Why art education and public engagement?

Courtesy of www.jorgelucero.com

Excerpt of talk given at UIUC Office of Public Engagement Colloquium, March 18, 2015

“… So why art education and public engagement?

Art education is often thought of in the context of K-12 classroom teaching, but we might also think about art education as a public pedagogy. In other words, art education occurs in other publics, including the school, such as online, at home, on the streets, in community centers, or in shopping malls.

Art education is a vibrant place for conversation about public engagement, although it’s not without its challenges. Art, for example, has often been credited, not unproblematically, with its civilizing potential — to make people better, more esteemed citizens through engagement with “high culture.” And it is often assumed that art making and teaching art is inherently beneficial, particularly when taught to marginalized and/or excluded populations.

Both assumptions can get us into trouble.

Nonetheless, in the art education program at Illinois, we consider how art and art making gives us permission to try at least, perhaps only momentarily, to make ourselves anew, to make the world anew, and to think about old problems in new ways and to create new problems in new ways.

As we engage in creative problem solving and creative making of problems, we play with ways to arrange forms and ideas and ourselves as social beings. I think this image from Professor Lucero’s classroom provides a useful illustration (see above); our students here consider how to play with patterns emerging from locker faces — a form normally associated with institutionalized settings that suppress individual and creative expression.

When we combine this art making with education, we are invited to think how both become enmeshed in our ethical and civic commitments: perhaps how we might reduce suffering, redress injustice, advance the common good, and imagine common goods. These are the conversations we are having at Illinois when we think about art education as public engagement…”