Table of Contents


Aaron D. Knochel
The Pennsylvania State University, USA

Kimberly Powell
The Pennsylvania State University, USA

Christopher Schulte
The Pennsylvania State University, USA

Citation: Knochel, A. D., Powell, K., Schulte, C. (2019). Introduction. Transdisciplinary Inquiry, Practice, and Possibilities in Art Education. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Libraries Open Publishing. DOI: 10.26209/arted50-00

In 1965, Penn State hosted a ten-day seminar which has since became a benchmark in academic art education. The 1965 seminar influenced profoundly the study and practice of art education in the United States as it brought together artists, art historians, critics, art educators, curriculum experts, and psychologists. Considered a landmark in the field, the 1965 seminar shifted the focus of art education from psychologically grounded, developmental approaches to teaching and researching to a more self-conscious stance as part of the humanities and interdisciplinary scholarship. In April of 2016, the faculty of the Art Education program in the Penn State School of Visual Arts hosted a conference at the 50-year anniversary of the 1965 Seminar to commemorate and critically reflect on the continuing influence of this historical event to the contemporary scholarship of art education. The conference was made possible through funding from the Institute for the Arts & Humanities at Penn State, The College of Arts & Architecture, the Penn State School of Visual Arts, and the Art Education Program. The conference was also made possible by a generous contribution from Eric D. Brown ’49, in memory of his favorite art educator, his beloved wife Grace Brown.

The Penn State Seminar in Art Education: 50 Years of Transdisciplinary Inquiry, Practice, and Possibilities (April 1-3, 2016) convened a group of prominent and rising scholars who represent the field of art education from other institutions as well as colleagues from across the Penn State campus in related areas, for featured papers, roundtable presentations, and breakout sessions. The conference was positioned among a series of events and projects sponsored by the Art Education Program at Penn State to commemorate the 1965 Seminar in Art Education for Research and Curriculum Development. The conference invited scholars to revisit visions of art education established a half century ago and to consider emerging issues and directions in the field in the contemporary moment in 2016. Presenters were invited to submit to a conference proceedings to help document the range of presentations, posters, panels, and invited talks that occurred at The Penn State Seminar @50: Transdisciplinary Inquiry, Practice, and Possibilities. The Proceedings Editing Committee kindly offers the following articles and transcripts representative of the addresses and events that occurred during the conference but is not comprehensive as to the full offering at the conference. Manuscripts are organized as to their chronological order as it occurred in the conference.

The faculty of the Art Education Program at Penn State would also like to dedicate this collection to the legacy of Edward L. Mattil who passed away December 19, 2017 very near the conclusion of the work of this edited volume. Ed spent a lifetime advocating for the arts and developing innovative arts education scholarship at Penn State and elsewhere not least of which was serving as project director for the 1965 Seminar. We echo Ed’s request that those who wish to honor his memory should do so by performing an act of kindness.

Aaron D. Knochel, Kimberly Powell, and Christopher Schulte

Dr. Aaron D. Knochel is Associate Professor of Art Education at Penn State School of Visual Arts and an affiliated faculty at the Art & Design Research Incubator (ADRI) in the College of Arts & Architecture at The Pennsylvania State University. Generally, he tries to live up to his @artisteducator twitter bio: artist‐teacher‐visual culture researcher‐digital media flaneur‐novice hacker and pixel stacker.

Dr. Kimberly Powell holds a dual appointment in the College of Education and the College of Arts and Architecture. She is an affiliate faculty member in Music Education and Asian Studies and affiliate with Arts and Design Research Incubator (ADRI) and Pennsylvania Center for Folkore. A curriculum theorist and educational anthropologist, her research interests include the arts as intercultural practices of identity and social inquiry, embodiment, public pedagogy, sensory and arts‐based research methodologies. Her current research projects include StoryWalks, an exploration into walking methodology as an artful practice of placemaking, identity, and social inquiry.

Dr. Chris Schulte is Assistant Professor of Art Education and Early Childhood Education at Penn State University, where he also serves as the undergraduate coordinator of the Art Education program and as Associate Director of Research for the Center for Pedagogy in Arts and Design. He is the editor of Ethics and Research with Young Children: New Perspectives (Bloomsbury, 2019), co‐editor of Communities of Practice: Art, Play, and Aesthetics in Early Childhood (Springer, 2018), and editor of the International Journal of Education & the Arts. Grounded in critical, poststructuralist, and posthuman frameworks and informed by a childhood studies approach, Christopher’s research focuses on the artistic, play‐based and aesthetic practices of young children.

Interpreting a Seminar for Research and Curriculum Development in Art Education: Context and Significance 

Felix Rodriguez
The Pennsylvania State University, USA

Lindsay L. Esola
The Pennsylvania State University, USA

Yang Deng
The Pennsylvania State University, USA

Mary Ann Stankiewicz
The Pennsylvania State University, USA

Citation: Rodriguez, F., Esola, L., Deng, Y., & Stankiewicz, M.A. (2019). Interpreting a seminar for research and curriculum development in art education: Context and significance. Transdisciplinary Inquiry, Practice, and Possibilities in Art Education. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Libraries Open Publishing. DOI: 10.26209/arted50-01

Abstract: This historical examination of the 1965 Penn State Seminar for Research and Curriculum Development in Art Education aims to situate conversations that took place half a century ago within a larger fabric of social, political and cultural events. In this essay, the authors’ goal is to facilitate more critical and transparent interpretations of the significance of the 1965 Seminar for art education today. We address two historical issues that provide a foundational understanding of the Seminar. First, we examine the context of the Seminar. Second, we analyze the significance of the Penn State Seminar based on perceptions of art educators during the following decades regarding its success and outcomes. The sponsors and planners of the Seminar wanted to redefine the foundation of art education in the United States. This top-down strategy entailed developing a series of best practices for art education that could then be passed down to schoolteachers. An unusual level of federal support for research in the arts, the discourse of educational reform in response to the advances of the Soviet space program, and the research culture started by European immigrants not only created the conditions that allowed the Seminar to happen, but also shaped conversations during the Seminar. The Penn State Seminar can be seen as a landmark in the historical development of art education because it provided a conceptual foundation for further innovation in the field, including the aesthetic education and the discipline-based art education movements. The Seminar pushed forward the idea of creating a comprehensive, coherent approach to teaching art.

Keywords: 1965 Penn State Seminar, Red Book, Curriculum Development, Art Education Research, History of Art Education.


Reflecting on the conversations that took place at the 1965 Penn State Seminar for Research and Curriculum Development in Art Education (Mattil, 1966) provides an opportunity for well-established and emerging scholars to envision new possibilities for art education and to propose new questions and concerns. Our historical examination of this event is pertinent because positioning conversations that took place half a century ago within their larger social and historical context allows us to be more critical and transparent regarding possible meanings of the 1965 Seminar.

In this paper, we address two historical issues that provide a foundational understanding of the Seminar. First, we examine the context of the Seminar. We begin with questions such as: What was the Penn State Seminar? Why did it happen? What were its objectives? Second, we analyze the significance of the Penn State Seminar based on perceptions art educators had in the following decades regarding its success and major outcomes. Other questions that guided our inquiry are: Did the Penn State Seminar change art education? How? Did the Seminar achieve its intended goals? Why/How is the Seminar meaningful to us today?


The Penn State Seminar was a ten-day event funded by the Arts and Humanities Program of the United States Office of Education. It was held from August 30th to September 9th at the Nittany Lion Inn, University Park. The Seminar gathered leading voices in art education and related disciplines to create a new philosophical foundation for art education (Marché, 2002). It focused on five major areas of concern: the philosophical [why], the sociological [to whom], content [what], educational-psychological [teaching-learning], and curriculum (Ecker, 1997; Efland, 1984; Mattil, 1966). The Seminar had the following format: Outside experts were asked to write formal papers following guidelines from the planning committee. Then an art education scholar would present a paper that responded to the outside expert’s presentation. Small group discussions followed each expert’s paper, with individual summary statements given during the final sessions (Zahner, 1997). The outcomes of the Seminar spread among other higher education institutions through published proceedings, known as the Red Book.

The planning committee, comprised of Manuel Barkan, Kenneth R. Beittel, David W. Ecker, Elliot W. Eisner, Jerome J. Hausman, and Edward L. Mattil, selected twenty-eight well-known art educators and ten outside experts. Sixteen of the participants—the ten outside experts and six art educators—were invited to present formal papers. The participants were nationally recognized scholars who were asked to address the implications of their respective fields for foundational areas of art education (McFee, 1984). Francis Villemain (philosopher) was paired with David Ecker (art educator) and focused on philosophic inquiry in art education. Joshua Taylor (art historian), Harold Rosenberg (art critic), Allan Kaprow (artist), and Jerome Hausman (art educator) focused on art history, criticism and production. Melvin Tumin (sociologist) and June King McFee (art educator) focused on social change and social differences in relation to teaching and learning art. Dale Harris (psychologist) and Kenneth Beittel (art educator) focused on learning in art (behaviors in art). Elliot Eisner (art educator), Manuel Barkan (art educator), and Asahel Woodruff (educator) focused on examining curriculum or curriculum development. Nathaniel Champlin (philosopher) and Robert Lathrop (psychologist) focused on philosophical inquiry. Arthur Foshay (educator) focused on educational innovation and art education.

Federal agencies sponsoring the Seminar believed that this cluster of professionals, both art educators and outside experts, had enough leverage to produce deep changes in art education at a national level (Hoffa, 1997). The goal of the Department of Education was to convene the best minds in a room to define a single constellation of issues (Zahner, 1997), and agree on the most effective method to reform art education. The Penn State Seminar was intended to lead to consensus among art educators and outside experts.


Three main events created the conditions for the series of Seminars in education and the arts that took place in the mid-sixties, including the Penn State Seminar: reforms in science education motivated by Russia’s space program; allocation of federal funding for research in the arts; and the development of a research tradition led by European immigrants after World War II (Hoffa, 1977).

The Russian launch of Sputnik in 1957 provoked important reforms in science education in the United States. The 1958 National Defense Education Act emphasized the need for improvement in teaching mathematics and science (Efland, 1988). August Heckscher’s (1963) report, The Arts and the National Government, denounced the lack of investment in the arts compared to science and engineering education, leading to financial support for research and development in the arts, including the Penn State Seminar (Hoffa, 1977). The United States government was aware that investment in education and the arts was fundamental to produce ingenuity needed to outsmart the Soviets.

Federal support for research in the arts at the time flowed through two entities: the President’s Science Advisory Committee, and the Arts and Humanities Program of the U.S. Office of Education. The President’s Science Advisory Committee, which played an important role in reforming science education, assumed the task of reforming arts education through its newly created panel for Educational Research and Development (ERD). ERD had more leverage on art conferences that took place prior to the Penn State Seminar. ERD emphasized that reforms in the arts should be modeled after other disciplines, using the expertise of professionals in relevant academic disciplines (Hoffa, 1977).

By the time of the Penn State Seminar, the Arts and Humanities Program of the U.S. Office of Education had more leverage in directing research programs in the arts; nonetheless, the influence of the President’s Science Advisory Panel is evident in the Penn State Seminar’s articulation of art education as a discipline. The Arts and Humanities Program of the U.S. Office of Education, through the advocacy and active work of Kathryn Bloom, funded 17 arts education conferences between October 1964 and November 1966. The Penn State Seminar was not an isolated initiative; it was part of a national program intended to fundamentally change education in the United States.

The emergence of a serious agenda for research and curriculum development in the arts was supported by a research culture initiated by European immigrants who arrived in the U.S. a few decades prior to the 1960s. According to Hoffa (1977), art educators did not have a solid research tradition until after World War II. Hoffa argues that those present at the Seminar were part of a promising second generation of researchers largely trained by Viktor Lowenfeld and other immigrants. This research culture gained traction as more art educators trained in the discipline of rigorous research joined art education programs in major universities.

The federal agencies and art educators attempting to reform art education in the sixties held several assumptions about the field. They believed art education had not been critical enough of its own practice, directly criticizing the apparent loose approach of the free-expression movement. In addition, they believed that American education should become more competitive by bringing the sophistication of academic disciplines to students (Efland, 1987), modeling art education after more rigorous school subjects, and deriving content from the work of artists, art critics, and art historians. Lastly, they wanted reforms in art education to be based on scientific research. Thus, art educators needed to develop a programmatic, national research agenda based on a single constellation of problems (Zahner, 1997).

The sponsors and planners of the Seminar wanted to redefine the foundation of art education in the United States. This top-down strategy entailed developing a series of best practices for art education that could then be passed down to schoolteachers. An unusual level of federal support for research in the arts, the discourse of educational reform in response to the advances of the Soviet space program, and the research culture started by European immigrants not only created the conditions that allowed the Seminar to happen, but also shaped the conversations that took place at the Seminar.

Curriculum Concepts at the Seminar

Several ideas pertaining to curriculum were discussed at the Seminar, including the following: aesthetics should be a core component of art education; art content should be the focus of study; art content should be modeled after the work of artists, art critics, and art historians; art should be studied within its sociocultural context; the art learner should be considered within the context of his own culture and past experiences; art should be taught by people with training in the arts and pedagogy; curriculum should be developed based on the behavior and knowledge of art professionals; and the interdisciplinary nature of art should be considered in research studies and curriculum activities (Hamblen, 1997).[1]

In the relatively broad spectrum of curriculum concepts discussed during the Seminar, the most pervasive idea was conceptualizing art education as a discipline (Efland, 1984). Debates on whether art education should be framed as a discipline in own right, as opposed to incorporating pieces of knowledge from different fields, had been published prior to the Penn State Seminar (Barkan, 1962; Eisner, 1965). For Efland, the resonance of Jerome Bruner’s theories in the work of Barkan at the Seminar was fundamental to convene art educators around the idea that art education has its own structure. Barkan cited Bruner’s claim that curriculum should be developed within a discipline, and proposed that art was a discipline equal to math and science, and should be taught in a similar manner (Efland, 1984).

Moreover, articulating art education as a discipline was a matter of status, as Efland explains: “In this new environment the arts either had to become disciplines themselves or lose their legitimacy” (Efland, 1988 p. 265). Although the concept of art education as a discipline and aesthetic education did not originate at the Penn State Seminar, the Seminar provided a comprehensive venue to discuss these ideas; thus, curriculum movements grounded in those tenets have claimed the Penn State Seminar as a stepping stone (Greer, 1984).

Significance of the 1965 Penn State Seminar

Determining the significance of the Penn State Seminar is not easy because of the different ways in which a historical event could be considered relevant. Tracing the significance of the Seminar, at least in a quantitative sense, would require identifying a series of measurable indicators demonstrating that the Seminar had a practical impact in the field, as well as ruling out other possible causes for those changes. That kind of research goes beyond the scope of this paper. We tackle the idea of significance by analyzing how the art education community, including planners and presenters at the Seminar, thought about the significance of the Seminar in the following years.

Although only five of 21 research proposals that emerged from the Seminar were funded (Murphy & Jones, 1978), some believe the Seminar was successful in stimulating research and more rigorous scholarship in art education (Hoffa, 1997; Stewart, 1986; Madeja, 1968). Dorn describes increased publications and expanding circulation of art education research journals in the years following the Seminar as an outcome of the research culture the Seminar stimulated. He mentions that in the years following the Seminar Studies in Art Education increased from 230 copies twice a year to 2,500.

Nonetheless, with the exception of Hoffa (1970), Dorn (1972), and a few others, art educators seemed almost to ignore the Penn State Seminar until 1984 when the Senior Editor of Studies in Art Education identified the Seminar as “an event that in retrospect seems to have produced noticeable change” for curriculum in the field (Rush, 1984, p. 203). Authors invited to write for that theme issue included: Arthur Efland, whose lead article was subtitled “An Evaluation in Retrospect” (1984); W. Dwaine Greer, Evan J. Kern, Gilbert A. Clark, Vincent Lanier, Ralph A. Smith, David Ecker, Ralph Hoepfner, Elliot W. Eisner, and June King McFee.

From our perspective, these names stand out from other distinguished art educators whose articles were included in that issue because all were working with the Getty Center for Education in the Arts, established in 1983 as one of several operating programs by the J. Paul Getty Trust. According to Rush (1984), Efland and Kern had been commissioned by the Getty to write papers on historical antecedents for discipline-based art education. Greer was identified as Director of the Getty-sponsored Institute for Educators on the Visual Arts in Los Angeles; Hoepfner was a consultant on evaluation for the Getty. Ecker, Eisner, Lanier, McFee, and Smith had all participated in the 1965 Seminar; the Getty had contracted for services from most of these authors.

After being practically forgotten for nearly two decades, the 1965 Penn State Seminar was revived and cast as the major antecedent to Discipline-based Art Education (DBAE), the approach to art teaching and learning the Center wanted to advance as the way to improve the quality and status of American art education. Greer, whose doctorate from Stanford had been completed with Eisner, had written several papers theorizing DBAE (Greer, 1984). Clark and Studies Senior Editor Jean Rush had been consultants for the Los Angeles Institute during its first summer. Efland (1985, 1987, 1988, 1990, 1996) continued to write about the 1965 Seminar as he prepared his 1990 history of art education. Most of his analysis of the Seminar emphasizes the contributions of Manuel Barkan, who had brought Efland onto the Ohio State faculty before his untimely death in 1970.

James Noble Stewart (1986), a doctoral student at Florida State University, conducted oral history interviews with Seminar planners, participants, and observers. Among other questions, Stewart asked each of his informants what they considered the major outcomes of the 1965 Seminar. During the 1980s and 1990s, Penn State hosted a series of three international conferences on the history of art education. The 1965 Seminar was featured at the third of these, planned by Albert Anderson and Paul Bolin (1997). At that History of Art Education Conference, a panel of Seminar planners — Ed Mattil, Harlan Hoffa, Jerome Hausman, and David Ecker — reflected on the context and consequences of the 1965 Penn State Seminar. Ken Beittel gave a separate paper on the Red Book. Ten presenters in eight other presentations analyzed the Seminar in relation to ideologies, policy, and historical significance, or used the Seminar as a jumping-off point for discussions of their own interests.

Stewart’s dissertation (1986), writings from the 1997 history conference, and other scattered writings suggest a range of opinions on the outcomes and success of the Seminar in the following three decades. On one hand, some believed that the Seminar had little direct effect on K-12 art education in the years following the Seminar (Dorn, 1972; Stewart, 1986; Efland, 1984). One possible explanation for this is the fact that government funding was explicitly directed toward research projects and not to schoolteachers’ resources. On the other hand, the Seminar was considered an antecedent to projects such as DBAE that profoundly affected art teaching (Stewart, 1986). Others, like Mattil, interviewed at the 1997 History of Art Education Conference, said that he believed the Seminar was significant, but had no proof.

In terms of curriculum concepts discussed at the Seminar, Efland (1984) and Dorn (1972) believed the Seminar did not represent a significant development of new ideas because concepts such as art education as a discipline and aesthetic education had started to gain currency prior to the Seminar. Other art educators thought that the strong network of people across multiple disciplines fostered by the 1965 Seminar changed the field of art education (Dorn 1972; Efland, 1980; Stewart, 1986). The strongest argument for the significance of the Seminar was that it brought together art educators already recognized as leaders in the field around a set of core problems. As Laura Chapman explained to Stewart: “It was just a wonderful opportunity for a lot of intense thinking by a group of people interested in doing just that” (Stewart, 1986, p. 201).

The Penn State Seminar can be seen as a landmark in the historical development of art education because it provided a conceptual foundation for further innovation in the field, including the aesthetic education and the discipline-based art education movements. The Seminar advanced the idea of creating a comprehensive, coherent approach to teaching art. The significance of the Penn State Seminar could be compared to a teaching act with both a stated and hidden curriculum. The Seminar’s significance should not be evaluated on the intended goals of the planning committee. The goal of developing a single constellation of issues and a centralized national research project that would produce best practices to be passed down to schoolteachers was not accomplished. However, the Seminar gave rise to unintended outcomes, such as professional networking and interdisciplinary conversations, which stimulated more rigorous research and scholarship.


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[1] The use of a male pronoun to refer to the learner is typical of this period, before second wave feminism helped increase awareness of sexist language in art education.

Felix Rodriguez, Lindsay L. Esola, Yang Deng, and Mary Ann Stankiewicz

Felix Rodriguez is a Doctoral student of Art Education with a minor in Latin American Studies at The Pennsylvania State University. He is currently focusing his academic and creative work on issues of art education in Latin America, history of art education, postcolonial theory, and critical pedagogy. Felix’s dissertation, Mapping Contested Identities in Dominican Art Education, has been funded by IUPLR-Mellon Fellowship, the Dominican Studies Institute at CUNY, and the Penn State Alumni Dissertation Award. 

Lindsay Esola is a fourth year Ph.D. Candidate at the Pennsylvania State University. She holds an M.S. in Art Education and a B.A. in Psychology which led her to serve as an art therapist for suicidal youth, a behavioral analyst for brain injured adults and an art educator over the past fifteen years. Her research interest lies in discovering what cultivates creativity, and if creative thinking nurtured within an educational setting can lead to artistic gains.

Yang Deng teaches ART 20 Introduction to Drawing and is pursuing a Ph.D. in Art Education at Penn State’s School of Visual Arts (SoVA). Her four years of inter-practices in the fields of studio art, education and research have inspired her to use visual inquiry methods and methodologies to study international students’ intercultural teaching and learning experiences in the field of art and art education.

