, I can make it look amazing. I have also learned that I can paint and do very well with issues and pictures that I am passionate about."

"I scrapped a piece the day before the final critique and started a new one. This new image captivated my thoughts and with the help of espresso coffee, I painted throughout the night to meet the deadline. Switching my idea was worth it in the end."







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