Dr. Mary Ann Stankiewicz, Professor Emeritus of Art Education at the Pennsylvania State University, completed degrees at Syracuse University and Ohio State. A former president of the National Art Education Association, she received NAEA’s 2014 National Art Educator award. Developing Visual Arts Education in the United States: Massachusetts Normal Art School and the Normalization of Creativity was published in 2016. Her earlier book, Roots of Art Education Practice, was translated into Korean.

Exploring Arts Based Research and Productive Ambiguity

Rebecca Shipe
Rhode Island College, USA

Citation: Shipe, R. (2019). Exploring arts based research and productive ambiguity. Transdisciplinary Inquiry, Practice, and Possibilities in Art Education. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Libraries Open Publishing. DOI: 10.26209/arted50-02

Abstract: This visual research narrative, presented in a poster format, presents how one teacher/researcher/artist explored the concept of “productive ambiguity,” a term defined as the moment when encountering difference or uncertainty stimulates curiosity, imagination, and consideration of new possibilities or perspectives. This research focuses primarily on how particular instructional strategies and the use of specific art content can promote opportunities for productive ambiguity to occur in an elementary art classroom setting. This traveling artifact has also been used as a site for others to contribute their own visual responses to the ideas represented on the poster.

Keywords: arts-based research, relational aesthetics, aesthetic experiences, self-reflexivity, conflict transformation

This poster presentation asks conference participants to explore two topics that are particularly relevant to contemporary art education: Arts Based Research (ABR) and a concept I refer to as Productive Ambiguity. I define Productive Ambiguity as the ability to transform tensions that disrupt our current understandings into opportunities for personal growth. Influenced primarily by Dewey’s (1934) description of aesthetic experiences and Csikszentmihalyi’s (1990) notion of flow, my current understanding of this concept relates to how ambiguity becomes productive when our encounters with difference stimulate curiosity, imagination, and consideration of new possibilities and perspectives. While incorporating elements of ABR into a multi-methods practitioner inquiry, this poster presents how I discovered specific ways in which Productive Ambiguity related to my role as a teacher, researcher, and artist. More specifically, this visual narrative represents how elements of relational aesthetics and aesthetic experiences promote Productive Ambiguity in an upper elementary classroom environment. Overall, this poster presentation showcases the usefulness of incorporating ABR and productive ambiguity into contemporary art education practice.

Over the past twenty years, arts-based research has been heavily theorized and methodological characteristics are interpreted differently across the field (Barone & Eisner, 2012; Hafeli, 2013; Jongeward, 1997; Milne, 2000; Quinn & Calkin, 2008; Rolling, 2008; Rolling, 2013; Springgay, 2004; Sullivan, 2006; Weber, 2008). I define ABR as a methodology that employs the researcher’s artistic sensibilities and skills to collect, analyze, and present data as well as generate theory. As a prominent topic in contemporary art education discourse, this mode of inquiry highlights how teachers and researchers have braved new ground by challenging conventional ways of defining and constructing knowledge. Similarly, despite public education policies that compromise teacher autonomy, educators have proactively employed other unconventional methodologies such as practitioner inquiry to evaluate their effectiveness (Buffington & McKay, 2013; Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 2009). This poster presentation features how I used ABR to examine the productive ambiguity that emerged within the dynamic spaces between my teacher/researcher/artist roles.

In addition, this visual narrative presents how classroom-based activities such as viewing and responding to works of art with others can promote productive ambiguity. Influenced by scholars’ theoretical interpretations of aesthetic experiences and relational aesthetics (Barrett, 2010; Bourriaud, 2004; Costantino, 2010; Greene, 2001; Illeris, 2010; Illeris & Averdsen, 2011; Irwin & O’Donoghue, 2012; Macintyre Latta & Baer, 2010; Macintyre Latta, 2013), I examined how a small group of fifth graders responded to specific visual content and instructional strategies that aimed to promote productive ambiguity. While addressing themes such as self-reflexivity and conflict transformation, study participants responded to contemporary art and visual culture through written, verbal, and artistic modes of expression.

I encourage others to consider how ABR and the concept of Productive Ambiguity responds to the question: What might become new research methodologies for art education in uncertain educational, political, and international contexts? by taking a closer look and commenting on this visual narrative at and

Figure 1. Creating Productive Ambiguity: A Visual Research Narrative posterFigure 1. Creating Productive Ambiguity: A Visual Research Narrative

Figure 2: Close up of Creating Productive Ambiguity: Top middle detail of What Exactly Is Productive Ambiguity?Figure 2. Detail of What Exactly Is Productive Ambiguity?

Figure 3. Detail of What Instructional Strategies and Content Were Used to Address These Concepts?Figure 3. Detail of What Instructional Strategies and Content Were Used to Address These Concepts?

Figure 4. Detail of I Began Exploring the Question: Where Do I See Productive Ambiguity?Figure 4. Detail of I Began Exploring the Question: Where Do I See Productive Ambiguity?

Figure 5. Detail of Final Reflection: Productive Ambiguity Comes from the Spaces In BetweenFigure 5. Detail of Final Reflection: Productive Ambiguity Comes from the Spaces In Between


Barone, T. & Eisner, E. (2012). Arts based research. Los Angeles: SAGE.

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Bourriaud, N. (2004). Berlin letter about relational aesthetics. In C. Doherty (Ed.), Contemporary art from studio to situation(pp. 43-50). London: Black Dog Publishing.

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Rebecca Shipe

Dr. Becky Shipe, Assistant Professor in Art and Educational Studies at Rhode Island College, received a B.F.A. in Illustration from the Rochester Institute of Technology, Teaching Certification from Arizona State University, and a Master’s Degree and Ph.D. in Art Education from the University of Arizona. After working as a professional illustrator, serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer, and teaching eight years in the Arizona public schools, her current research interests include arts-based research and international collaborations.

Emerging Art Education through Intra-Action within STEAM

Christine Liao
University of North Carolina, Wilmington, USA

Citation: Liao, C. (2019). Emerging art education through intra-action within STEAM. Transdisciplinary Inquiry, Practice, and Possibilities in Art Education. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Libraries Open Publishing. DOI: 10.26209/arted50-03

Abstract: Inspired by Allan Kaprow’s lecture at the 1965 Penn State Art Education seminar, this essay discusses new directions for art education in the context of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) through feminist theorist Karen Barad’s (2007) concept of intra-action, i.e., “the mutual constitution of entangled agencies” (p. 33). In this effort, art education is re/conceptualized as emerging through intra-action with STEAM. Art, art education and STEM are understood to be entangled. I provided examples from art exhibitions focused on STEAM and examples of curriculum practices to explain the intra-actions and possibilities for art education. STEAM curricula that are transdisciplinary in nature constitute the embodiment of these intra-actions and emerging art education.

Keywords: STEAM, Intra-Action, Agential Realism, Transdisciplinary

In response to the 1965 Penn State Art Education’s A Seminar in Art Education for Research and Curriculum Development, especially Allan Kaprow’s lecture “The Creation of Art and the Creation of Art Education” at the seminar, this essay explores STEAM’s (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) potential for art education. In particular, I discuss new ways to re/conceptualize art education and new directions for art education in the 21st century through STEAM. Kaprow (1966) argues that art education does not and should not follow a fixed curriculum. He proposed an experimental art education that emerges through interactions between artists and young students rather than via lesson plans that separate art learning from real artistic experiences. Kaprow’s vision of art education is something without a set of rules or a planned route. In his view, teaching and learning happen in the interacting space between artists and students. The key is that he sees artists as capable of bringing imagination to life:

[I]n the artist’s sense of Being, in his active participation in the life of imagination, he may, as an example to philosophers and particularly as a teacher to young children, exude the power of dreams so directly, that the theory ceases to be a THEORY (and a lesson-plan) and simply exists as a way to be alive. (p. 84)

Inspired by his vision of an unknown space of art education emerging through experimentation, I see the inclusion of STEAM in art education today as offering opportunities for art educators to rethink art education and to move toward realizing and situating Kaprow’s vision. In this conceptual work of re-envisioning art education, I take Kaprow’s conceptualization a step further to see the new possible space of art education as created through the framework of feminist theorist Karen Barad’s theory of agential realism (2007)—a theory that reconceptualizes “reality.” Agential realism recognizes reality as constituted by agencies that intra-act rather than things that precede their interaction.

The theoretical framework proposed here in order to re/conceptualize art, STEM, art education, and STEM education draws on two important concepts, intra-action and phenomena, in Barad’s theory of agential realism. Specifically, Barad’s (2007) concepts of “intra-action,” which refers to “the mutual constitution of entangled agencies” (p. 33), and “phenomena,” which refers to “the inseparability of agentially intra-acting components” (p. 33) are central to my endeavor to understand the implications of STEAM for art education. Through the concept of intra-action, art education is re/configured not as an existing field influenced by other disciplines but as a space that is continuing to emerge through intra-actions. And, through phenomena, art (education) and STEM disciplines are not defined as preexisting intra-actions in STEAM. Instead, art (education) and STEM are understood to be entangled. Barad (2007) refers to her theory as “ethico-onto-epistemology,” thereby acknowledging the entanglement of these three. Therefore, my goal is not to effect any kind of separation between art, art education, STEM, and STEAM, but to recognize the messiness of any attempt to figure out the boundaries of these terms.

I begin by discussing the STEAM phenomena in (art) education in recent years and re/conceptualizing STEAM as phenomena in the sense of Barad’s theory of agential realism. I then introduce the concept of intra-action and provide examples that embody intra-action within STEM through the means of art. These examples provide directions for art education and STEAM curricula. Further, I discuss intra-actions between art education and STEAM based on the understanding that neither of these disciplines and none of the possibilities they express existed before the intra-actions between art and STEM. STEAM curricula that are transdisciplinary in nature constitute the embodiment of these intra-actions. The process of thinking through the concept of phenomena and intra-action is complex, as there is no singular phenomenon or intra-action. Instead, phenomenon and intra-action are ongoing and forever forming each other. Art education is not a single practice. Instead, there are numerous practices formed though intra-actions within art education. I conclude by referring back to the report of the 1965 Penn State Art Education Seminar and Kaprow’s core vision of art education to urge art educators to explore the transdisciplinary spaces generated by the intra-actions within STEAM.

The Coming of STEAM

STEAM is related to the STEM movement in education, itself a much-discussed topic in the pre-K-12, college, and community education contexts in recent years (Angier, 2010). The term STEAM is used in educational contexts to refer to educational approaches and practices designed to encourage students to participate in STEM fields and to thereby develop as innovators capable of competing in the global economy (Eger, 2013; Maeda, 2012; Trilling & Fadel, 2009). Even though there is no consensus on what constitutes effective STEAM education practices, STEAM has been adopted in one version or another by many schools and educators mostly in the US, but also in other countries (Yakman & Lee, 2012). The National Art Education Association (NAEA) issued a position statement in 2014 defining the STEAM approach to education as “the infusion of art and design principles, concepts, and techniques into STEM instruction and learning” (2014, para. 1). The NAEA position statement signals that STEAM is growing in importance in the field of art education where it has the potential to make a far-reaching impact by changing the ways in which art education is understood and practiced.

It is important to understand that although STEM comprises science, technology, engineering, and math, which are considered discrete subjects, I use the term STEM herein as if these subjects constitute one “thing.” Although this approach is not without drawbacks, using the overarching term, STEM, to describe these subjects here aligns with the general discourse of STEM in education (Storksdieck, 2011). The idea of integrating these subjects has been around since the 1990s with the acronym “SMET” used by the National Science Foundation (NSF), which later became STEM (Sanders, 2008). Critics have pointed out that emphasizing STEM serves to endanger liberal arts education (Cohen, 2016; Zakaria, 2015). Others remind us that art is essential to cultivating creativity and, thus, important to include in STEM. STEAM offers the most promising path toward achieving the goals of innovation and economic growth (Maeda, 2012; Trilling & Fadel, 2009). Some advocates for STEAM use the term STEM + Art(s) because STEM is a relatively well-established term (Wynn & Harris, 2012). STEM + Art raises the awareness of “adding” Art to STEM (or the other way around). However, these constructs of STEM and art continue the binary narrative of STEM versus Art.

The term STEAM is being used increasingly in the education field, and also in the art world, as practitioners in the latter context have become aware of the STEAM education movement. Examples of STEAM practices in art can be seen in STEAM, a 2014 exhibition curated by Patricia Miranda at the ArtsWestchester’s Arts Exchange. According to Miranda (2014), “[i]nspired by the STEM to STEAM dialogue in education, this exhibition presents artists using the interdisciplinary concepts of STEM to explore how science, technology and art overlap, interact, and innovate” (p. 6). The exhibition included pieces showing the involvement of artists in scientific disciplines (Hodara, 2014), addressing scientific, technological, and environmental questions and expressing connections between art and STEM. For example, in his work projecting sequences of fractal images onto a sculpture mounted on a wall, Carl Van Brunt “focuses on the imagistic potential of fractals” (Miranda, 2014, p. 32). Another approach to visualizing science can be seen in work by Evan Read who “translates images of the subatomic into digital abstractions” (Miranda, 2014, p. 22). As a way to consider and posit imaginative though incipient solutions to pollution, William Meyer created a transparent backpack with a “complex system of earth microorganisms, chemistry and botany” (Hodara, 2014, para. 7), capable of providing clean air. Several artists questioned “reality in the face of new technology” (Miranda, 2014, p. 9). For example, Scott Fitzgerald’s Isopleth is a large wall projection that interacts with viewers. The title refers to “a line on a map that connects places with similar attributes” (Miranda, 2014, p. 23). The work calls into question what we think of as real and what we think of as virtual spaces. Overall, the exhibition embodied the ideas of STEAM and the connections among the STEAM disciplines. Looking back to Kaprow’s (1966) idea of connecting the art world with school art education, we can see the value of this art exhibition. Kaprow argued that artists would bring “magic” to the classroom. The idea of connecting artists’ STEAM expression to education brings what he considered artist’s “magic” to the discourse of STEAM education. This is a step toward connecting art world and art education.

Intra-Actions between Art and STEM

In order to explore how art and STEM disciplines intra-act, I will explain intra-action in Barad’s framework of agential realism where the concept refers to “the mutual constitution of entangled agencies”:

That is, in contrast to the usual “interaction,” which assumes that there are separate individual agencies that precede their interaction, the notion of intra-action recognizes that distinct agencies do not precede, but rather emerge through, their intra-action. (Barad, 2007, p. 33)


Barad bases her theory on discoveries in quantum physics, particularly Nobel Prize–winning physicist Niels Bohr’s interpretation of quantum physics. She describes Bohr’s theory of quantum physics as philosophy-physics. The defining feature of Bohr’s interpretation—i.e., the understanding that agencies do not preexist the intra-action between them—is based on his view of the “wave-versus-particle nature of light (and matter)” (Barad, 2007, p. 100). Without getting into too much technical detail in regard to this debate in physics, I will simply explain that the two-slit experiment was designed to find the answer. Originally performed by physicist Thomas Young, the experiment was modified by others such as Bohr and Einstein in various ways over time. For Bohr and Einstein, these are gedanken experiments, i.e., thought experiments. However, given recent technological advances, it is possible to perform the two-slit experiment in a lab setting now, and electrons and molecules have been used as input sources to perform the experiment (Barad, 2007). In the experiment, the source, electrons, for example, is sent through two parallel open slits. The nature of the source (i.e., waves or particles) is observed on the screen behind the slits because waves and particles differ in regard to the patterns they create. However, the observation from the experiment is that the electrons (considered to be particles) behave like waves. In other words, the electrons express the nature both of waves and of particles. In order to measure and “catch electrons in the act of behaving like a particle and a wave simultaneously” (p. 104), Bohr modified the apparatus for his version of the experiment. He argued that “if a measurement is made that identifies the electron as a particle, … then the result will be a particle pattern” (p. 104). Based on Bohr’s arguments according to which it is not possible to determine whether electrons are either waves or particles until a measurement has been taken, (in other words, the act of measurement determines the nature of what is measured). Thus, Barad explains that there is no pre-existing agency.

Applying this idea to understanding art and STEM, we can say that neither art nor STEM pre-exists specific intra-actions. Through intra-actions, art and STEM mutually construct what they are known to be. In Barad’s words, the specific intra-action is an “agential cut,” which “enact[s] a resolution within the phenomenon of some inherent ontological indeterminacies to the exclusion of others” (Kleinman, 2012, p. 77). We can think of this agential cut as the disciplinary divides in our schools. If we consider human knowledge as a whole, the public school curriculum in the U.S only teaches selected and separated knowledge for the most part, then there are agential cuts that shape and define the disciplines. The establishment of the Media Arts Standards in the National Core Arts Standards of 2014 is an example of these divides, these agential cuts. The establishment of the standards is a cut that defines media arts and separates and excludes them from visual arts. However, visual arts and media arts intra-act and will continue to define each other.

I will discuss examples that embody intra-action between art and STEM (specifically, biology and ecology science) through artists’ works in the 2013 exhibition Intra-Action: Multispecies Becomings in the Anthropocene, curated by Madeleine Boyd and Eben Kirksey. The purpose of the exhibition, which was held at the MOP Projects gallery in Sydney, Australia, was to explore the

collaborative possibilities of intra-action, a concept that at its core critically challenges the metaphysics of the individual. Embracing a multispecies intra-action conceptual framework enables significant advances in thinking with more-than-human agencies unfettered by long-standing anthropocentric or essentialist categories of animal/human nature/culture/science/art and so on. (Boyd, 2015a, p. 6)

The exhibition specifically concerned multispecies through Barad’s agential realism according to which humans and non-humans contribute equally to intra-actions. The artworks showed examples of multispecies entanglement through intra-action.

In the interactive art project TE+ND Rover Prototype (2013), by Marnia Johnston in collaboration with Corey McGuire, a moving planter-like robot carries plants. The work “explore[s] migratory ecology in an era of climate change. The rovers are robotic fostering environments that care for their own garden of native plants by interacting with participants and actively seeking out light and water” (Johnston, 2012, para. 1). In order to “provoke thought about justice for all species as we question whether a robot should save a plant that humans have labeled a weed,” co-curator Eben Kirksey gathered “weeds and fallen plants from liminal urban zones” (Boyd, 2015b, p. 13). The artwork embodied the intra-actions between humans and plants, environment and species, climate and human. The intra-actions made visible the challenges of species entangled with environment.

Also featured was Trish Adams’s Urban Swarming (2013), a piece that embodies “social-cultural and ecological issues” (para. 2). This work includes footage of aggressive honeybee behavior available for download via QR codes in several inner-city venues. Viewers can download and view the footage with their own city venue as a backdrop. According to Adams, her intention was that

Participants [would] consider the layered relationship between humans and honeybees as they face closely linked issues. The video images of desperate honeybee responses, viewed against the backdrop of the rushing mass of the urban population, scurrying hither and thither created a scenario where both humans and honeybees exhibit mindless—possibly doomed—behaviours. (2013, para. 3)

The artwork shows a connection between species or that they do not preexist agential cuts that separate this (still) entangled being. The presence of scientific concepts (or in the overreaching term used in this essay, STEM) in these artworks shows the connectivity of disciplinary agencies. This art and STEM intra-action provided direction for art education curricula in terms of understanding and communicating complex and intertwined issues through uncovering the inseparability of involved agencies. STEM presented through art magnified the entanglement of the disciplines and the unavoidable movement toward STEAM.

These artworks embody intra-actions whereby art and science “merg[e] and emerg[e] in the ongoing process of becoming” (Boyd, 2015a, p. 9). Constituted by the relations performed though art and science, human and non-human, material and immaterial, the exhibition showed the inseparability of art and STEM. Art cannot be identified through/by the aesthetics of these artworks, and STEM cannot be identified through/by the subjects of each piece. Art and STEM are not separate subjects, but they are STEAM, continuing to intra-act and emerge. By thinking through Barad’s framework, by considering art and STEM as not beginning with separation, we see them as the same phenomena so that new possibilities can be envisioned.

Intra-Actions within STEAM Education

Phenomena in Barad’s agential realism refers to the primary ontological units that constitute reality: “phenomena do not merely mark the epistemological inseparability of ’observer’ and ’observed’; rather, phenomena are the ontological inseparability of agentially intra-acting ’components’” (2003, p. 815). In this framework, art and STEM are not individual “things/subjects.” They are intra-acting “components” of STEAM. STEAM, therefore, the phenomena are enacted by these intra-actions. “[R]eality is not composed of things-in-themselves or things behind phenomena but ’things’-in-phenomena” (Barad, 2003, p. 817), such that STEAM can be re/conceptualized as created by the relations performed though intra-acting between art and STEM. The artworks discussed in the previous section are examples of emerging STEAM. It is important to note that my intention in bringing artist’s art practices involving a scientistic or technological method to the discourse of STEAM is based on Kaprow’s (1966) suggestion to bring artists and their “magic” directly to school art education. The artworks can act as pedagogical directions that involve understanding, evaluating, and solving the challenges facing humans and the environment.

I extend the discussion presented thus far from art and STEM disciplines to art education and STEAM education. Although STEAM can be re/conceptualized as created by the intra-actions between art and STEM, to think through Barad’s agential realism, STEAM is more complex than just the “product” of the intra-actions. STEAM education is the entangled phenomena of art and STEM education and is in the continuing becoming. The intra-actions between art, STEM, and art education are possible because art education is not singular. In reflecting on Kaprow’s (1966) vision of bringing and reflecting what happens in the art world to art education, we need to discover art and STEAM education through intra-actions, or in other words, through STEAM projects similar to those artwork examples discussed herein as practiced by artists and that are transdisciplinary in nature. Transdisciplinarity, according to Nicolescu (1997), is “the unity of knowledge” (para. 4). The difference between multidisciplinarity, interdisciplinarity, and transdisciplinarity is that multidisciplinarity refers to studying several disciplines at the same time (Nicolescu, 2008), and interdisciplinarity “concerns the transfer of methods from one discipline to another” (Nicolescu, 2008, p. 2). However, transdisciplinarity is “at once between the disciplines, across the different disciplines, and beyond all discipline” (Nicolescu, 1997, para. 4). We can see transdisciplinary as an entangled space or phenomenon wherein intra-actions of disciplines, or in the focus of this essay, art and STEM, continue to evolve.

An embodiment of these kinds of intra-actions can be seen in Guyotte, Sochacka, Costantino, Kellam, and Walther’s (2015) transdisciplinary design studio project. They argue that their project points to “STEAM as an opportunity for art students to question the notion of the ’lone artist,’ reflect upon the tension between product and process, and expand disciplinary-based understandings of creative thinking” (p. 2). In this project, students work together on two “design challenges” designed to engage students in social issues. Through intra-actions—i.e., by the students from different fields working together—art education experiences arise from creative collaboration. This experience does not emphasize the individual artist’s agency as traditional art education does. Instead, the intra-action within this STEAM project provided “lines of flight” (Deleuze & Guattari, 1987) for art education to exist beyond the individual artist’s agency.

Another example is the EcoScience + Art initiative led by Changwoo Ahn, which is a collaborative STEAM initiative that is continuing to evolve. One project in this initiative, The Rain Project, was designed to “promote participation and collaboration in the context of ecological literacy and campus sustainability” (Ahn, 2015, p. 4). Students from various disciplines worked together to build a floating wetland over the period of a year in order to address stormwater issues and improve the quality of the water at their campus. One of the students reflected that he had learned to appreciate artistic aesthetics through this project (McDonald, 2015). Thus, art education emerged in this intra-action within STEAM.

Exemplary STEAM projects are in essence transdisciplinary. As Marshall (2014) put it, “[t]ransdisciplinarity … connotes a practice or domain that rises above disciplines and dissolves their boundaries to create a new social and cognitive space” (p. 106). Arriving at transdisciplinary spaces created by STEAM intra-actions, art education is no longer driven by lesson plans or a fixed curriculum separated from the artist’s practices as in Kaprow’s (1966) critique. Instead, art education is constantly changing the boundaries generating the intra-actions that could re/define art education.


If we are going to fail for the most part, can we not fail more interestingly, that is with a little color? We might even succeed a little here and there… —Allan Kaprow (1966, p. 82)

As the seminar director Edward Mattil (1966) in the summary of the 1965 Penn State Art Education Seminar states:

This report, in a way, needs no ending. It began as an invitation to open the whole field of art education for critical examination and re-evaluation with the hope that some promising research and curriculum development directions would be forthcoming. (p. 425)

My conclusion to this essay is also open-ended. In reflecting on the value of applying Barad’s theory in this exercise of reconfiguring directions for art education, I consider that this way of thinking as “urging ’us’ to re-think our ’location’, our ’position’, our ’identity’, our ’subjectivity’, our here-and-now-and-there-and-then, and yet not simply to accept ’phenomena in their ongoing materialization’” (Parsons, 2014, para. 23). That is, art educators can benefit from rethinking the identity of art education through the ongoing intra-action within STEAM. This re/conceptualization of art education as emerging from intra-actions frees the discipline from existing within pre-determined boundaries and enables its “potentiality” (Massumi, 2002).

Kaprow’s vision of art education is something that is continuing to emerge through experimental encountering. He values unexpected possibilities. In rethinking and extending his vision for current and future art education, the STEAM and art education intra-action is something that could create new space and move boundaries.

I have provided examples showing how the intra-action between art and STEM could provide directions for art education. The emerging directions inform art education’s (continuing) movement toward a transdisciplinary space, i.e., a space that cannot be defined because the disciplinary boundaries are constantly evolving or disappearing. Transdisciplinary work is necessary for our era of global challenges and concerns (Nicolescu, 1997). As the agential cuts of individual disciplines continue, it is important to re/configure the boundaries of disciplines. STEAM is an opportunity for art education to do this. I encourage art educators to explore the transdisciplinary spaces generated by the intra-actions within STEAM.


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Christine Liao

Dr. Christine Liao is an Associate Professor at Watson College of Education at University of North Carolina Wilmington. She received her Ph.D. in Art Education with a minor in Science, Technology, and Society from Penn State in 2011. Her research areas include media arts, digital performance, theorizing virtual body and identity, exploring interactions between virtual and real, STEAM, technology integration in art education, and community art. 

Searching for Openings: Institutional Politics and Feminist Pedagogy

Leslie Gates
Millersville University, USA

Citation: Gates, L. (2019). Searching for Openings: Institutional Politics and Feminist Pedagogy. Transdisciplinary Inquiry, Practice, and Possibilities in Art Education. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Libraries Open Publishing. DOI: 10.26209/arted50-04

The work of June King McFee, published in the proceedings of the 1965 Seminar, includes a call for art educators to attend to issues of culture and power in both the field of art education and the society. McFee argued that social problems do not belong only to political scientists and sociologists, but also to art educators. Decades of feminist theory and history demonstrate that one of the central social problems present between the 1965 seminar and this 50th anniversary is the issue of equity related to gender.

A number of art education scholars have attended specifically to issues of gender and sexuality since 1965. Through the National Art Education Association’s Women’s Caucus (established in 1976) and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered Issues Caucus (established in 1996), issues of sexuality and gender are now more formally recognized as issues requiring special attention within art education. McFee’s recommendation that art educators need “greater flexibility in our use of categories,” and “more awareness of the possible alternatives to our assumptions than ever before,” can be applied directly to issues of gender and sexuality both in and outside of art education.

In the time between the 1965 seminar and today, scholars have applied feminist theory to many fields, including education. Feminist pedagogy, a “particular philosophy of and set of practices for classroom-based teaching that is informed by feminist theory and grounded in the principles of feminism,” (Crabtree, Sapp, & Licona, 2009, p. 1), is often enacted through deconstructing hierarchical relationships, creating community, and questioning assumptions. These goals, when applied to education, at times conflict with the policies and expectations of the institution in which I work. This paper presents my personal search for “openings,” inspired by the work of Maxine Greene.

Specifically, this paper critiques the patriarchal characteristics of institutions and presents my search for openings that requires me to negotiate my feminist pedagogy and institutional expectations. This works in attendance to McFee’s recommendation that we “do a great deal of research… as a basis for evaluating what might be possible…”

I share my experiences based on the belief that lived experience is legitimate knowledge through which we can “’test’ the adequacy” of systemic and institutional knowledge/expectations (Smith, 2008, p. 42). Furthermore, formal inquiry into one’s personal experience can function as research: questions can be both found and answered by observing and asking questions about everyday activities (Merriam & Tisdell, 2015). Finally, by considering the contemporary challenges of enacting a feminist pedagogy within the current social and institutional structures, this paper argues that a search for openings becomes a necessary part of enacting a feminist art education pedagogy within any institution.

As a teacher educator working in the field of art education, there are aspects of my practice that seem inherently feminist. For instance, a tenet of feminist pedagogy is engaged, community-based learning. Students in programs of education engage directly with the field and intern in educational communities in various capacities throughout their certification programs. However, many aspects of my position make the practice of a feminist pedagogy more challenging and the conditions do not presuppose a feminist pedagogy. Some of these challenges are overt, and some are far subtler. Feminist pedagogy includes consideration of what is taught as well as how things are taught.

Feminist Pedagogy: How

First, thinking about how things are taught, there are a few challenges that immediately present themselves in educational institutions. Feminists seek to queer power relationships and create non-hierarchical relationships with their students. However, in institutions where feminist educators are required to give grades, have and police published attendance policies, and pre-determine learner outcomes unilaterally, one must search for “openings” that allow for the feminist educator to negotiate “what they believe is best and what they actually manage to practice” (Crabtree, et al, 2009, p. 1). Maxine Greene provided a model for those seeking to find ways forward. Greene wrote,

I am moved to resist walls and barricades, to discover openings somehow, to bring in sight the visions of justice and freedom that occupy me — and to do it without impinging on the dignity, the integrity of the art forms we are working…” (2009, pp. 9–10)

So, how does one go about finding these openings in an institution without impinging on the dignity and integrity of a feminist pedagogy?


The university where I work requires that a professor “establishes his or her own grading policy and states it clearly and in writing at the beginning of the course.” However, this policy does not prevent me from consulting with my students at the beginning of the course to see what they would like the grading policy to be, and turning their ideas in as my official policy. This opening allows me to capitalize on the fact that my students are future teachers, and engage them in a broader, critical conversations about grading practices using prompts such as:

  • Philosophically, why do we assign grades?
  • How are grades helpful and/or harmful?
  • How do you think grades should be determined for this course? Some options to consider:
    • Grade all or some assignments on their final “quality” (as defined by who?)
    • Grade all or some assignments based on students’ effort (measured how?)
    • Grade based on the presence or absence of the committed and required assignments regardless of quality?
    • Give unconditional As, Bs, Cs, Ds, or Fs to all students?
    • Other potential ideas?

Facilitating a conversation about the point of grades and adopting students’ policy as my own helps to queer the power relationship inherent in the teacher/student role and provides my students with the ability to question the assumptions that have surrounded grading practices for most of their educational careers.

Establishing Attendance Policies

The university where I work publishes guidelines about attendance policies and “supports departmental and faculty class attendance policies that are reflective of and consistent with university approved policies.” The list of excused absences from the university lists the traditional reasons: personal illness, death or critical illness in the family, participation in a university-sponsored activity, jury duty, military duties, and religious holidays. However, policing attendance seems antithetical to a feminist educator who desires not to hold their position of power over students. If I must create a class attendance policy, a feminist attendance policy that privileges relationships and is absent of teacher-imposed penalties might be a way of fulfilling university policy while enacting a feminist pedagogy. An example attendance policy from my syllabus reads,

This course will provide you with many opportunities to have conversations with your classmates about ideas. The opportunity to give and receive feedback in real time cannot be made up. If you are continuously late to class, frequently leave early, or miss class completely, your lack of participation will affect your relationship to our community and likely the quality of your work. Prioritize your attendance knowing we cannot recreate what you miss. When you are present in class, be physically and mentally present. Your classmates and instructor lose out when you “check out.” Use any technology you have available to assist in your learning rather than to distract you from it.

Such a policy does not outline specific infractions and penalties. Instead, missing out on class naturally penalizes the student for not coming to class. The effects of the student’s autonomous decision to not to attend class hurts the entire community, but mostly limits the student’s own learning. I choose to not demonstrate my power by penalizing the student for making decisions based on their wants and needs.

Developing Learner Outcomes

Perhaps one of the most daunting tasks of teaching is the idea of creating goals or outcomes for the students before ever having met them. This issue must be attended to on two levels for teacher educators. For instance, I am expected to teach courses with defined course outcomes that have been approved through our university governance process. Students only inform those outcomes insofar as the author of the course takes into consideration the needs of the students present in the program as the course is re/written. However, one of the central tasks of teacher educators is preparing teachers to design curricula and lessons for their future students, whom they do not yet know. Just this past week in a methods class I teach, a student critiqued another student for not identifying specific artists she might use to exemplify the concept of her unit plan she was drafting. The accused student responded by stating that she felt uncomfortable choosing artists without knowing the students and their interests. Worth pointing out is that no one in the class then critiqued my teaching practice or the assignment itself. The class discussion could have turned to the merits of writing a unit plan without any particular considerations of the students for whom the learning experience is designed, and the quality of my teaching for not facilitating such a conversation. However, the power dynamics present in the institutionalized teacher/student relationship might have prevented students recognizing their own agency to question the tasks or the pedagogy of their teacher.

One opening I have considered as a way of potentially mitigating this difficulty is for me to provide the students with the university-approved goals of the course and allow them to design their own learning experiences and timelines for meeting those goals.

A further complication related to pre-determined learner outcomes are the additional non-negotiable mandates for students seeking certification to teach. These mandates from certification and accreditation agencies may further limit the authority students have about their own learning. While one could argue students could also be presented with these non-negotiables and decide individually how to meet those requirements, allowing students to make individual arrangements to “complete 120 hours of field experiences during this course” may complicate the relationship between the professor and field placement offices on campus as well as relationships with local schools.

Feminist Pedagogy: What

Similarly to a feminist pedagogy including how things are taught, what is taught also can create tensions within institutions. The question, “Did she just go there?” is a (likely outdated) colloquial phrase or question used when someone challenges socially accepted norms while speaking. Feminist practice is doing just that in many ways — going there, whenever “there” happens to be speaking up for marginalized groups, criticizing oppressive people and structures, and pointing out issues of racism/sexism/classism, etc. However, if social problems belong to art educators as McFee suggested, this is an essential part of feminist pedagogy in art education.

Recently I have spoken more freely both in my classroom, in public forums, and with the press about harmful educational policies related to standardized testing and the corporations that benefit from those educational policies. In so doing, my work as a feminist educator attempts to decolonize minds and hearts. My feminist pedagogy includes a movement against education practices that “tacitly accept or more forcefully reproduce” current conditions of schooling that privilege some by oppressing others.

I have observed that some of what results from “going there” aligns directly with other tenets of feminist pedagogy. For instance, one student this semester wrote a monologue to read at a local school board meeting that challenges the teacher-shaming narrative present in the mass media by celebrating the dedication of the teachers in the urban high school in which he is placed. It seems to me that an affirmation of a well-enacted feminist pedagogy is students taking action without being assigned or getting credit for doing so.

Talking with students about the dangers of standardized testing and the way tests further marginalize students of color, students with various dis/abilities, students learning the English language, and students from poverty raises the collective conscious. Unfortunately, a university professor speaking out against policies enacted by local schools in the press and in community forums also threatens relationships between the university and the local schools. The effects of a broken relationship between a local district and a university could be numerous, and include students being counseled away from attending our university or the district refusing to accept teacher candidates for field placements.

The opening here is perhaps more difficult to find. My current strategy has been to provide my department chairperson and a dean with my written works before they go to press. However, I still recognize that enacting a feminist pedagogy while affiliated with an regional institution that exists in large part because students from the local school districts choose to attend, I wonder if this activism on a topic so close to home could have serious consequences for me at some point.

Feminist Pedagogy: Institutional Oppression and Activism

One final area of feminist pedagogy that I think should be considered beyond the how and the what of teaching is the responsibility of a feminist to work toward social change in the institution where they work. As a teacher educator, I also want to encourage my students to do the same. One of the challenges in teacher education is knowing how to talk with students about the systemic sexism and other forms of oppression present in K–12 schools (in which most of my students will work once receiving their degree). Since 1980, the United States teaching force that has had a steady increase in the proportion of teachers who are female. Today, 76% of the United States teaching force is female according to NCES data. However, only 14% of United States school district superintendents are women. Similarly, I work at a university where the president, provost, assistant provost, and three of four deans are men. The following short examples provide experiential examples that further build a critique of the institution.

After working beyond my contractual teaching load each semester (and summer) for the first three years of my appointment, I announced to my department chair and dean that I would not be taking on work above my contractual duties during the 2016–17 academic year, citing an attempt to establish a healthier work/life balance and spend more time with my family. The dean’s first response was to try to negotiate with me. I stood my ground, wondering the whole time if my announcement would have been seen as negotiable had it been delivered by a male professor. Dads who set boundaries at work and attempt to prioritize their family life are often commended; I was asked if I was sure this is what I wanted to do.

This year, the university did not grant me the one-course release for which I applied in order for me to engage in participatory action research with local art educators. The rationale for their decision described that other proposals would affect more people than my small study. How the university conceptualizes research, determines potential impact and awards course releases especially privileges large-scale studies (typically completed in the sciences).

Finally, tenure and promotion at my university is based heavily on teaching effectiveness, as measured by colleague observations and student evaluations. However, the student evaluations do not assess many of my goals as a feminist educator, including whether I increased students’ sense of social responsibility or contributed to their personal growth. In general, the promotion and tenure documents are relatively unfriendly to the evidence that may speak most directly to successful feminist pedagogy: the unsolicited cards, emails, and visits from students that continue long after the course has ended, or the social actions taken by students to confront issues of injustice in their communities.

Negotiated Pedagogy

In my experience as a teacher educator, a feminist pedagogy is a negotiated pedagogy. Art educators who aspire to enact a feminist pedagogy have to be transparent about the “walls and barriers” (Greene, 2009) to doing so within educational institutions. Sharing our experiences and looking together for openings both within and across our institutions is one strategy, and, I would argue, part of the necessary work of art education. However, these acts of institutional subversion will likely be more effective if we simultaneously and overtly challenge systemic oppressions we identify within the institutions where we work.  In so doing, we continue to work of June King McFee who asks art educators to “do a great deal of research… as a basis for evaluating what might be possible… ” The collective voices of feminist art educators must lead a critique of oppressive systems and institutions, including the ones in which they work, while continuing their experiential research on how to practice a feminist pedagogy within existing constraints.


Crabtree, R. D., Sapp, D. A., Licona, A. C. (2009). Feminist pedagogy: Looking back to move forward. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Greene, M. (2009). The arts and the search for social justice. Retrieved March 14, 2011 from

Merriam, S. & Tisdell, E. J. (2015). Qualitative Research: A Guide to Design and Implementation (4rd ed.). SanFransisco: Jossey-Bass.

Smith, D. (2008). Women’s perspective as a radical critique of sociology. In A. Jaggar (Ed.), Just Methods: An Interdisciplinary Feminist Reader (pp. 39–43). Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers.

Leslie Gates

Dr. Leslie Gates is Associate Professor of Art Education at Millersville University of Pennsylvania. Her research interests include art educators’ professional learning, assessment in the arts, and postmodern and choice-based approaches to teaching art. Her research, using participatory and feminist approaches, often involves working alongside art educators to identify problems and work towards possible solutions in their own classrooms. Leslie has served as a curriculum consultant to public school districts, given a number of invited lectures, and facilitated opportunities for professional learning at various conferences, seminars, and workshops. Leslie serves on the editorial board of Art Education, published by the National Art Education Association. In 2017–18, Leslie was named the Pennsylvania Art Educator of the Year.

Living the Vision: A Seminar in Art Education for Research and Curriculum Development, 1965 to 2016

Read Diket
William Carey University, USA

Citation: Diket, R. (2019). Living the vision: A seminar in art education for research and curriculum development, 1965 to 2016. Transdisciplinary Inquiry, Practice, and Possibilities in Art Education. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Libraries Open Publishing. DOI: 10.26209/arted50-05

Abstract: Participants in The Penn State Seminar (Mattil, 1966), argued resoundedly for a new intellectual plateau for the field. They approached the self-study of art education as a field by each considering issues of philosophy, empirical claims, and curricular merit. Personal experience can affirm, or disconfirm, the infusion of art education ideas into general use. This paper posits that ideas that are talked about in professional conferences, distributed as textbooks, and worked into curricular formats at the state and district level do come to fruition in the educational experiences of learners. This review of materials that informed the field from 1965 to 2016, indicates how important exposure to national and international ideas and texts were to the author in a personal search for a higher plateau in teaching and learning, and were lived as a personal version of the vision for art in education.

Keywords: Penn State Seminar, social philosophy of education, art curriculum guides, National Assessment of Educational Progress, scientific evidence for art learning

Publication of A Seminar in Art Education for Research and Curriculum Development (Mattil, 1966), proceedings from the 1965 Penn State Seminar, documented the “lived experience” of important contributors in the development of art education as a focused field of study. An aesthetic construct of art history, art criticism and studio constituted primary sources of subject area content (see Hausman, 1966, for discussion of visual signals that are critical to thought). Learners were appraised developmentally and sociologically through learning theory and psychology within a politico-cultural drama (i.e., Rosenburg, 1966), and the effectiveness of the curriculum was a primary measure in research endeavors (importantly, Woodruff, 1966, p. 259, advised an attitude of “calm honesty, reasoned criticalness, humility, and openness” within a synthesizing process). Seminar participants considered the philosophical basis of the burgeoning field of art education, its empirical claims, and sought documentation of curriculum practices of merit. The very approach to self-study of the art education field demanded creativity and collaboration, and occasioned some disagreement among contributors. Taken as a whole, the Seminar participants argued resoundingly for a new intellectual plateau for the field.

This paper injects my personal experiences in school and as a university educator/researcher. The occasion of the 2016 conference The Penn State Seminar @50 marked the fiftieth year that I have been an art teacher. In reviewing materials that informed the field over this period, I came to see how important exposure to national and international ideas and texts were to me as I constantly searched for a higher plateau in teaching and learning, and lived a personal version of the vision for art in education.

A Brief (and Personal) History of Visual Art Education in America

The tragedy of World War II devastated Europe and killed over 50 million people, but among those who fought to save human life, monuments and art were Americans like Yale art historian Fred Hartt, who recognized that art represents humankind’s endeavors to encapsulate experience, doubtless bound in time and subject to destruction in times of war. Millions of American soldiers fought on the ground in Europe, many risked their lives to save irreplaceable cultural heritage, carried on deep responsibilities in our homeland, and upon reentering a postwar world became intent on healing society and making changes in the old order. Among these visionaries were art educators who articulated new purposes and priorities for the study of art in school.

I was born in the mid-forties, in Oakridge, TN, and grew up amongst cultural ideas fostered in the aftermath of devastation and reconstruction—notably, freedom and creativity. Many things I learned without formal texts. When I first studied Renaissance Art as a freshman in college, I kept a notebook of quick sketches drawn from slides to enable me to identify major cultural icons. Even though Hartt’s History of the Italian Renaissance was published in 1969, I was in graduate school in the mid-1980s before I bought and read the third edition with its engaging preface that discussed how Italy was humanized, despite the need for defense and because of an intellectual command of the essentials of civilization. In Saving Italy, by Robert Edsel (2013), I recognized the passions of individuals who keep “monuments” intact.

Ideas flow readily in various conduits of society. Following its organization after World War II, the National Art Education Association’s 1949-1959 Yearbooks expressed an early focus toward “freedom and democracy” as fundamental values and ideals of education. In 1965, the ideas were reconsidered and synthesized with new data and firm ideologies by Penn State Seminar participants. That same year, E. Eisner and D. Ecker (1966) published Readings in Art Education, a text that provided an overview of streams of influence in art education. Broudy (1966) in a “Case for Art Education” provides an argument for art education that has a purpose beyond what individuals in a culture might obtain on their own, in particular access not found in ordinary transactions with popular art.

NAEA was founded in 1947, with Edwin Ziegfeld as the first president. In 1949, NAEA published the first NAEA Yearbook, which evolved over the decade as editions until 1959, and the advent of Studies in Art Education. The publications suggest that the problems of uniting as a national organization revolved around philosophical rather than organizational issues, and stemmed from basic priorities evident among art educators and industrial drawing teachers concerning the application of skills, the production of products, and media.

Ideas from Europe entered into mainstream art education in America after the war. Victor Lowenfeld published Creative and Mental Growth in 1947, after his escape from Germany. My neighborhood school in Mississippi was infused with international ideas that evidenced a deep appreciation for the art making of children. Boyd School emphasized creative design, conveyed an understanding of children’s cognitive responses to images, and its library provided glimpses of an extended art world of paintings, architecture, sculpture, and social experiences all conveyed through the power of photography and words. In 1953, Edwin Ziegfeld published Education & Art: A Symposium, an important UNESCO publication. International cooperation was important in a post war quest for world peace. Herbert Read founded InSEA in 1953. Though I was in middle adulthood before I read books by Herbert Read, his influence was evident in my early schooling, particularly in the increased attention to children’s art and the understanding of the psychology necessary to engage children with an aesthetic and esthetic bent of mind.

In 1955, Manuel Barkan published A Foundation for Art Education, and Frederick Logan published Growth of Art in American Schools. The NAEA Yearbooks continued visionary rhetoric, emphasizing freedom and democracy as the ideals of art education. Notably, the 1953 NAEA Yearbook was titled Art and Human Values. Ernest Ziegfeld (1953) wrote on “Art and Creative Action in a Democratic Society” that development of the individual had little meaning if not “related to a social philosophy, a set of social values” (p. 119). The combination of creativity with socially positive action was predicated on the democratic philosophy wherein “each individual has the capacity and the will to relate himself creatively to his environment.” Ziegfeld specified that creative action was independent action, motivated by the individual’s intelligence values, and experiential patterns. The quality of each individual’s impact on society depends upon sensitivity to the world, how knowledge is organized, and the freedom to develop relationships from internalized values. Creativity is deemed a social matter.

In 1965, the very year I graduated a year early from the University of Mississippi, Penn State hosted a 10-day seminar for research and curriculum development in art education. The following year, the papers of that seminar were published in proceedings, commonly referred to as the Red Book. Penn State’s seminar remains a major milestone in art education research. Several authors discussed curriculum issues. Manuel Barken (1966) remarked that he had a personal difficulty with logical outlines, its capitals, arabics, upper and lower case designations. He used formal writing to develop his ideas, and thus was three quarters of the way into the paper before he chose to focus on “why curriculum development in art education has been too ambiguous and to halting for current requirements” Barkan noted problems inherent in curriculum. Then, Barkan referred to its nature as a meeting ground for institutions and students; he wrote about the vague basis for decisions in the curricular presentation, exacerbated by lack of evidence for ambitious predictions; and reminded readers that knowledge and beliefs functioned in different orders. Further, Barkan distinguished between research and curriculum practice. Barkan noted that an NEA study showed that only about one-quarter of teachers in art classrooms had any help from an art specialist, and sixty percent of elementary schools required the regular classroom teacher to teach art. Only 38.5% of elementary teachers used a curriculum guide. The school in which I did my student teaching (a junior high setting) had no designated curriculum for the art teacher to follow, but its two teachers were well versed in the practices of the day and open to innovation in problematic classes such as the 7th grade arts rotation. Students in a small rotation class I taught in the Mississippi Delta town had homes with no plumbing, and were often hungry. Much of what we studied together centered on their ability and potential to become educated individuals, and with others more advantaged made aware, to change those circumstances.

Barkan (1966) questioned whether art curriculum should be so uninformed or varied, but he stopped short of suggesting a national curriculum. For high school, the curricular emphasis then was preparation for a career in art. Guides were used in 57% of secondary schools according to the NEA study and that was the case at Murrah High School in Jackson, Mississippi, where I taught my first year. Barkan contended that the art educator ought to anchor curriculum in theory guided by artists, aestheticians, art historians, and critics. He argued against skepticism derived from adapting only the artists’ views. He opened a discussion of operational issues: what to teach and to what ends; who to teach and in what order; what means to use; and how to evaluate the outcomes of teaching. Finally, Barkan reminded teachers of the differences between subject-centered and problem-centered teaching. While I did not know specifically of Barkan’s ideas at the time, I was thinking through similar decisions in my high school position, gathering a vertical file on art and artists for use in teaching, making sure that my students had extensive media experiences that were problem based, teaching aesthetics after school, and already evaluating evidence of student learning. I was influenced by June King McFee (1961), who looked at individual differences and the how the general culture influenced children’s growth in art. McFee emphasized the role of questioning.

In 1974 I took two graduate courses at the University of Southern Mississippi—a painting and a research class. I recall that the emphasis of the research in art course was on quantification of artistic response and accuracy in computing numeric data. I took my time with the computation, double checking every data entry, using a scientific calculator that had printout capability. Ironically, my computation of four lengthy data sets into means and standard deviations and as simple statistical tests became the standard to which the other students’ work was compared. As it turns out, the professor’s manual calculating machine was rounding off in such a way that rendered it useless against the accuracy of the electronic calculator. Though I did not know it, the quantification of art data, preferred tools and technological advances, and how to decode data patterns would figure heavily in my subsequent research life at the university level.

And, it was in mid-decade of the 1970s that the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) began testing visual art. Laura Chapman was one of the original team members for the first two NAEPs and active in surveying national testing trends; after four decades, she still informs the field. When NAEP first tested art, with ECS (Education Commission of the States) administering the program, it was a research program funded by grants from Carnegie, Ford, the Fund for the Advancement of Education, and the U. S. Office of Education. Goals were set, and procedures for interpretation were an integral part of the studies. In subsequent meetings, Sydney Marland decided that NAEP would operate under contract, not as a grant. The contract required several management procedures including budgeting and accounting, assessment products, and cost effectiveness with survey design, data collection, analysis, reporting, and dissemination. In 1978, the year second NAEP for the visual arts was tested, ECS was required to submit their proposal and answer some hard questions about the value of NAEP as a national incentive. In 1983, the Educational Testing Service won the contract, introducing psychometric and statistical innovations that were new answers to historical challenges. As statistical examination of arts programming decreased to a trickle in art education as a field, the data from NAEP offered and will continue to offer the largest focused data collection of what students knew about art and what they were able to do with that battery of experiences and understandings. Visual Art would have designated NAEPs in 1997, 2008, and 2016, with conceptual frameworks that included communicating critical awareness, understanding expression, capturing memory in artistic form, managing design, and (included in 1997) spatial experience.

The eighties were instrumental in broaching new theories and amalgamations of theories that included cognitive science, anthropology, social science, and scientific evidence from new technologies such as PET and MRI. Howard Gardner (1983), in Frames of Mind, relied on this stream of information to develop a theory of multiple intelligences. While his frames for intelligences have become widely accepted by teachers in art education, his theory underwent scrutiny from social scientists for its lack of intersession in social change. In response, Gardner later collaborated with David Henry Feldman and Mihaly Csikzentmihaly to suggest avenues by which creativity, expression, and social concerns might be directed toward societal goals. In 2004, Gardner authored Changing Minds; the art and science of changing our own and other people’s minds. On page 135, Gardner spells it out in a bald way: “The first challenge to educators is to socialize youngsters into the school setting. This is mind changing at the most basic level: helping children to progress from learning through observation to learning through formal tuition…. Once a child has gotten the ‘school idea,’ she can learn about objects and events in a setting remote from their actual location and time of occurrence.” School becomes a means of becoming literate, for acquiring modes of thinking, and representational redescription. Redescription can be narrative, quantitative, logical, existential, aesthetic, hands-on, cooperative or social.

Beyond Creating; The Place for Art in America’s Schools, published in 1985, postured art as language and as a discipline. Published by the Getty, with an introduction by Elliot Eisner, discipline-based art education was based on the conviction that “ideas and values communicated through art are an essential part of every child’s education” (forward, i). I was completing the master’s program at the University of Southern Mississippi, and the ideas of Beyond and related publications greatly influenced the ways that I thought then and subsequently about visual thinking.

A pattern of theory making, published in the early years of a decade, followed by models for practice which are subsequently studied through research incentives to the end the decade was clearly evident—a constant shape shifting of sorts. Moreover, the tail of research extends for at least fifteen years past the decade of major influence. By 1989 Efland presented, in his “History of Art Education as Criticism: On the Use of the Past,” a theory of paradigm shifts based on Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions first published in 1962. Efland suggests that two avenues were then open for intellectual work, but first educators have to see what the past can do to help us see the depth of our present problem. He posed two possible futures: confluence, a blending of conflicting trends that might be validated through testing in educational practice; or, the emergence of a post-structural shift with an emphasis on accountability. Efland maintained that art education pays a high price for its cyclical patterns, because jettison of the past takes place as the field embraces new visions.

Arthur Efland (1992) in the Penn State 1989 history of the field reviews the creative self-expression movement and its “virulent anti-intellectualism” (p. 1) and engages with discipline-oriented art education as twenty-five years into that movement. Efland states that movements have predictable features. All movements have their genesis and inevitably meet their end, either because of the reforms they initiated were admitted into the canon of practice or were excluded by it. Further, a paradigm can be maintained in practice, while a new movement is in ascendance. I read this publication when in graduate school at the University of Georgia and personally chose the path of confluence. My dissertation tested outcomes in creativity and cognition following art appreciation and art criticism study at a camp for gifted eighth graders. Looking back, I took several academic risks in keeping creativity in the equation, and in testing a gifted population. However, the literature was sound and these foci would emerge again in “new” ways. I searched for and drew my own explanatory models which bridged fields of study, and this practice kept me abreast of emerging literature in cognition, gifted and talented education, neuroscience and creativity.

From the 1990s, evidence of paradigm shifting can be discerned toward visual literacy, cultural literacy, and then social justice as a major imperative. As Efland projected, the 1994 standards for visual art largely reflect discipline-based curricula incentives, and NAEP tested where art education was in that cusp. NAEP Arts 2008 tests teachers’ use of 1990s visual arts standards, but the question blocks were not redesigned to capture systemic changes posed in the first decade of a new century that embraced literacy and social empowerment incentives in schools. Thus, the mid 1990s art standards are best reflected in the performance of students studying with art specialist, as shown by NAEP 2008 (Diket, Xu, & Brewer, 2014; Burton, 2016; also see, Burton, 2016). My single author publications show increasing concern with how students learn in artistic ways (for example, Diket, 2003; Diket, 2005; Diket, 2009)

NAEP Arts conducted a longitudinal study of the visual arts that concluded in March, 2016. That data enables further examination of the 1994 Standards, the long tail of curricular assessment. What it is not expected to show are the current trends in art teaching that might be related to the 2014 Visual Arts Core Standards. As can be seen with the NAEPs beginning in 1997 (see Jones & Olkin, 2004), the assessment period lags well into what can only be seen as a significant paradigm change that engages students with external as well as internal social issues, and with the world writ large. There remains that elephant in the room, the overlap of assessment of where the field has been with new curricular protocols, for example the 2014 voluntary art standards, that may be entering visual arts practice.

With new expectations for the field impacting teachers engaging with 2014 voluntary art standards (see, the alignment of the Penn State focus factors to societal needs of today suggests value in examining the lived past and possible future of art education in schooling. The standards present a matrix of cognitive and affectively derived modes for creating, presenting, responding, and connecting. The end goal appears to center on the betterment of society. Critics of the new standards maintain that designing backward from a value may not be the best approach. Though not counter to child development, the language of the standards seems to serve an adult purpose. This paper suggests that the new standards attempt to promote an unfulfilled vision of art education, voiced after WWII. The standards are voluntary goals; the means to implement goals drawing upon seventy years of publications and exemplary practices in art education.

The newest version of national arts standards in 2014 treats visual arts and media arts as philosophically differentiated curricula. NAEA does not promote a singular art education philosophy, or impose one on its membership; rather, its conferences and publications serve as platforms for theoretical approaches, philosophical applications, and practical concepts for teaching. As NAEA develops, affiliate groups within NAEA emerge to represent various concerns and focus on special interests.

In summer of 2017, a group of NAEP Arts researchers formed for the purpose of conducting a longitudinal study of visual and reading text based literacies from the perspective of art education. As project officer, I see the longitudinal study as flowing directly into my university teaching and leadership as art chair. The NAEP work will also be contributing to the literature of art education because at the same time I will be working with NAEA to update its history.

Why study the history of art education in America, and how is that personal? Edwin Ziegfeld’s article in Human Values and Art (1953) cautions that educating an individual has little meaning for society unless that education reveals conflicting ideologies embraced in Western democracy and by totalitarian organizations. From that plateau, creative action can be implemented by intelligence, clear values, and new patterns of exploration through which an individual uses prior knowledge of art, sensitivity to patterns, to discern possible futures. With these creatively-laden caveats, and a deep understanding of the world, an individual can respond sensitively to events, ever mindful of both personal values and human values of an associated society. “Art, when understood in its fullest sense, is the creative synthesis of values” (Ziegfeld, 1953, p. 121). To be in confluence with the human values of art education in America, those of us who engage in teaching art must embrace history, vision, and future at a personal level.


Arts Partnership (2014). Adopt, adapt, or Curriculum Map? Retrieved from

Barkan, M. (1966). Curricula problems in art education. In E. L. Mattel (Project Director), A seminar in art education for research and curriculum development (pp. 240-258). University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University.

Broudy, H. S. (1966). The case for art education. In E. Eisner & D. Ecker (Eds.), Readings in art education (pp. 460-463). Waltham, MA: Baisdell.

Diket, R. M. (2003). The arts contribution to adolescent learning. Phi Delta Pi Record, 39(4), 173-177.

Diket, R. M. (2005). Teaching the high ability student in art. In S. Klein (Ed.), Teaching Art in Context; Case studies for preservice art education. Reston, VA: National Art Education Association.

Diket, R. M. (2010). The neuroscience and art in drawing. Translations; from Theory to Practice, 18(1).

Diket, R., Brewer. T., & Xu, L. (2014). Toward an aspirational model of learning. Studies in Art Education, 56(1), 397-410.

Edsel, R. M. (2013). Saving Italy; the race to rescue a nation’s treasures from the Nazis. New York: Norton and Company.

Efland, A. (1992). The history of art education as criticism: on the use of the past. In P. Amburgy, D. Soucy, M. A. Stankiewicz, B. Wilson, & M. Wilson (Eds.), History of art education: Proceedings of the second Penn State conference (pp. 1-11). Reston, VA: NAEA.

Eisner, E., & Ecker, D. (1966). Readings in art education. Waltham, MA: Blaisdell Publishing.

Eisner, E. (1985). Beyond creating; the role of discipline-based art education in America’s schools (forward). Los Angeles, CA: The Getty Center for Education in the Arts.

Gardner, H. (2004). Changing minds; the art and science of changing our own and other people’s minds. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

Hausman, J. J. (1966). The plastic arts, history of art and design—three currents toward identifying content for art education. In E. L. Mattil (Project Director), A Seminar in Art Education for Research and Curriculum Development (pp. 90-103). University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University.

Jones, L. V., & Olkin, I. (Eds.) (2004). The nation’s report card; evolution and perspectives. Bloomington, IL: Phi Delta Kappa Educational Foundation in cooperation with the American Research Association.

Mattil, E. (Project Director). (1966). A seminar in art education for research and curriculum development. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University.

McFee, J., K. (1961). Preparation for art. San Francisco: Wadsworth Pub. Co.

Rosenberg, H. (1966). Criticism and its premises. In E. L. Mattil (Project Director), A Seminar in Art Education for Research and Curriculum Development (pp. 60-71). University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University.

Woodruff, A. D. (1966). The examined curriculum. E. L. Mattil (Project Director), A Seminar in Art Education for Research and Curriculum Development (pp. 259-266). University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University.

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Read Diket

Dr. Read Montgomery Diket holds the Sarah Gillespie Endowed Chair for research at William Carey University. Her Ph.D. from the University of Georgia, Athens, combines psychology, art criticism, and art education. She is membership chair of the NAEA Distinguished Fellows. She has received numerous national grants, served on editorial boards, reviewed and presented nationally and internationally, and published widely in the arts, assessment, and in education. She received the Manual Barken Memorial Award for Distinguished Research in 2003 and the NAEA Higher Education Art Educator of the Year. She has served as president of the NAEA Women’s Caucus; AERA Brain, Education, and Neuroscience; AERA Arts and Learning; and the NAEA Seminar for Research in Art Education. Diket has contributed to the international strand of research investigating leadership and contextual aesthetics in the twenty-first century. Her leadership of the NAEP Arts Consortium began in 1999, generating a publication strand for secondary analysis of arts data. Recent publications include research about the arts in neuroscience, investigation of data visualization, and articles and book chapters about arts leadership and ideologies in education.

The Art Education Archive: “Living Moments” in Practice with the Interdisciplinary Laboratory of Art, Nature and Dance (iLAND)

Ann Holt
Pratt Institute, USA

Christopher Lee Kennedy
New School University, USA

Citation: Holt, A. & Kennedy, C. (2019). The Art Education Archive: “Living Moments” in Practice with the Interdisciplinary Laboratory of Art, Nature and Dance (iLAND). Transdisciplinary Inquiry, Practice, and Possibilities in Art Education. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Libraries Open Publishing. DOI: 10.26209/arted50-06

The purpose of this paper, and the vital point to be addressed within the processes by which contemporary art educators do research, teaching and creative practices, is the need to address the archive as a locus for active engagement in transdisciplinary teaching, learning and art-making. In order to secure opportunities for a continuum of knowledge making and generation in art education, we must attend to the archive as the foundation from where we draw understanding and build on it.

Technology has in many ways brought the concept and experience of archives into our everyday practices, enhancing art education practice. Digital technologies simultaneously facilitate how artists and scholars create, access and use digital forms of knowledge, while they also challenge how archivists organize, store, preserve and steward this work over continuous time. As both art and archive are ephemeral in nature. The question becomes — how to cultivate opportunities to collect, preserve, revive and repurpose past contributions in new contexts, or even, how to ensure the continued activation of archives and the ideas, actions and knowledge they inspire.

To that end, we discuss iLANDing (the process of archiving iLAND) as an example. iLAND (the Interdisciplinary Laboratory for Art, Nature and Dance) is a dance research organization based in New York City. For over ten years, iLAND has brought together movement artists and scientists, visual artists and designers for intensive residencies that critically explore and respond to New York City’s ever-changing urban ecology. iLAND artists respond to what scientists are calling the Anthropocene, or the Age of Man, when human activities on the Earth start to have potentially irreversible and significant impact on planet Earth’s geology and ecosystems (Smithsonian Institution, 2016).

This paper highlights an example of how a group of artists/educators/researchers involved in iLAND conceptualize a practice as both users and producers of archives, where the land and the body are source materials for participatory, arts-based, and performative responses. The output of each iLAND residency involves the creation of scores, a set of loose instructions designed to tune one’s observational senses to a particular aspect of an environment. The scores can be quite simple or necessarily complex, representing an investigatory process used to explore a particular site, concept or context. To illustrate a context for archiving time-based “happenings”, or living moments, we relate iLAND’s activities to the archive of performance artist and educator, Allan Kaprow, who was invited to the 1965 Penn State Seminar for Research in Art Education for his perspective of the artist teacher. Using the two components of past and present, we speculate on pedagogy in relation to the use and integration of archives as living research/teaching practice. Focusing on iLANDing as the example, we discuss contemporary transdisciplinary practices within the context of library archives.

Ten years of iLAND residencies have resulted in a robust collection of materials that document transdisciplinary and collaborative responses to changing environments. Recognizing the pedagogical value of these forms of inquiry, iLAND organizers began to conceive of a way to capture and share this knowledge for future iLAND participants as well as artists, dancers, scientists, activists, and publics interested in embodied and time-based methodologies. The iLANDing archive was born from this desire and today is a growing collection of scores and documentation from past projects currently being developed as a physical field guide and website. The web platform in particular is imagined as a dynamic and responsive archival device, using a poetic “taxonomical logic” that will allow users to access past scores, while also inviting re-interpretations and adaptations. In foregrounding a kinetic and indeterminate relationship to changing living systems, participants’ scores are essentially born from the archive, mediated temporally through the body and then reframed, refigured and folded back into the archive. The archive unfolds as something in-the-making, allowing new relationships and contexts to emerge.

iLANDing is an action word here. It is a way that participants of iLAND refer to their practice of using and producing archives for their creative output. We use the notion of iLANDing as a model of envisioning possibilities and potentialities for contributing to and diversifying the art education archive, conceptualizing it as an archive in process.

Expanded archival practice: Making connections to the PSU@50 seminar

Archives offer opportunities for potentiality and possibility. Knowledge of history enhances our contemporary moment and shows how theory gets interpreted and recycled over time. We are not using the term “archive” bound solely by the traditional definition of a repository for preserving documents from the past — where knowledge has already been produced, or recovered. We expand it, as many cultural theorists, artists, activists and archivists are currently doing (Eichorn, 2013), conceptualizing the archive as the intersection of where knowledge production, cultural production and critical practice entangle to answer questions or solve problems – where knowledges can co-exist, intermingle, and become something new.

To illustrate the notion of an expanded archive, the 1965 Penn State Seminar for Research in Art Education included recording, transcribing and publishing presenters’ multi-disciplinary perspectives along with the post-presentation discussions. “The Red Book” (Mattil, 1966), since its publication, has served as a foundation to re-argue, re-cycle and re-use the ideas for future work; for instance, looking at its impact as did June King McFee in 1984 (McFee, 1984), and offering opportunities for reflection by those involved as seen in the dissertation study by James Stewart (1986). Perhaps for some, it is a new discovery as a result of their participation in this conference.

At this moment, the archive is again re-activated by a conference fifty years later, offering a new opportunity to re-imagine the 1965 seminar, and its function at the time, of attempting to map the past, present, and future of the field. To explore the ideas, issues, and context of the time and imagine what it can mean to us in this living moment.

In drawing on this archive, we went back to the Red Book and explored lineages for iLAND and found possibilities in drawing connections between the work of iLAND and that of Allan Kaprow, not only with regards to common source materials but also with regards to the archive, as he too archived his scores and other documentation (Kaprow, 1998).

Kaprow was invited to speak at the 1965 seminar. His role served to insert a contemporary art perspective within the current art education practice and in doing so, break down the hierarchy of static ideas in order to prepare the terrain for innovation. After what he was listening to over the course of those ten days, Kaprow argued for an alternative pedagogy expressing that he was looking for a pedagogy that encompassed an approach of “ignorance and uncertainty– a way without rules and without lesson plans. Its only platform is scratch, and its only discipline is trial and error” (Kaprow, 1966, p. 74). Kaprow called on his art education colleagues to look at the practices of contemporary artists as applicable to teaching.

As an artist, Kaprow documented his performative work (which he later termed Happenings), for non-participants sparingly; “the photos should, in no way, be seen to encapsulate the main features of the event” (Potts, 2008, p.121). Kaprow defined good art as ambiguous, “the artwork was to remain, as long as possible, unclear in its status” (Kaprow, cited in Allen, 2011, p. 86). Aware of the value some artists placed on “fixing a position in the archive” early in their career, Kaprow waited, and finally placed his papers at the Getty in 1998, offering opportunities to experience what Alex Potts (2008) describes as a “precarious living moment” of imaginative inquiry (p. 134). As Kaprow’s art was time-based and ephemeral, those who never physically experienced a Kaprow Happening in the flesh, but come to engage with his archive, refigure the only “traces or records of it that remain” (p. 119). What is the difference between archive and artwork in this kind of inquiry, when meaning-making, interpretations, become both investigatory and embodied?

Suzanne Lacy (2010) explains, “Kaprow emphasized art’s meaning-making capacities. His focus on process could be extended such that all parts of a community-based artwork, including preparation and follow-up, were part of what I [she] later termed as ‘expanded performance’” (p. 278). As is the case with performance art or ephemeral art, where no original piece can be retained, the archive in this way serves as a departure point for an expanded performance and what expanding the performance might suggest within the context of an archive. The archive thus becomes a site for capture and release, a locus for continued experiences and engagement, simultaneous using and producing of materials to, for instance, enhance teaching and learning, share resources, or support a continuum of scholarship based from primary source materials.

The concern of this paper is to underline the archive as a place for ideas in context that outlast their creators as they connect to new meaning and language. Archives can simultaneously make visible and fragment the patterns and connections between ideas, people and places; archives reflect that knowledge making happens in relation to context. For example, we have found in the process of dipping into the archive extant patterns of connected, yet disparate, threads of past and present between iLAND’s archive practice, the evolution of Penn State’s art education department archive, and Allan Kaprow. Whether or not these connections have deeper meaning lies in the potential question being asked. Without any particular question, the dots connect randomly.

  • Kaprow was at one point on the faculty at Pratt Institute.
  • Kaprow highly regarded Judy Chicago’s feminist project in California, the documentation of which is now part of her living archive, housed at Penn State.
  • Kaprow was invited to the Penn State Seminar for Research in Art Education in 1965.
  • In 1957 Kaprow went on a mushroom hunt with John Cage and founding member of the Fluxus group, George Brecht.
  • Cage worked with Kaprow at the New School in New York City, helping him to create and imagine performative and event-based artworks called Happenings. Cage’s work, like many Fluxus artists at the time, is a source material for many iLAND projects.

While these connections are not necessarily explicitly linked, they are evidence that sourcing from the archive allows the potential for serendipitious discoveries and for just being simultaneously in the past, present and future differently — legitimizing and acknowledging past production and methodologies to ensure that what may be considered new, is not just a product of what Mary Hafeli (2009) has termed “institutional amnesia” or forgetting.

Kaprow’s work sought to create moments and events that encourage participation in everyday situations, which emerge as new arrangements, assemblages and understandings of place, people and things. His method evolved through his interest in abstract painting and actionism, into what Hannah Higgins (2002) describes as “a sort of performance dedicated to exploring day-to-day reality…precisely an “acting out,” a movement beyond the attempt to embody in paint alone (p. 106). Like iLAND participants today, Kaprow’s performative work often employed the body and landscape as source materials. This performative ontology connects to the ethos of iLANDing, which in many ways seeks a new kind of relationship between the body and environment through movement and cross-disciplinary exchange.

The iLANDing archive is a site for such exchange. Similar to artworks explored by Kaprow, Cage and other Fluxus artists, iLAND scores are typically open-ended and participatory, requiring publics to critically confront their relationship to place, and to use their body as a radical pedagogical force for kinetic understanding (Ellsworth, 2005). As forms of participatory choreographic and movement research, each iLAND residency is unique in its approach, and often takes a circuitous and ambiguous path toward understanding(s) of ecological phenomena, and how place-based inquiry, movement and dance can be used to further engage and make visible the ecological systems and networks all around us. Walking tours of lower Manhattan that trace original waterways, dancing with street trees in Harlem, foraging for mushrooms in Chinatown, dancing alongside migratory routes of birds in Corona Park, Queens are just a few examples.

Embodied pedagogies: Emplacement & inter-corporeality

Pedagogically, iLAND projects explore the use of movement, dance and cross-disciplinary exchange to understand how ecological systems operate in relationship to urban infrastructure, which involves a number of learning events that invite and provoke each team of artists/scientists, as well as the public, to contribute to and add to the process through live performances, workshops and immersive encounters. Ellsworth’s (2005) pedagogies of sensation offer salient touchstones in this respect, recognizing the presence of our bodies, and their integral role in meaning-making and knowledge production.

Over the past decade in particular, contemporary practices are turning to embodied and situated pedagogies, drawing from a range of theories and concepts highlighting the spatial, cognitive, and environmental conditions and phenomena, which are crucial to understanding how we learn through and with the body. Fors, Bäckström and Pink (2013) offer a useful framework in this respect, proposing the idea of multisensory emplacement, which they describe as an entangled connection between the embodied and environmental conditions through which learning unfolds (p. 174).

It’s important to note that the emphasis of iLANDing is on process, invoking a pedagogy of reciprocity and replicability, which allows for untested and emergent practices to develop in relation to a particular place, a group of people, and the wider public sphere of New York City. Ideas that surface and get explored through each residency become enmeshed in the very environments to which they seek to respond. In this way, iLAND projects intersect critical art pedagogy with a kinetic understanding of ecological phenomena.

As an example, a 2009 iLAND residency called StrataSpore involved collaborations between a mycologist, architect, choreographer, and artist to investigate New York City’s hidden infrastructure through the lens of fungi. Mushrooms became a metaphor and material for the group to speculate on the invisible networks and latent potential beneath the city’s cement exterior. Their process began by foraging for mushrooms together in various parks around the city and learning the basic science of mycology to inform a series of workshops and dances created with and for the public. The hunt for mushrooms became an opportunity to bring people together and discuss larger socio-ecological issues facing New York City — soil contamination, ailing urban infrastructure, housing and water resources.

The project culminated in two dances in Manhattan, one at the Flea Theater, and the other at the Judson Church, in which choreographer, Athena Kokoronis developed a set of scores inspired by weather patterns, chance, and mushroom hunting, movement which requires one’s body to move slowly through a forest with a keen sense of awareness of one’s environment. The act of slowly leaning down to pluck a mushroom, of wandering off trail paths, of scanning the forest floor became a source material for the piece. Live during the dance, resident mycologist, Gary Lincoff, was interviewed by Kate Cahill, providing an intimate and improvised soundtrack. Together the group danced, while mushrooms were cooked on stage and fed to the audience.

What is perhaps unique to iLAND is that these phenomena are engaged in a way that is rarely didactic, inviting what Biesta (2012) calls a “citizenship of strangers” (p. 684) where freedom can emerge through processual play and provocation. Their unstructured approach defies the logic of modern schooling and education — privileging instead, a more intuitive, somatic understanding of our relationship to the world around us. In creating a transdisciplinary framework that is process and research-based, iLANDing unfolds as a radical pedagogical device by resisting neo-positivist claims for how and why knowledge is created, circulated and legitimized, opening up networks and modes of knowledge creation; thus pivots the dominant centers of perception on the socio-cultural/ecological continuums that constitute power relations between humans/non-humans and the built environment. The issues invoked, by understanding how ecologies operate within a socially-constructed world, produce a politic of stewardship that enables a distinct kind of agency where the intersections become apparent of immigrant/refugee rights, water and land use politics, air quality and habitat loss, of gentrification and capitalism.

In/Continuum: iLANDing futures, archiving futures

We seek to stress the value of contemporary practices in art education that address the archive in-process as a diversely representative archive. We stress the value of not only situating oneself in the continuum of a robust landscape of art, research and teaching, and legitimizing past ideas, but also actively and intently contributing to both using and producing art education materials so that they might grow the archive.

The iLANDing archives project was largely conceived from an acute recognition of the fragility of ephemeral, site-specific, time-based movement data, and its potential role of transdisciplinary contributions to the art historical record. The attention to archiving is particularly vital and timely in view of how artists, educators, and researchers both capture and disseminate their work through various genres of technology and ephemeral media. The archive is, in this contemporary moment of capture and release, always a living moment.

iLAND serves as a model for conceptualizing focused and robust inquiry exploring what was, what is, and what can happen to surface new ideas through the body as archive. The iLAND archive is not intended as mere static documentation of past work. Rather, it is operating as a living archive that supports a platform for ongoing dialogue inviting future experiments of "evolving applied research and creative practice, constantly to be drawn from, reinterpreted, and contributed back" to iLANDing.

The majority of discussions about art education archives adhere to a framing of histories in art education. For some, archives presume an assumption that history is history; it is past, rather than a dynamic condition. Moreover, many art education programs are cutting out or down foundational and/or history of art education courses. Our hope is that both the contemporary and past examples of expanded archival practice might offer educators and artists alike possibilities for engaging with place, self and others in new ways.

The 2016 Penn State Seminar @50 is a good example of expanding from the archive. In a sense, it is an attempt to re-enact the archive. As a community of scholars, we are drawing from it, rethinking the same questions, and repurposing the past. We are using the Red Book as an archive and a stepping off point for further conversation. The archive in this living moment is a site and an opportunity for dialogue and discourse and it expands now through this process.


Biesta, G. (2012). Becoming public: Public pedagogy, citizenship and the public sphere. Social & Cultural Geography, 13(7), 683-697.

Eichorn, K. (2013). The archival turn in feminism: Outrage in order. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.

Ellsworth, E. (2005). Places of learning: Media, architecture and pedagogy. New York, NY: Routledge.

Fors, V., Bäckström, A. & Pink, S. (2013). Multisensory emplaced learning: Resituating situated learning in a moving world. Mind, Culture, and Activity, 20(2), 170-183.

Hafeli, M. (2009). Forget This Article: On Scholarly Oblivion, Institutional Amnesia, and Erasure of Research History. Studies in Art Education, 50 (4) pp. 369-381.

Higgins, H. (2002). Fluxus experience. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Kaprow, A. (1966). The creation of art and the creation of art education. In Mattil, E. (Ed.) Seminar in Art Education for Research and Curriculum Development (pp. 74-89). University Park, PA: Penn State University.

Kaprow, A. (1998). Allan Kaprow Papers, 1940-1997, The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, Accession no. 980063.

Lacy, S. (2010). Leaving art: Writings on performance, politics and publics 1974-2007. Durham and London: Duke University Press.

Mattil, E. (1966). A seminar in art education for research and curriculum development. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University.

McFee, J.K. (1984). An analysis of the goal, structure, and social context of the 1965 Penn State Seminar and the 1983 Getty Institute for Educators on the Visual Arts. Studies in Art Education, 25(4), pp. 276-280.

Potts, A. (2008). The artwork, the archive and the living moment. In Micheal Ann Holly & Marquard Smith (Eds.) What is research in the visual arts? Obsession, archive, encounter (pp.119-137). New Haven: Yale University Press.

Smithsonian, 2016. The age of humans: Evolutionary perspectives on the anthropocene. Retrieved at:

Stewart, J.N. (1986) The Penn State Seminar in Art Education: An oral history. Dissertation. Florida State University.

Ann Holt and Chris Kennedy

Ann Holt, Ph.D., serves as a Visiting Professor at Adelphi University and Pratt Institute. Ann is interested in issues of marginalized historic narratives as well as access to knowledge and understanding of the past. Her research encompasses interests in archives and marginalized histories of art education. She sees archives as social spaces for experiential pedagogy, feminist scholarship, and activism, and her work with archives seeks to expand on notions of using archival materials as both forms of information and things to experience. Ann holds a B.F.A. in painting from the San Francisco Art Institute and an M.A. in art education from Concordia University in Montreal, Canada. Holt completed her doctoral work in art education with a minor in women’s, gender and sexuality studies at Penn State University. Her dissertation titled “User Experience with Archives and Feminist Teaching Conversations with the Judy Chicago Art Education Collection’ explores a feminist transdisciplinary orientation to the Judy Chicago Art Education Collection housed at Penn State and broadens understanding about engaging and encountering art education archival records.

Dr. Christopher Lee Kennedy is a transdisciplinary artist and educator who creates site-specific projects that examine conventional notions of ‘Nature’ and the biocultural possibility of interspecies agency and collaboration. With a background in environmental engineering, Kennedy playfully re-imagines field science techniques, in addition to new forms of storytelling to develop embodied research, installations, sculptures, prints, and publications that aim to visualize and recontextualize complex social and ecological systems. Kennedy holds a B.S. in Environmental Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, a M.A. in Environmental Conservation Education from NYU and a Ph.D. in Education and Cultural Studies from the University of North Carolina. He is currently a part-time lecturer at the New School University in the Parsons School of Design.

Revealing Researcher’s Positionality and Perception

Wanda B. Knight
The Pennsylvania State University, USA

Karen Keifer-Boyd
The Pennsylvania State University, USA

Citation: Knight, W. B., & Keifer-Boyd, K. (2019). Revealing researcher’s positionality and perception. Transdisciplinary Inquiry, Practice, and Possibilities in Art Education. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Libraries Open Publishing. DOI: 10.26209/arted50-07

Abstract: In this paper we look back to the 1965 Seminar in Art Education for Research and Curriculum Development, which shifted the focus of art education from psychologically grounded, developmental approaches to teaching and researching, to a more self-conscious stance as part of the humanities and interdisciplinary scholarship. Two colleagues, Wanda B. Knight and Karen Keifer-Boyd, both of whom are in art education and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies at Penn State, discuss positionality and perception in relation to June King McFee’s perception-delineation theory.

Visual Arts Research: Looking back, looking forward

The 2016 special issue of Visual Arts Research (known as VAR) has a theme of “Looking Back and Looking Forward.”[1] VAR provides a forum for historical, critical, cultural, psychological, educational, and conceptual research in visual arts and aesthetic education. In the following essay based on our roundtable presentations, both the Senior Guest Editor (Wanda B. Knight) and the Associate Guest Editor (Karen Keifer-Boyd) share content from their articles published in Visual Arts Research, volume 42, number 2.

In looking back on the 1965 Seminar, Eurocentric paradigms, based on the thinking of both Penn State and Ohio State elites, dominated research and teaching perspectives. Further, research and teaching in art education were broadly generalized with minor considerations for difference. Conventional research methods, typically, are not valid for researching different racial/cultural groups because the researcher — marked by gender, race/ethnicity, sexual identity, social class, and other identity markers — influences research. Further, being born and reared in a particular culture can result in patterns of thought that reflect one’s culture as normal. Therefore, it may be difficult to look at the behaviors of individuals from a different culture based on the viewpoints of that culture.

Culture is the rarely questioned system of beliefs, values, and practices that forms one’s life. Research in arts education can use the cultural standpoints of both the researcher and the researched as a framework for theoretical research design, methods of data collection, and methods of interpretation. This statement means that the research focus, paradigms, and the methodologies ought to be considered from a multicultural perspective rather than from a Eurocentric, pseudo-neutral, universalistic perspective or notion of research. A multicultural perspective privileges the cultural standpoints of persons who experience the social, political, educational, and economic consequences of unequal power relations over the assumed knowledge of those who are positioned outside of these experiences.

Researchers make assumptions based on their positionality (Ladson-Billings, 2000). We challenge three general premises assumed in much of the art education research in the United States:

  1. The White-middle class “American” is the standard by which others should be measured.
  2. The instruments used for assessing differences are universally applicable across groups, with perhaps minimal adjustments for culturally diverse populations.
  3. Sources of potential variances, such as social class, gender, race/ethnicity, and proficiency in English, are nuances that can later be discarded.

In this essay, we suggest strategies to recognize epistemological bias in conjunction with these assumptions and consider some of the methodological difficulties that warrant consideration in the design, collection, and interpretation of research results.


We all have experiences that shape our perspectives. Therefore, we each bring unique life experiences to our work. Positionality is based on situating, locating, and positioning self. Our position is a political point of departure. It is not fixed, but relational, “a constant moving context that constitutes our reality” (Geiger, 1990, p. 171). How does who we are and where we are positioned (e.g., as dominant/subordinate, marginal/center, empowered/powerless) in relation to a dominant culture impact our work? We cannot escape the influence of our positionality.

We have varied positionalities. Delineating our positions supports the notion that our position may influence facets of our teaching and our research, such as what we incorporate into our lessons or what types of information we gather in our inquiry and how we interpret it.

Linda Alcoff (1988) defines positionality as the “knower’s specific position within any given context, a position always defined by gender, race, class, and other socially significant dimensions” (p. 22). However, Salzman (2002) has criticized positionality as using general social characteristics such as those above outlined by Alcoff, characteristics that may not reveal much about the real viewpoints of the individual. On the other hand, Robertson (2002) supports the notion of positionality, although not as generic fixed categories, or as “ready to wear” products of identity politics (p. 788).

In other words, race, class, gender, sexuality, and religion, among other distinctions can be useful in positioning self, “but only if they are not left self-evident as essentialized qualities that are magically synonymous with self-consciousness, or, for that matter, with intellectual engagement and theoretical rigor” (Robertson, 2002, p. 790). This expression means that positionality is only useful if we articulate and reflect upon our position concerning its impact on our teaching and our research. David Takacs (2003) notes, “few things are more difficult than to see outside the bounds of your own perspective­­­­­–to be able to identify assumptions that you take as universal truths but which, instead, have been crafted by your own unique identity and experience in the world” (p. 27).

When we critically reflect upon how we know what we know, we realize that we are simultaneously empowered and disempowered as experts in our fields of endeavor. We are empowered because we recognize that we have unique claims to knowledge that others do not. However, we are disempowered as experts because others, too, can lay claims to knowledge that we do not have. As such, we start to “question the ‘correctness’ of our own position, as we come to learn that our views may be constrained by the limitations of our own experiences” (Takacs, 2003, p. 29). When conducting research, rather than the researcher positioning self as expert and sole holder of knowledge to make meaning, the researcher might start from the position of the researched. Only by listening to the researched can we gain a deep awareness of our positionality and biased filters concerning the experiences that have shaped the identities of those we research.

Looking forward, teachers and researchers need to respect the unique life experiences that each person brings. “[B]y asserting that the broadest possible set of experiences is crucial to help each of us understand the topic at hand as completely as possible — we empower all&ellip; as knowledge makers” (Takacs, 2003, p. 27). Moreover, we let each person “assert individualized knowledge that contributes to a collective understanding. Rather than ‘tolerating’ difference, we move to respect difference, as difference helps us understand” our world and our worldview (Takacs, 2003, p. 27). The upcoming section considers positionality and perception relative to June King McFee’s Perception-Delineation Theory.

June King McFee’s Perception-Delineation Theory Concerning Positionality

At the 1965 Seminar in Art Education for Research and Curriculum Development, June King McFee’s[2] invited lecture “Society, Art, and Education” promoted a sociological perspective to the philosophical and psychological aspects of art and art education curriculum discussed at the seminar. Looking back nearly 20 years later in a comparison to the 1983 Getty Institute, which McFee noted was prescriptive concerning the disciplines that inform visual arts, she described: “The Penn State Seminar grew out of the need for quality research in art education. It was generative in nature, structured on invitational papers from nationally recognized scholars. Art was viewed in a broad, interdisciplinary context” (McFee, 1984, p. 276). She summarized: “At Penn State the nature of art as a content area was not focused into a specific discipline-based subject, but was being explored in its many social and educational aspects” (McFee, 1984, p. 277). More specifically, at the 1965 Penn State Seminar, the “foundational areas of art education” were identified as “art, aesthetics, art criticism and history, the psychological and social foundations of education, curriculum development, and research methodology” (McFee, 1984, p. 277). McFee continued throughout her career advocating that art educators study the work of “specialists: ecologists, artists, designers, architects, engineers, sociologists, psychologists, anthropologists, art critics" (1978, p. 12). She maintained, “by its very name art education is interdisciplinary” (1984, p. 280). In looking back to the 1965 Seminar held at Penn State, she believed that the Seminar

provided a comprehensive interdisciplinary base that sets art education within the broad subject of art, as it is operant in the psycho-social, philosophical, and curricular base of education, as education fits within the workings and functions of society and culture. In this respect it is timeless and supersedes the particular political period it was in. (McFee, 1984, p. 280)

Her work inspired future generations to approach art education as transdisciplinary visual culture from a cultural anthropological perspective (Marantz, 1991; Blandy, 2008; Bolin & Blandy, 2011), and she “is one of the most influential art educators to advocate for social reconstruction and the democratization of art” (Tavin, 2005, p. 8).

At the 1965 Seminar, the sociologist Melvin Tumin and McFee, who specialized in the “socio-psychological foundations of art education, address[ed] social change and social differences in relation to teaching and learning art” (McFee, 1984, p. 277). Arthur Efland (1984), in his retrospective evaluation of the 1965 Penn State Seminar, noted: “generally there were two papers on each topic, one by a scholar from outside of art education and the other by an individual from within the field” (p. 205). While McFee did not directly refer to her perception-delineation theory, introduced in the book, Preparation for Art (McFee, 1961) published four years prior, the theory underlies the points she made in her speech that built on the civil rights momentum and President Johnson’s promise to put an “end to poverty and racial injustice” (Wasserman, 1983, p. 193). McFee’s perception-delineation theory is developed further as teaching practice in the book Art, Culture, and Environment: A Catalyst for Teaching, co-authored with Rogena Degge (McFee & Degge, 1977).[3]

The focus, here, is on McFee’s perception-delineation theory in relation to researcher positionality, specifically psycho-social positionality and place-based positionality. The four components of perception-delineation theory include the psycho-social that envelopes each person, the particular environments in which individuals are situated, the perceptual discernment of the visual contextualized from cultural and environmental perspectives, and sensory abilities to make sense of the world aesthetically. McFee advocated for art curricula that consider these four areas.

Psycho-social positionality

Art educator Graeme Chalmer (1999) used June King McFee’s 1960 framework of art education as a field of inquiry and practice to introduce “the work of four men” in art education (p. 3). McFee “identified the contributing fields of art education as:

  • The study of art in human experience
  • The nature of human creativity and behavior in art
  • The educative process, and
  • The utilization of these fields in curriculum development” (Chalmers, 1999, p. 3).

Human experience, McFee argued, is also culture-bound. She stated:

We, ourselves, are culture bound—that is, we have learned to see, think, value, organize and behave in large part from the cultural background we have had. These taken for granted ways of thinking and valuing underlie our responses to art. They also affect how we teach and evaluate others’ art. (Congdon, Degge, & Keifer-Boyd, 1995)

McFee challenged psychological theories of child development that did not include the socialization of children’s lives (Efland, 1967). In her book, Preparation for Art, McFee (1961), emphasized individual differences and the diversity of conditions in children’s reactions to visual phenomena and visual arts. She also stressed that art educators should reflect on their biases, challenge stereotypes and prejudices, and develop empathy with diverse ethnic groups (McFee, 1961, 1965, 1966, 1968, 1988, 1995, 1998). She stated in her 1965 Seminar lecture, “We cannot begin to explore the relationships between art and society without assessing our basic assumptions about art, for these assumptions condition our inquiry” (McFee, 1966, p. 122). June King McFee advocated for discerning, disclosing, and discussing intersectional, entangled positionality in research and teaching.

Place-based positionality

The environment, McFee posited, influences our identity formation. June King McFee reflected on her early influences in the video titled Conversations with June King McFee (Congdon, McFee, & Keifer-Boyd, 1995). She stated:

I grew up on Puget Sound…. When you live in Puget Sound big ships come in from all over the world. You have a sense that you live on a portal to the world, particularly looking east…. That marvelous environment and openness to the rest of the world was a very important thing and I think the natural environment probably played as big a factor as we spent all our summers at the beach. (Congdon, McFee, & Keifer-Boyd, 1995, n.p.)

From McFee’s perspective, where we have lived, especially during our childhood, in part, forms our positionality. Considering the pedagogy of places that humans inhabit, therefore, is a critical component of research and teaching in art education. Along with study on the influence of culture, McFee’s teaching and research emphasized social responsibility about designing environments that are inclusive of diversity (McFee 1974, 1975, 1978, 1984; McFee & Degge, 1977; Degge, 1997). For example, in McFee’s (1971) study of 4th-grade students from six different cities, she theorized from the cultural standpoint of the students’ that their social concerns were integrally related to their visual and physical environments and the socio-economic racist politics of the cities. June King McFee’s perception-delineation theory encompasses revealing the entanglements of psycho-social positionality with place-based positionality.


In sum, each person brings unique life experiences that impact perception. Reflexive praxis using concepts concerning positionality allow teacher-researchers to interrogate how their cultural perceptions affect what they see, hear, know, and document. Through recognition and analysis of the cultures in which teacher-researchers are positioned, “we come to know the world more fully by knowing how we know the world” (Takacs, 2003, p. 29). With this brief introduction to positionality and McFee’s perception-delineation theory concerning positionality, we hope readers will consider their positionality and how it impacts their art education research and teaching praxis.


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Blandy, D. (2008). Editorial: Legacies and lineages. Studies in Art Education, 50(1), 3-5.

Bolin, P. E., & Blandy, D. (Eds.). (2011). Matter matters: Art education and material culture studies. Reston, VA: National Art Education Association.

Chalmers, G. (1999). The first 10 of 40 years of Studies in Art Education. Visual Arts Research, 25(10), 2-6.

Congdon, K. (Producer), Degge, R. (Producer), & Keifer-Boyd, K. (Director/Editor). (1995). A conversation with June King McFee [35-minute video]. Retrieved from

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Degge, R. (1997). June King McFee’s life and work. In A. A. Anderson Jr. & P. E. Bolin (Eds.), History of art education: Proceedings of the third Penn State International Symposium (pp. 138-146). University Park: The Pennsylvania State University.

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Efland, A. D. (1984). Curriculum concepts of the Penn State Seminar: An evaluation in retrospect. Studies in Art Education, 25(4), 205-211.

Geiger, S. (1990). What’s so feminist about doing women’s oral history? Journal of Women’s History, 2, 169-82.

Keifer-Boyd, K., Bailey, I., Blandy, D., Congdon, K. G., Degge, R., & Staples, J. (2016). A Feminist Conversation about June King McFee’s Critical-Raising Foundation for Culturally Responsive Education. Visual Arts Research, 42(2), 73-85.

Knight, W. B., & Deng, Y. (2016). N/either here n/or there: Culture, location, positionality, and art education. Visual Arts Research, 42(2), 105-111.

Ladson-Billings, G. (2000). Racialized discourses and ethnic epistemologies. N. Denzin & Y. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research (Second edition) (pp. 257-278). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Marantz, K. (1991). Introduction for June King McFee. Studies in Art Education, 32(2), 68-69.

McFee, J. K. (1960). Research in art education. Studies in Art Education, 2(1), 16-21.

McFee, J. K. (1961). Preparation for art. San Francisco: Wadsworth Publishing Company.

McFee, J. K. (1965). Means and meaning in art education. Art Education, 18(3), 9-12.

McFee, J. K. (1966). Society, art, and education. In E. L. Mattil (Ed.), A seminar in art education for research and curriculum development (pp. 122-140). University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University.

McFee, J. K. (1968). Why do we teach art in the public schools? Studies in Art Education, 9(2), 1-4.

McFee, J. K. (1971). Children and cities: An exploratory study of urban-, middle-, and low- income neighborhood children’s responses in studying the city. Studies in Art Education, 13(1), 50-70.

McFee, J. K. (1974). New directions in art education. Art Education, 27(8), 10-15.

McFee, J. K. (1975). How to get clean drinking water: An art education perspective. Art Education, 28(2), 19-21.

McFee, J. K. (1978). Art abilities in environmental reform. Art Education, 31(4), 9-12.

McFee, J. K. (1984). An analysis of the goal, structure, and social context of the 1965 Penn State Seminar and the 1983 Getty Institute for Educators on the Visual Arts. Studies in Art Education, 25(4), 276-280.

McFee, J. K. (1988). Cultural dimensions for the teaching of art. In F. H. Farley & R. W. Neperud (Eds.), The foundations of aesthetics, art, and art education (pp. 252-272). New York: Praeger.

McFee, J. K. (1995). Change and the cultural dimensions of art education. In R. W. Neperud (Ed.), Context, content and community in art education: Beyond postmodernism (pp. 171-192). New York: Teachers College Press.

McFee, J. K. (1998). Cultural diversity and the structure and practice of art education. Reston, VA: National Art Education Association.

McFee, J. K., & Degge, R. (1977). Art, culture, and environment: A catalyst for teaching. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

McFee, J. K., & Degge, R. (1980). Art, culture, and environment: A catalyst for teaching (2nd edition). Dubuque, IA: Kendall-Hunt.

Robertson, J. (2002). Reflexivity redux: A pithy polemic on ‘positionality’. Anthropological Quarterly, 75(4), 785-792.

Salzman, P. (2002). On reflexivity. American Anthropologist, 104(3), 805-813.

Takacs, D. (2003). How does your positionality bias your epistemology? NEA Higher Education Journal, Summer, 27-38.

Tavin, K. (2005). Opening re-marks: Critical antecedents of visual culture in art education. Studies in Art Education, 47(1), 5-22.

Wasserman, H. (1983). America born and reborn. New York, NY: Macmillan.

[1] This essay is based on presentations given on April 2, 2016, that later became the basis for articles by Knight and Deng (2016) and by Keifer-Boyd et al. (2016).

[2] Dr. June King McFee (1917- 2008) was Professor and Head of the Department of Art Education at the University of Oregon from 1965-1983. She is best known for advancing cultural understanding through the arts. She wrote about cultural diversity, visual culture, and the human-built environment from a feminist social theory perspective. (Keifer-Boyd, Bailey, Blandy, Congdon, Degge, & Staples, 2016, p. 74)

[3] The First Edition had two printings between 1977-1980 by Wadsworth Publishing Company in Belmont, California; three printings between 1980-1990, and a revision in 1993 published by Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company, Dubuque, Iowa.

Wanda B. Knight and Karen Keifer-Boyd

Wanda B. Knight, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Art Education and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at The Pennsylvania State University. Besides university level teaching, she has served as a certified art teacher (PreK-12), an art museum educator and registrar, plus an elementary and secondary school principal. A previous editor of the Journal of Social Theory in Art Education and guest editor of Visual Arts Research and School Arts, her work concerning teacher education, culturally competent teaching, identity development, and gender, class, and race-related social inequities and their entanglement is published widely, and her presentations span national and international locations. Her awards include the Pennsylvania Art Education Association Outstanding Higher Education Art Educator Award, the NAEA J. Eugene Grigsby Jr. Award for outstanding contributions to the field of art education and the Kenneth Marantz Distinguished Alumni Award from The Ohio State University.

Karen T. Keifer-Boyd, Ph.D., is Professor of Art Education and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at The Pennsylvania State University. She is the 2015 Outstanding Research Awardee from the National Art Education Association (NAEA) Art Education and Technology Issue Group, the NAEA Distinguished Fellow Class of 2013, the United States Society of Art Education’s 2013 Ziegfeld Awardee, the 2012 Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Gender Studies at Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt, Austria, and Fulbright awardee for research in Finland in 2006. She co-founded the journal Visual Culture & Gender in 2005. Her writings on feminist pedagogy, visual culture, inclusion, cyberart activism, transcultural dialogues, action research, social justice arts-based research, and identity are in more than 50 peer-reviewed research publications, and translated into several languages. She co-authored Including Difference (NAEA, 2013); InCITE, InSIGHT, InSITE (NAEA, 2008); Engaging Visual Culture (Davis, 2007); co-edited Real-World Readings in Art Education (Falmer, 2000).

Modernism of Art Education Theory

Lindsay Esola
The Pennsylvania State University, USA

Keith Nelson
The Pennsylvania State University, USA

Citation: Esola, L. and Nelson, K. (2019). Modernism of Art Education Theory. Transdisciplinary Inquiry, Practice, and Possibilities in Art Education. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Libraries Open Publishing. DOI: 10.26209/arted50-08

Abstract: The article that derived from the 1965 Art Education Conference at Penn State University; Learning Theory, Cognitive Processes, and the Teaching-Learning Component written by Dale B. Harris, speaks of important contributions to teaching methodologies. This article draws attention to groundbreaking research that occurred at the time and was intended to pave the way for a deeper understanding of how students learn, in the arts and all other domains of education. Since this time, new theories and findings in psychology have emerged that will be reviewed in this paper in order to frame new opportunities for teaching innovations that would have been impossible to design from the perspective of the 1965 literature.

Individual Differences Matter More than We Realized Before

G. Stanley Hall is credited by Harris in 1965 as the father of American Developmental Psychology, and he advocated that the curriculum be fitted to the child’s developing nature. John Dewey’s emphasis on the child’s experience as the source of educational curricula proved to be the fundamental change that swept education in the early 20th century. One of his greatest contributions was his attention to interest and motivation in the learning process, his emphasis on the importance of direct experience in children learning. These men set the building blocks for new psychological theories in education, such as Gestalt psychology and Educational psychology (Harris, p. 142)

Nevertheless, from the perspectives of 1965, ideas about how individual differences play out in learning were remarkably vague. However, there were important seeds for further more differentiated research. Despite an emphasis primarily on shared, universal stages in development, Piaget’s account of his own three children in the first 2 years of life brilliantly illustrates individual differences in the rates and details of cognitive development. Bruner and others in the early stages of the cognitive science revolution were busy identifying component processes of memory, thinking, and planning. Again, the emphasis was on shared levels of cognition at successive ages/stages of development, but the future would hold much finer differentiation of component cognitive processes and motivational processes that would provide foundations for dynamic systems and other theoretical perspectives to give integrated accounts of how these components work together to support developmental advances.

Keep Challenges “Close” to the Current Level/Zone of the Learner

Piaget’s work influenced many others studying methodologies in education. Jerome Bruner (1960) stated that “any subject can be taught effectively in some intellectually honest form to any child at any state of development” (p. 33) which Harris classifies as a “bold hypothesis” which remains a hypothesis (p. 156). This theory affirms the foundations that a subject may be taught in some form at any age based on three assumptions; that knowledge has an inherent structure, that cognition may proceed intuitively as well as analytically, and that an intuitive approach is more likely at any age (Harris, p. 156).

Recent developments in cognitive learning theory cast doubt upon Bruner’s hypothesis. In Wood, Bruner and Ross, (1976) article, the term scaffolding was first used, and it describes how an interaction between a teacher and a child employs “a ‘scaffolding’ process that enables a child or novice to solve a problem, carry out a task or achieve a goal which would be beyond his unassisted efforts” (Wood et al., p. 90). This idea led to Vygotsky’s (1978) concept of the zone of proximal development in scaffolding. Defined as the zone of activity in which a person can produce with assistance what they cannot produce alone (or can only produce with difficulty). The zone of proximal development concept depended on a view of human development that had a number of important and distinctive properties (Pea, p. 426).

Consider Some Challenges That Introduce Versions of a Skill Surprisingly Early

Bruner and colleagues drew attention to possibilities of more advanced information processing and thinking capacities in preschool children than most writers had discussed, thus providing the potential for surprising learning achievements—perhaps. This doesn’t necessarily mean that 3 year-olds are capable of doing algebra but, rather, suggests important aspects of combinatorial thinking may be possible in a 3 year-old, for example. We will see that, in both art and language at the preschool level, Bruner’s conviction is robustly supported — but only when a very complex mix of learning conditions is dynamically brought together.

In Art Education, Stress Awareness and Judgment Rather Than Opportunities for Direct Interaction by Children with Skilled Artists

Harris also drew attention to Elliot Eisner’s work. Eisner (2004), in his long and prestigious career in art, reiterated the importance of how we should educate our children. He stressed that schools should educate for judgment, critical thinking, meaningful literacy, collaboration and public service.

Dynamic Systems Theory

The learning of new representations for syntax, vocabulary, narrative structures, literacy, mathematics and art are among skills considered here within a variant of dynamic system theorizing we call a “Dynamic Tricky Mix Theory.“ This will help put in perspective the changes in data and theory since the 1965 conference. The pace of acquiring or learning new communicative structures and other complex human skills depends upon patterns of challenges together with the richness of convergence on-line of favorable motivational, social process, emotional regulation, expectancy, and self-esteem variables along with domain-specific enhancers of processing key structures.

Here, we review empirical research that fits with this theoretical frame in many respects, at the same time pointing out some aspects of the theory that have yet to be tested thoroughly. In research to date, the dynamic convergences measured have been at the psychological level, as in measurements of expressed emotion, ongoing conversational dialogue, motivation to persist in an activity, and levels of performance on cognitive and communicative tasks. Possibilities for incorporating a range of physiological and brain imaging techniques that would provide valuable complements to psychological behavioral variables also will be briefly discussed. In addition, extensions of the same theoretical framework and research approach to a wider range of skill domains, including for example emotion regulation and social interactive skills, and executive function and planning, are considered.

In much developmental literature, emotional, social, cognitive, and language development are studied separately. A related trend in educational and clinical settings is to strip down procedures to concentrate on a narrow band of skill in a single domain. The position taken here is that there is much to gain at both the theoretical and applied level by studying domains in interrelated observations and by enriching the complexity of educational/intervention procedures. By less narrow concentration it often is demonstrable that more powerful dynamic mixes of emotional/social/communicative conditions can be established that support more rapid acquisition of a mix of skills from the same, multi-purpose interactional episodes.

Research that supports this position is reviewed for language-typical children acquiring syntax and art skills, for autistic and deaf children acquiring both first language and literacy skills, and for language-delayed children acquiring syntactic structures.

Dynamic Systems Theory Looking Back at 1965 Knowledge and Learning Tips

Dynamic Systems theories stress the embeddedness of multiple complex components within ongoing, real-time systems. Examples of dynamic systems include fluid dynamics, emergence of weather patterns, gene expression, chemical reactions, protein synthesis, and embryological development, as well as children’s and adults’ learning of complex skills. These systems are self-organizing in the sense that there is no overarching guideline for development, even though highly specific genetic, chemical and physical structures comprise one kind of contributor. Rather, system behavior is the result of the ongoing convergence of many nonlinear components. Further, human behavior is not determined solely based on internal or external influences but through highly particular interactions between the here-and-now environment, past experiences, current activations, and anticipation of future experiences.

In 1965, none of the theories presented and reviewed briefly above addressed such dynamic systems. Further, no empirical findings on children revealed how slow versus rapid rates of learning art skills, language skills, literacy skills or other domains could be well explained. In consequence, the various “learning tips” were based more upon one’s preference for a particular theoretical emphasis than on detailed evidence on how learning proceeds.

Dynamic Systems Theory Looking at New Methods and Findings up to 2016

The dynamic “tricky” mix theory of development

Dynamic “Tricky” Mix theory or DTM is a relatively new example of a Dynamic Systems theory that makes use of the general framework of Dynamic Systems theories, while specifying in some detail the different components that contribute to children’s learning. We suggest that learning is dependent upon a complex, tricky-to-achieve, converging set of conditions that must cooperate at high levels for high rates of learning to be achieved. The crux of the theory is this: There are numerous social, emotional, motivational, cognitive, structural challenges to the learner, and current neural network conditions that must cooperate and converge to support any advance in learning. Each of the contributing conditions can in part be separately tracked, but also sits in relation to the other contributing components and the real-time, ongoing, emergent, interacting mix. The optimal convergence of the components that could contribute to children’s highly accelerated learning is relatively rare for most children and most domains of learning—precisely because the complexity of needed interaction of conditions is so high and because conditions will sometimes detract from favorable mixes for learning. At the same time and for the same theoretical process reasons, whenever a child experiences regular, repeated highly-positive Dynamic Tricky Mixes, then sustained levels of very powerful learning will be seen across periods of months and years. This has occasionally been demonstrated in children with severe, multiple-year lags behind norms in reading or mathematics or oral language, when they are placed in dramatically new mixes of conditions. For example, 6-year-olds so delayed in language that they are talking like 3-year-olds shift toward strong gains across multiple months when provided challenging but richly supportive new conversational conditions. (Camarata, Nelson, & Camarata, 1994; Dickinson et al., 2004; Lepper, Woolverton, Mumme, & Gurtner, 1993; Nelson et al., 2001; Nelson et al., 2004; Nelson, Camarata, Welsh, Butkovsky, & Camarata, 1996; Nelson, Heimann, & Tjus, 1997; Torgesen, Wagner & Rashotte, 1997).

If social-emotional adjustment factors truly contribute to dynamic converges online that affect learning of varied kinds of new communicative challenges, this should be a measurable phenomenon. Fortunately, there now are a few such studies that have helped to account for children’s rates of language progress and serve to illustrate new methodological steps stimulated by the theory. In each of the studies, videotapes of two early sessions of intervention were analyzed to determine the child’s “enjoyable engagement” or “social-emotional-cognitive” engagement. As Dynamic Tricky Mix theorizing predicts, children’s higher enjoyment/engagement scores early in intervention were predictive of larger learning gains across several months of intervention. These developmental gains were shown in syntax for children with SLI in Haley, Camarata, and Nelson (1994), in syntax for language-typical children in Newby (1994) and Nelson and Welsh (1998), and in reading levels and language levels for autistic children (Heimann, Nelson, Tjus, & Gillberg, 1995; Tjus, Heimann, & Nelson, 1998, 2001). In related research that is naturalistic and longitudinal rather than interventionist, Hart and Risley (1995) found that positive “Feedback Tone” (including responsive recasts and positive affective tone) by the parents of children at 1-3 years of age predicted child language level at age 3 and at age 9 years. Similarly, Nicely, Tamis-LeMonda, and Bornstein (1999) demonstrate that children’s more rapid language development in the period 9 to 21 months is associated with high levels of maternal attunement (matching) to infant affect at 9 months. Pianta and colleagues (1997) document that in early elementary education classes higher teacher-child engagement is correlated with more rapid progress in the children’s academic achievement. In each of these studies with some measurement of affective patterns, part of the dynamic mix contributions to language learning may have rested upon positive and well attuned affect of parent (e.g. excitement, warmth) to child on particular learning occasions.

Delays in First Language

When children have no other identified problem except language delay, the following combination of quite simple assumptions served for a long period to hinder the discovery of effective treatments for these SLI children:

  1. The fact that the children have fallen several years behind peers in language proves that the children cannot ever learn well from conversations
  2. All adult conversations with children are highly similar
  3. The fact that the children have fallen several years behind peers in language implies to many that they have a biological and unremediable deficit in their language-learning mechanism, which further implies “don’t expect very much new language learning”
  4. These children can only be expected to learn if the targets of learning are tiny challenges to their current language — syntactic forms such as “-ed for past” and “-s for plural nouns” which for the individual child are already being used about 10% to 30% of the times where they would be appropriate.
  5. These targets for learning should be presented out of conversational context and made obvious to the child through asking the child’s imitation of lists of sentences displaying the targets’ correct uses.
  6. If the child in a clinical treatment room over 20 or so sessions of imitation raises their percentage of correct use to 70 to 100% this change has been caused by the imitation procedures in the treatment room.

These assumptions, separately and in combination, seem so obvious and familiar to most clinicians and parents that no energy is devoted to seeking evidence that could confirm or deny the accuracy of the assumptions.

Amazingly, though, we have seen that once research was framed and conducted on all aspects of these assumptions, every one of the assumptions proved to be faulty.

Delays in Art Skill Acquisition: “Art Impaired Children”

In the preschool period, mastery of language accompanied by acquisition of world-class skills in art have been seen in the case of one Chinese girl, who became by the age of two years part of her artist father’s community of artists studying at his studio. Challenges to launch her progress in art thus could come from her father’s paintings, from his student’s paintings, and from the artistic dialogue among this community. High positivity in her father’s emotional stance and ways of encouraging her art were also part of the mix. This girl, Yani, sent her paintings on international exhibit by age eight and continued on the path to become an accomplished artist in adulthood (Ho, 1989). Substituting for the moment language for art, it is not at all unusual to find that children encounter sufficiently positive Dynamic Mixes for acquisition of first languages in the preschool period and continue on to be fluent first language users as adults. What is unusual, as with Yani, is to see anything like the richness of Dynamic Mixes for art in the preschool that approach the richness of what most children encounter in language.

Yani had the benefits of an extremely unusual situation, an Active Art Studio in her own backyard. We have encountered other children with this rare situation in early childhood. One example from North Carolina fits here. A young girl from age three years on regularly visited her father’s art studio in the backyard where she could make her own drawings and observe/interact with not only her father but her father’s adult art students. She became quite skilled in her art by first grade entry in making drawings of nudes. Unfortunately, such drawings were immediately rejected by her teachers as uninteresting and inappropriate.

Emily, yet another exceptional early artist, began producing recognizable drawings of people, clocks, cars, and other referents at 17 months of age. Bruner would love this example! The readiness of this child in terms of motor and perceptual skills and pattern analysis skills was demonstrated through her own art productions. Such cognitive readiness met an exceptional set of learning conditions. Both parents were skilled artists working at home side by side with “E.” More than that, E saw highly sophisticated challenging art unfold before her eyes and was part of positive, highly engaging social exchanges accompanying her drawing episodes. It is truly remarkable that Emily at 17 to 20 months loved drawing and controlled drawing instruments well enough to produce quite varied drawings, including, for example, different faces with distinct emotional expressions. Emily continued her development toward complex art all through childhood, and became a skilled adult artist.

Individual Differences Matter More than We Realized Before — Updated to 2016

From a dynamic systems point of view, being “close” with only some conditions being favorable will not support learning. A fuller set of well-timed conditions must co-occur and interact. High variability of learning rates and pathways will be expected for individuals across relevant learning contexts. As more and more studies have unfolded on contextual variations that affect learning along with variations in what the learner brings to the table, it has become evident that creating and maintaining highly effective learning episodes requires monitoring multiple learning conditions.

Dynamic Systems Theory Processes Explain Both Very Slow and Extremely Rapid Learning

Learning may be slowed to a crawl by limited convergence of one or more key components of a Dynamic Mix. Unfortunately, a narrow view of Vygotsky’s zones of learning has often led to planned teaching that restricts challenges to only those barely above the learner’s current skills. Even if motivational social-emotional conditions are very positive, with restricted challenges learning rate will be restricted. If other conditions are weak or negative, then low challenges combined with such conditions will lead to near zero rates of learning. Even worse, after many cycles of such learning episodes, the learner will now bring into new learning situations a set of low expectancies, poor mood, low persistence and attention, and inferior motivation which will converge dynamically to create even lower rates of learning.

Conversely, the same learners stuck in cycles of low learning will leap forth in their learning when the same components under discussion are somehow newly mixed to create a set of learning episodes with very high challenges supported by high positivity in all other components.

Very rapid learning under well-specified mixes of learning conditions can be related back to Bruner’s claim that some form of any skill can be taught at any developmental stage for the learner. As just one example from art teaching, we see that four to seven year-olds whose spontaneous art work to date might seem to indicate an unreadiness or incapacity to deal with perspective in drawings readily learn perspective techniques when an engaging adult artist sits beside the child and an art dialogue unfolds.


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Lindsay Esola and Keith Nelson

Lindsay Esola is a fourth year Ph.D. Candidate in Art Education at Penn State University. She is conducting research within Art, Neuroscience, Education and Psychology. She holds an M.S. in Art Education and a B.A. in Psychology, which led her to serve as an art therapist for suicidal youth, a behavioral analyst for brain injured adults, and an art educator over the past fifteen years. Her current research interest lies in finding out what cultivates creativity within an individual, and the transition between early child art as “creative” and preadolescent art as “skillful”. She has done research looking into progesterone and its effects on the image process system, the effects of dopamine on creativity, art as a placebo in medicine, and the influence of the “Eureka Factor” (Dr. Kunios) within a classroom. She is seeking to endorse the arts within an educational curriculum by showing the importance of creativity on development, as well as comprehend the impact of hormones and neurotransmitters on teaching creativity.

Dr. Keith Nelson is a professor of Psychology at Penn State University. His interests concern cognitive developmental theory. His research involves children’s acquisition and use of language and art. He also works with microcomputer-multimedia applications in educational research aimed at improving communication, art, and thinking in normal and handicapped children. Another facet of theorizing deals with the ways that cognition, emotion, and motivation are intertwined in children’s learning.

Jane Addams, Hull-House, and the “Danger” of Women’s Work

Melanie L. Buffington[1]
Virginia Commonwealth University, USA

Courtnie N. Wolfgang
Virginia Commonwealth University, USA

Pamela G. Taylor
Virginia Commonwealth University, USA

Citation: Buffington, M.L., Wolfgang, C.N., Taylor, P.G. (2019). Jane Addams, Hull-House, and the “Danger” of Women’s Work. Transdisciplinary Inquiry, Practice, and Possibilities in Art Education. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Libraries Open Publishing. DOI: 10.26209/arted50-09

Abstract: In this paper, we investigate the work of Jane Addams and Hull-House, through Cornel West’s (1999) ideas of prophetic pragmatism. In accordance with West’s writings, we consider the importance of investigating the historical underpinnings of what we believe to be true, while at the same time questioning existing practices, and considering where and from whose work these practices originate. Addams and Hull-House were revolutionary during their time and their work resulted in major neighborhood and community reform. Additionally, through the open forums and frequent visitors to Hull-House, the work there influenced many of Addams’ contemporaries, including John Dewey. Yet, historically, women like Jane Addams and their work have been marginalized as being less than the work of men. We contend that this practice needs to be changed. We pay particular attention to the relationship between Addams’ and Dewey’s ideas, chiefly in Democracy and Education (1916). We pull from and suggest that social work, feminism, community-based research, and pragmatism should be “informing disciplines” for 21st century art education. Expanding West’s notion of prophetic pragmatism, we suggest a feminist prophetic pragmatist lens (Hamington, 2009) through which to view Addams’ work, the work of the residents of Hull-House, and their situation within the histories of Art Education.

Cornel West’s (1999) ideas of prophetic pragmatism highlight the importance of critically investigating histories of art education, embracing the strong practices from the past and revolutionizing the field for the future. We suggest that informing disciplines for 21st century art education should include social work, feminism, community-based research, and pragmatism as we look back at ideas that emanated from Jane Addams and Hull-House to, “keep alive the sense of alternative ways of life and of struggle based on the best of the past” (West, 1999, p. 161). Addams and Hull-House were revolutionary during their time in history and their work resulted in reform as well as influence on others including John Dewey. Historically, women, like Jane Addams and their work have been marginalized as being less than the work of men; we strongly feel this practice needs to end. Further, we expand on West’s notion of prophetic pragmatism by suggesting a feminist prophetic pragmatist lens (Hamington, 2009, 2010) through which to view Addams’ work, the work of the residents of Hull-House, and their place within the histories of Art Education.


We began this research as a result of a visit to the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum in Chicago, Illinois. The nurturing and playful approach to both the museum design and the stories and history of the settlement were indicative of the loving, caring, and respectful relationships among the residents and the community. Further, the significant role of the arts, education, and the ties built between and among settlement house residents and the community enabled their work to proceed in a symbiotic manner. Through the programming at Hull-House, Addams and others worked in a responsive, collaborative fashion. They approached their work as an experiment and, rather than the top-down approaches common at that time, they utilized working with and learning from others. Through this work across difference, they sought to change the mindset of middle and upper-middle class women who first lived at Hull-House as well as the working-class residents of the neighborhood not through charity and support alone, but by living, working, and researching together. During our visit, we learned that not all of her contemporaries were impressed with her work. Due to her peace activism during World War I, her battle for women’s rights, and commitment to Hull-House as a space for democratic debate, the FBI maintained a file on Addams. The Daughters of the American Revolution named her, “the most dangerous woman in the United States” (Hull-House Museum text panel, April, 2015).

Hull-House was a settlement house, modeled after the English versions including Toynbee Hall in London that Addams and her partner, Ellen Gates Starr, visited together. Addams and Starr met at the Rockford Female Seminary in Illinois in 1878. Starr later taught in Chicago for 10 years where she and Addams rekindled their friendship (Brown, 2004). They traveled together through Europe in 1888 and during their time in London, they were very impressed by how the residents at Toynbee Hall worked with neighborhood residents toward the amelioration of poverty. Still functioning today, Toynbee Hall maintains its early goal of bringing “future leaders to live and work as volunteers in London’s East End, bringing them face to face with poverty, and giving them the opportunity to develop practical solutions that they could take with them into national life” (Toynbee Hall, 2016). Addams’ and Starr’s interest in Toynbee Hall led them to consider founding a similar institution in Chicago. When searching for a location for their settlement house, Jane Addams enlisted the help of many people in and around the Chicago area. Through these contacts, she learned about the neighborhood, its history, and the people who lived there. After viewing different properties and considering various possibilities, on September 18, 1889 Jane Addams, Ellen Starr, and Mary Keyser moved in to Hull House, a rundown mansion in an immigrant neighborhood that was being used as a warehouse.

Within days of its founding, the programming at Hull-House began with a reading group for women started by Ellen Gates Starr. The work of Hull-House expanded quickly, responding to the needs of those in the community by offering a kindergarten and child-care that was available for working mothers in the neighborhood. In the coming months and years, the programming at Hull-House expanded rapidly and included classes for boys and girls, cooking classes, theater classes, art classes, physical education, bookbinding, among others. Hull-House also functioned as a site for community meetings with trade union meetings, various lectures, women’s suffrage groups, and others utilizing the space. Within just a few years, Hull-House expanded its physical incarnation with the first building addition—Butler Art Gallery. Dedicated in 1891, this gallery adjoined the main Hull-House building. Its programming, modeled after a similar program at Toynbee Hall, included lending pictures to people in the neighborhood (Chicago’s Toynbee Hall, 1891). The expansions of Hull-House continued over the years with many new building projects and programs coming as a result of neighborhood needs. Rather than view their work as a transmission model, Addams, Starr, and the residents at Hull-House believed they could simultaneously be learners and teachers. In 1904, Addams wrote about a cooking class at Hull-House in which the Italian women were learning English from their instructors who, in turn, were learning to cook pasta from the Italian women. This reciprocity existed throughout the work of Hull-House and extended to programming decision-making (Daynes & Longo, 2004).

Efforts at social work and the amelioration of social problems in the late 19th century often involved an overt emphasis on Christianity and the moral failing of the people who needed assistance (Addams, 1927). Such an approach was in marked contrast to the work done at Hull-House. It included a de facto medical clinic to assist women whose circumstances, including physically abusive relationships, childbirth out of wedlock, or extreme poverty, rendered them invisible or undesirable within the dominant medical system that directly related to Christian morals of the time. Thus, rather than impose or enforce a particular religious doctrine upon the neighborhood residents, the workers at Hull-House chose to develop programs that worked with the needs of the people while recognizing and accepting them, their nationalities, their professions, and their family structures. In 1895, Addams, stating the importance of reciprocity in Hull-House programming, noted that after a few years of Hull-House programs, they realized the need to change their thinking from a model of “uplifting” people toward a collaborative model that addressed needs expressed by the neighborhood residents (Daynes and Longo, 2004).

Research at Hull-House

An especially inspiring feature of the Hull House Museum is the research map installation. The maps show the neighborhood streets, residencies, and shops color-coded according to resident nationalities, occupations, and wages. Jane Addams insisted upon the fact that the investigators who gathered the data and contributed to the maps and research papers were Hull-House settlement residents. She felt strongly that no dissociated scholar from a university or governmental agency could convey the neighborhood story as genuinely and sincerely while at the same time cast a critical glance on ways and needs to improve the lives of those who actually lived and worked there could (Schultz, 2007). The maps included such information as numbers of tenements, number of persons, family members’ names, and their relationship to head of family. Researchers gathered information related to gender, race, schooling, English skills, and daily work hours along with such personal information as conjugal conditions. The number of stories and privies in each house and the state of ventilation and cleanliness were included in the data as well. Agnes Sinclair Holbrook (1895), a resident of Hull-House, designed the nationalities map and described the occasional dwelling houses “tucked in like babies under the arms of industry” (p. 53), though sweet, served as a gentle and palatable (if possible) introduction to some of the squalid conditions in which many of the people lived. From “piles of garbage fairly alive with diseased odors” to the “numbers of children filling every nook, working and playing in every room, eating and sleeping in every window-sill, pouring in and out of every door, and seeming literally to pave every scrap of yard” (p. 54), her account of the neighborhood was detailed and purposeful. She wrote, “The possibility of helping toward and improvement in the sanitation of the neighborhood, and toward and introduction of some degree of comfort, has given purpose and confidence to this undertaking” (p. 57). Although modeled after Charles Booth’s (1889) Poverty Maps in Life and Labour of the People of London, Holbrook recognized that their study of one-third of a square mile of Chicago did not carry the same weight or significance as Booth’s study of the whole of London. Published in 1895, the maps included in Hull-House Maps and Papers were very detailed and the “minuteness of this survey will entitle it to a rank of its own, both as a photographic reproduction of Chicago’s poorest quarters on the west, and her worst on the east of the river, and as an illustration of a method of research” (p. 57).

Throughout their research, numerous different people played a role and studied aspects of the neighborhood related to their expertise. For instance, Florence Kelley, State Inspector of Factories and Workshops for Illinois, researched and shared conditions in what was called the “sweating-system” or garment shops. Kelley, along with Alzina P. Stevens, also reported on wage-earning children. Isabel Eaton studied the receipts and expenditures of cloak makers in Chicago and Julia C. Lathrop described the Cook County Charities. Though the majority of the researchers were women, Charles Zeublin, Josefa Humpal-Zeman, and Alessandro Mastro-Valerio reported on the different ethnic groups living near Hull-House. The work of Jane Addams and the Hull-House residents went beyond the basic concept of the Settlement house movement that brought upper and middle class people into lower-class neighborhoods to live and work together as well as provide education and social aid (Marshall, 1996).

Recognizing that laws needed to be changed if poverty was to ever end, the residents and workers lobbied together with Addams to study the juvenile justice system, child labor laws, and factory working conditions, as well as protection from exploitation for immigrants, limitations of women’s working hours, schooling for children, labor unions, and safety. The research conducted and shared by the Hull-House residents served as impetus for a number of reform projects and movements including the Immigrants’ Protective League, The Juvenile Protective Association, the first juvenile court in the nation, and a Juvenile Psychopathic Clinic, later renamed the Institute for Juvenile Research (Hansan, 2010).

Besides the important fact that settlement residents were the researchers involved in these studies, of utmost value are the ways the findings informed the work of the Hull-House itself. For example, Hull-House offered a range of kindergarten classes and other supervised programs such as art, crafts, culture, and physical activities for children in the neighborhood. Similarly, in response to research showing that women were not represented in labor unions primarily due to the sites of their meetings—saloon halls, the cloak makers union organized at Hull-House in the spring of 1892. Although Jane Addams championed unions, she strongly cautioned against the ideas that employers should care of and protect their workers because they were less fortunate somehow (Bronk, 2009, p. 143). Addams echoed the ideas of the workers who considered themselves free citizens of a free state who needed not class protection, but the political rights of all those living in a democracy. According to Addams (1895):

The settlement is pledged to insist upon the unity of life, to gather to itself the sense of righteousness to be found in its neighborhood, and as far as possible in its city; to work towards the betterment not of one kind of people or class of people, but for the common good. (p. 148)

The goal of working for the common good connects directly to the practice of democracy with citizen engagement and interest in their own and their community members’ well being a crucial goal. Through her work at Hull-House, Addams developed a range of approaches to community needs.

John Dewey and Jane Addams: Ideological Intersections

A contemporary of Jane Addams, John Dewey was well aware of Hull-House, its programming, and its effects on the neighborhood. He often visited Hull-House and ate together with Addams and other residents and guests in the Hull-House dining room. He taught a Greek philosophy class to some of the male residents. Thus, he was well aware of and connected to the work of Hull-House. After Dewey left Chicago, he and Addams corresponded through letters and sometimes discussed and debated philosophical concepts (Menard, 2001). Over time, philosophies have circulated attributed mainly to Dewey and the influence of Jane Addams, Hull-House, and the women there has not been as clearly articulated as his connections to the Lab School and male philosophers in Chicago at that time. Many of Dewey’s ideas are ones he built based on the work at Hull-House. For example, both Addams and Dewey were proponents of pragmatism and believed that knowledge was achieved through human experience (Kaag, 2009). According to Kaag (2009), Dewey, Addams, and other contemporaries believed that, philosophy should be viewed as, “the result of human beings thinking through the meaningful questions of living as embodied thoughtful organisms” (p. 63). Dewey believed that when people think about any aspect of life, “as an organic, contextually embedded whole, it becomes meaningful and useful for life, learning, and growth” (Leffers, 1993, p. 70). The focus on the holistic aspect of an entity (a neighborhood) and the attention to the importance of art in daily life (the lending library and various art classes at Hull-House), and the idea of the interconnectedness of various aspects (living conditions, health issues, labor laws, mortality rates) reverberates the ideas embedded in the work of Addams and Starr. Granted, we are aware that Dewey acknowledged Addams (Dewey, 1902). The problem is that more recent art education literature does not significantly address Addams’ role in the development of Dewey’s ideas or her contributions to our field. While some scholars in art education have addressed Addams’ work in a significant fashion (Packard, 1976; Stankiewicz, 1989), other scholars limit their discussions of her work to cursory mentions (Buffington, 2009; Collins & Sandell, 1984; Efland, 1990; Funk, 2014). Therefore, we believe that her contributions deserve deeper and renewed attention within art education.

Siegfried (1996) argued that that Dewey’s Democracy and Education (1916) drew directly from his experience at Hull-House and that Dewey’s ideas regarding democratic community were instantiated at Hull-House. In fact, it was Hull-House’s practices of bringing people together, experiential learning, empathy building, and inquiry-based problem solving that Dewey found particularly significant (Dewey, 1902). Addams’ beliefs in the importance of experience and shared knowledge were echoed in Dewey’s Art as Experience (1934) when he claimed that “vital experience is something more than placing something on the top of consciousness over what was previously known. It involves reconstruction which may be painful” (p. 42). There is little doubt the impact on the field of art education was great from Art as Experience—a text whose foundational structure can be traced to the work of Jane Addams and Hull-House (Siegfried, 2010).

Investigating Addams’ work at Hull-House and its influence on John Dewey involves looking to the past and how it informs 21st century education. Through a critical lens, we explore Jane Addams’ and John Dewey’s contributions to art education as well as consider the direction that pragmatism may take in the 21st century, looking to the prophetic pragmatism of Cornel West as radical trajectory.

Prophetic pragmatism theory asks one to be mindful of history as living, as subject to interpretation, and celebratory of the best of the past. Because of this, the philosophical approach could be situated within a productive postmodern approach to historical research. That said, it is important to consider how we need to interpret the past so that we do not, inadvertently, repeat the inequities that were present there. Consequently, as we consider the importance of Dewey’s work, it is important to consider the range of influences, including Addams, on the development of Dewey’s pivotal ideas.

Cornel West (1999) claims prophetic pragmatism is pragmatism at its best for its ability to promote “critical temper and democratic faith” (p. 186) without fetishizing criticism or democracy. Prophetic pragmatism encourages new interpretations of history based on the past and a building of new ideas based on foundational knowledge. Such prophetic pragmatism might provide the necessary openings through which to view the work of Jane Addams and Hull-House and insert those histories into an established canon whose focus has traditionally been on the work of men. Like Hamington (2010), we contend that it is not history that is male dominated, but rather the portrayal of history that excludes the importance of the work of such women as Addams. We also agree with Hamington (2009), that West’s notion of prophetic pragmatism needs to be challenged to include Jane Addams and other concerns of a feminist prophetic pragmatist approach.

We recognize that Cornel West’s claims are not without criticism. Prophetic pragmatism, some say, appeals to those who already occupy spaces of power because prophetic pragmatism does little to disrupt established control (Wood as cited in Hamington, 2009, p. 83). Others problematize prophetic pragmatism and its rootedness in religion (Tunstall as cited in Hamington, p. 83). Most compelling, however, are the critiques that West’s reliance on Dewey misses an opportunity to address a gendered history of pragmatism and that “women’s voices and ideas are erased in West’s formulation of prophetic pragmatism” (Hamington, 2009, p. 84). Hamington introduces the notion of feminist prophetic pragmatism as a way to engage with tradition while maintaining a critical distance necessary to unfold the histories of overlooked and underrepresented persons. Feminist prophetic pragmatism and postmodern, intersectional concerns of feminism (Crenshaw, 1989; hooks, 2000) provide a framework for the retelling of Jane Addams as a significant historical figure, on who Hamington (2009) claims “used the media even more effectively than Dewey” (p. 86). Unlike Dewey, Addams was unbound by institutional academic politics and “able to maintain a critical perspective and experiential integrity” (p. 87). Hamington goes on to say that Addams “prefiguratively adopted West’s call for prophetic pragmatist philosophers” (p. 87) and yet, West has largely ignored her work and contributions. Feminist prophetic pragmatism recognizes an historical Jane Addams not in spite of her gender, but because she is a woman. Art education and its history, we posit, stand to benefit from a similar rethinking of documented histories, their retelling, and a more significant inclusion of Jane Addams as a Mother of Art Education.


Jane Addams and the other residents, researchers, teachers, and learners took an obvious pragmatic approach to their work and lives at Hull-House. Indeed, their ideas and goals to work with the each other toward better lives through social and political action influenced most every aspect of Hull-House. Addams’ own deep sense and value of democracy was tantamount in the planning, development, programming, research, and everyday occurrences at the settlement. The problem, as Hamington (2009) put it is that Addams’ contributions to pragmatism and Dewey’s work have not been clearly articulated by Cornel West (1999) and others. We recognize that in his lifetime, Dewey mentioned Addams and the influence of Hull-House (Siegfried, 1996). We found, too that in his teaching, he often utilized her book, Democracy and Social Ethics (Siegfried, 1996, p. 74). However, in our own art educational experiences and research, this connection has not been made. We believe this element of the past has been lost over time and we wish to rectify that through this discussion. We are concerned that the tendency has been to tell histories by focusing on the contributions of men, even those who acknowledged the contributions of women who were their contemporaries. We question how much we can possibly reinterpret the past if we’re still running it through a male-dominated history. According to Marilyn Fischer (2001), “Addams’ herself often analyzed “ethically troubling situations, not in terms of right and wrong or good and evil, but in terms of maladjustment, where values and codes of earlier times have not been readjusted with changing social conditions and newly emerging values” (p. 280). It appears that now more than ever, values are expanding, norms are being questioned, and social justice is at the forefront of our practice in art education. So, too should our view and reinterpretation of history be expanded and indeed, questioned through a lens of purposeful inclusivity, even if that is deemed “dangerous.”


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hooks, b. (1994). Teaching to transgress: Education and the practice of freedom. New York, NY: Routledge.

Kaag, J. J. (2009). Pragmatism and the lessons of experience. Daedalus, 138(2), 63-72.

Leffers, M. R. (1993). Pragmatists Jane Addams and John Dewey inform the ethic of care. Hypatia, 8(2), 64-77.

Marshall, A. (1996). On Arnold Toynbee. Marshall Studies Bulletin 6, 45–48.

Menard, L. (2001). The metaphysical club: A story of ideas in America. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Packard, S. (1976). Jane Addams contributions and solutions for art education. Art Education, 29(1), 9-12.

Schultz, R. L. (2007). Introduction. In Residents of Hull-House (Eds.) Hull-House maps and papers. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press.

Siegfried, C. H. (1996). Pragmatism and feminism: Reweaving the social fabric. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Siegfried, C. H. (2010). Cultural contradictions: Jane Addams’ struggles with the life of art and the art of life. In M. Hamington (Ed.) Feminist interpretations of Jane Addams, (pp. 55-79). University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press.

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[1] Authors’ Note: Please direct correspondence to Melanie Buffington at

Melanie L. Buffington, Courtnie N. Wolfgang, and Pamela G. Taylor

Dr. Melanie L. Buffington, Associate Professor of Art Education, has taught at Virginia Commonwealth University since 2006.  Her research interests include: public art, contemporary art, museum education, culturally responsive pedagogy, feminism, and service-learning. Through all these areas, she teaches and researches in community engaged ways. Her current work relates to the history of public art, equity in art education, and the use of data visualizations.

Dr. Courtnie N. Wolfgang is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Art Education at Virginia Commonwealth University. Her research explores intersections of critical, post/feminist, and queer theories with arts pedagogies, school and community teaching, and justice-oriented Arts Education practices. Publication sites include Visual Arts Research, Studies in Art Education, The Journal of Social Theory in Art Education, Journal of Prison Education and Reentry, and the Journal of Cultural Research in Art Education. @ctown on twitter

Dr. Pamela G. Taylor is Professor Emeritus of Art Education, School of the Arts, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA. She served on the faculty at the University of Georgia, Radford & secondary schools in Virginia. She earned her Ph.D. in Art Education from the Pennsylvania State University and was named the USA Getty Doctoral Fellow. Her over 60 publications, numerous awards, editorships, and research has earned over a million dollars in grants and speaking invitations.

The Politics of Teacher Licensure in Art Education: How Should We (re)Act?

Justin P. Sutters
George Mason University, USA

Citation: Sutters, J. P. (2019). The politics of teacher licensure in art education: How should we (re)act? Transdisciplinary Inquiry, Practice, and Possibilities in Art Education. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Libraries Open Publishing. DOI: 10.26209/arted50-10

Abstract: The purpose of this paper is to take into consideration the call of the 1965 Seminar to define problem areas in the field of art education and draw attention to contemporary concerns related to teacher licensure. Referencing participants from the Redbook, the author attempts to make the case that particular aspects of licensure paradigms being implemented in some states are having drastic effects on teacher education programs and could have substantial longitudinal implications if unmitigated. Drawing from personal experiences over the past six years, the author shares concerns about the edTPA licensure framework that is currently being implemented in numerous states and managed by Pearson. Taking inspiration from the profound impact the 1965 Redbook had on the field of art education, the paper ends with a call to (re)act to what is potentially problematic about teacher licensure and the author proposes multiple initiatives as a means to inquire into and respond to the challenges ahead.

Problem Area(s) in Art Education: A Contemporary Reading of the “Redbook”

At the onset, I want to frame potential understandings of teacher licensure in the United States with a specific emphasis on implications and applications directed towards the field of art education. In an attempt to bracket fatalistic discourse of the current state of education, I present multiple designations or descriptors to potentially reframe not only how we come to a more comprehensive understanding of teacher education and licensure, but then also to seek out and highlight varied structures and/or approaches that could serve as mechanisms to (re)act to the challenges many in academia are experiencing in their teacher education programs.

Taking into consideration the overall theme and historical context of the symposium, it is helpful to comment on the state of the field in 1965. One of the primary objectives of the 1965 symposium was “To focus attention on five major problem areas in art education” (p. 2). In the first chapter of the aptly named “Redbook” entitled Philosophic Inquiry into Education in the Arts, Francis T. Villemain (1965) speaks to the problem of defining art education and later expounds on this by stating, “The logical canon of intelligibility at minimum requires recognition that a word may be used to designate differing matters and that we be clear as to which usage is being employed on any given occasion” (p. 5). That being said, it is important for the purposes of this paper and subsequent discourse that the term licensure is stated and understood to used in a particular manner, but open to interpretation in order to further the discourse.

Licensure is broadly understood in the field of art education to denote the culmination of a teacher education program whereas the recipient has satisfied all program and state requirements to the ends of being eligible to teach K-12 in a public school. This structure takes various forms in each state, thus the complexity of this issue. However, for the remainder of the text, licensure will be used to broadly encompass all 50 states while acknowledging variance and an incomplete understanding therein.

I now revisit the charge of the 1965 symposium and begin to determine the extent to which licensure in its current manifestation can be deemed a “problem area”. In the second text of the Redbook, David W. Ecker (1965) presents Some Problems of Art Education: A Methodological Definition and states,

It is entirely possible for an art educator, for example, to investigate a problem which is a genuine problem — a puzzle — for him but which at the same time is not significant to the field of art education. This unhappy situation might arise, of course, if, contrary to his own judgment, his problem is judged to be trivial by his professional peers&ellip; (p. 24)

In light of his warning, I hope my concern is not an isolated one and the primary intention of this paper is to seek out multiple voices from a wide spectrum of both geographical differences but also experiential accounts. Ecker extends the charge posed in the Redbook when stating, “I would like, however, to concentrate on the question of what constitutes an adequate conception of a problem in art education” (1965, p. 24). I echo a similar call some fifty years later with the intent of drawing more attention at the national level to the particular issue of licensure.

In the most respectful manner and with perhaps a measure of self-indictment as well, I agree with Ecker’s claim when he states, “I think it is fair to say that art educators display little or no collective sense of what is problematical in their field” (p. 25). Considering how multifaceted and context-specific licensure is, how could one do so? Over the past seventeen years, I have taught and observed student teachers in five states and have a working knowledge of varying licensure requirements. I also conducted a comparative analysis of teacher licensure in the United States and Brazil by looking at two of the larger degree-granting programs in each respective country. Nonetheless, it would be myopic to say I have a collective sense of the nuances of licensure across the country.

Therefore, I take heed to Ecker’s distinction between the two kinds of problems and his challenge that “one imagines that problems somehow exist whether ordinary people are aware of them or not” (1965, p. 28). To this end, in perhaps an overly simplistic extension, I offer a third dynamic in between “A problem” and it “Not being a problem”, the oft-used adjective in contemporary discourse, problematic. Meaning, if not encapsulated in its entirety as “A problem”, what aspects or applications of licensure can be deemed troublesome and worthy of further investigation? Is it a matter of us, as a field, not being aware of these collective concerns or are their regional and context-specific matters that are not relevant to the field at large?

I contend that perhaps it is the former. In searching the literature in our field, there is little to no mention in our journals of substantial research directly related to licensure in the past twenty years. There are numerous mentions of best practices enacted in teacher education programs towards completing licensure, but an apparent lack or gap exists that speaks to the multiple, and at times conflicting, licensure requirements across the country. In 1999, the NAEA published the Standards for Art Teacher Preparation and revised them in 2009. However, much has changed since and these standards and their revisions were created under now superseded NCATE standards. In July of 2013, NCATE and TEAC were consolidated into Council for the Accreditation of Education Programs (CAEP) as the new accrediting body for educator preparation ( When viewing the CAEP standards, there are none specific to Visual Arts or Arts Education, including dance, theater or music. What traditionally occurs is that units adhere to their Specialty Professional Association, or SPA. In situations where an art education program is housed in an Art & Design department, NASAD accreditation standards are often adopted, as is the case at my current institution. The standards in the NASAD 2015-2016 handbook are clear and attainable but do not seem to fully take into account these varying complexities (NASAD, 2016). Furthermore, one has to question to what extent these standards are being updated and who is doing so.

Federal Legislation and For-profit Implementation on the State Level

This leads us now to the title of this paper and the concern surrounding the increased politicization, privatization, and corporatization of education. If we ascribe education as a political act, we also have to entertain the reality that education is simultaneously acted upon, politically (Freire, 1993). Recent legislation at both the state and national level has significantly impacted teacher education programs and how they prepare candidates for licensure in art education. The steady privatization and deprofessionalization of K-12 education through policies enacted by No Child Left Behind and the subsequent Race to the Top now impact academia in the like. These mandates, in conjunction with other issues, have lead to significant decreases in enrollment in licensure programs[i] as well as related teacher shortages in many states[ii]. The recent passing of the Every Student Succeeds Act[iii] (ESSA) is encouraging in some regards, but also opens up spaces for increased privatization through charter schools and alternative licensure initiatives such as Teach For America. These policies could be discussed ad nauseam because education, specifically licensure, is a highly complex reality. But for the sake of this paper, I will highlight one specific approach I have extensive experience with as a model by which to gain insight into larger mechanisms that can be generalized across the country and seen as potentially problematic.

A disturbing trend is the influence of for-profit entities as evidenced in Pearson’s implementation of edTPA in various states. According to their website[iv], there are eleven states that have “policy in place” and they claim there are many others that are “Taking steps towards implementation” (2016). The program was designed by SCALE (Stanford Center for Assessment, Learning and Equity) and is ministered by Pearson, a transnational corporation. Candidates are required to design what they coin a “learning segment” that is videotaped and then uploaded to the website. The candidate completes numerous written reflections that are assessed via 15 rubrics. Much can be said about the specifics of this model, but I want to paraphrase key points from a recent position statement released by the Illinois High School District Organization of Superintendents (2015):

  • The protocols embedded within the edTPA process are not shown to be valid or reliable indicators of teacher effectiveness.
  • The key measurements of teacher effectiveness are missing from this metric.
  • The assessment measurements embedded within the edTPA protocols are linked to the historical context of the hyper-testing culture associated with recent federal and state policies.
  • This requirement is yet another unfunded mandate that forces school districts to spend money to obtain student/family permission to videotape in the designated classrooms.
  • The $300 fee that student teachers would need to pay for this assessment is a burden that many can’t afford, especially minority and poverty-level candidates.

Perhaps of most concern is how the program was approved in Illinois through a no-bid contract and the superintendents state this “smacks of non-transparent government” (2015, p.1). They draw connections between this recent policy in relation the state PARCC assessments and how Pearson will make over 2 million annually on this 5-year contract. Some institutions within states, such as Ohio, are currently contesting full implementation and it will be of interest to track how or if it continues to roll out in other states. This impending push towards external accountability through empirical modalities can and will have a significant impact on teacher education programs going forward if unmitigated. The concern is how we, as a field, are represented within this discourse and decision-making process. The grim reality is that we are not and if third party, for-profit corporations continue to be in positions of authority, how then do we (re)act?

An Oligopoly in Education: Health vs. Survival

While his commentary at the 1966 seminar was directed towards the context of ideas, Francis T. Villemain references Heilbroner who coins oligopoly as a “market shared by few sellers” (p. 5). Some fifty years later, the term has morphed into a new reality in the education sector where a few publicly traded corporations, political action committees (PACs), and politicians, such as the Secretary of Education, have unparalleled sway on policies that impacts teacher education and licensure. Contrary to the economic and political climate of 1965 when federal funding supported initiatives such as the Penn State symposium, universities are now receiving less and less state and federal funds while alternative licensure programs such as Teach for America receives millions of dollars from the government[v]. What are the consequences of these trends and how should we react?

Returning to my initial premise and inquiry as to whether the issue of licensure can be, or should be considered “A problem”, I reference the scholarship of Samuel Hope in the Handbook of Research and Policy in Art Education from 2004. I first read the chapter entitled Art Education in a World of Cross-Purposes during graduate school while a middle school art educator. I was in my third year of teaching and our district was under extreme scrutiny as it was labeled a “distressed” school because of test scores. The pressure to incorporate standards into our teaching and the omnipresent focus on testing was taking its toll on many of us, not only collectively, but also individually. Personally, I was experiencing the burnout evidenced by many new teachers and his commentary was appropriate in that context and can still be applied now. In this text, Hope metaphorically comments on the health of the field by stating,

“For the human body, the distinction between survival and health is fundamentally clear.... Activists tend to treat every setback as a survival issue and present it in those terms. The cumulative effect is a pernicious image of failure and decline irrespective of the facts”. (2004, p. 97)

The failure narrative is pervasive in media representations of public education and this narrative is often heard in academia as well. Similar to the Redbook’s focus on “problem areas’, Hope speaks to the survival issues for the field of art education by asking, “What are the make or break variables? This is what we must have in order to exist” (2004, p. 98). Hope follows with additional inquiries that are even more relevant today as they were in 2004 because the generation educated in the testing culture of No Child Left Behind is now residing in our college classrooms. Hope claims,

There must be a body of people who prepare new professionals&ellip;they must answer the questions, “What do future professionals in this field need to know and be able to do?” and “What of this is most important to teach in the time available?” (2004, p. 99)

So, who are these new professionals in 2016 and what do we need to know and be able to do now in the realm of licensure in art education? The trends and practices surrounding high-stake testing and accountability measures enacted through empirical matrices are becoming now more prevalent in academia, specifically in licensure. As one heavily invested in public school education as well as teacher preparation, I am concerned about our collective understanding in this regard. As a researcher, I am curious about the breadth and depth of issues that exist in this field and what practices and approaches are being enacted to respond to them.


To potentially address the aforementioned concerns and inquiries, I propose three (re)actions.

  1. A Working Group to be initiated under the headship of the Research Commission to glean a “collective sense” of issues in the field pertaining to licensure.
  2. Comparative studies that look to other disciplines countries to more effectively isolate the problematic aspects of licensure while also potentially drawing from effective models and/or practices.
  3. Similar to the position statement by the Illinois Superintendents, I suggest a formal response by the NAEA informed by research that highlights and responds to “problematic” aspects of licensure granting structures such as edTPA.

As previously stated, the initial inquiry should be one that determines whether it is indeed a systemic problem afflicting the field at large or to what extent it might be localized and more or less prevalent in particular contexts. If deemed worrisome to the degree of elevating it to “A Problem”, then representatives from various divisions and locales should be selected to conduct research into informed ways to engage in the political discourse and advocate on behalf of visual arts education to ensure our voice is present in policies and paradigms that impact teacher education programs and specifically state licensure. Similar to the structure adopted by some of the working groups of the Research Commission of the NAEA, it would be a temporary initiative with nominated individuals from varied backgrounds that collectively would represent the intricate and often complicated nature of this issue.

While the Standards for Teacher Preparation (NAEA) written in 1999 and revised in 2009 speak to what an effective art educator looks like, we have no collective means by which to demonstrate how we assess that. That is not to say that it is not being done at individual institutions, but in the face of federal and external demands for professionalization through standardization, perhaps it might be in our best interest to proactively agree on a shared framework for assessing efficacy in teacher education before it is imposed on us. Perhaps it is wise to act now rather than (re)act later.


Ecker, D. (1966). Some Problems of Art Education: A Methodological Definition. A Seminar in Art Education for Research and Curriculum Development. The Pennsylvania State University Libraries, University Park, PA. pgs. 24-37.

Freire, P. (1993) Pedagogy of the Oppressed. (New rev. 20th anniversary ed.). New York, NY: Continuum.

Illinois High School District Organization (2015). EdTPA Position Paper. Received via email November 25th, 2015.

Hope, S. (1994) Art Education in a World of Cross-Purposes. Handbook of Research and Policy in Art Education, NAEA, Reston, VA, p. 93-114.

Mattil, E. (1966) A Seminar in Art Education for Research and Curriculum Development. The Pennsylvania State University Libraries, University Park, PA.

National Association of Schools of Art and Design Handbook (2016). Accessed February 12, 2016.

Standards for Art Teacher Preparation (2009). National Art Education Association, Reston, VA.

Villemain, F. (1966). Philosophic Inquiry into Education in the Arts. A Seminar in Art Education for Research and Curriculum Development. The Pennsylvania State University Libraries, University Park, PA. pgs. 4-20.

[i] Title II Higher Education Act (2015). Enrollment in Teacher Education Programs.

[ii] U.S. Department of Education (2015). Teacher Shortage Areas Nationwide Listing 1990-1991 through 2015-2016.


Justin P. Sutters

Dr. Justin Sutters has been an art educator in varying capacities for the past twenty years including K-12, internationally and in academia. He is the Director of the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program in Art Education at George Mason University and an Assistant Professor. He serves in two appointed positions within NAEA and is on multiple editorial boards of peer-reviewed journals. He has published and presented his research nationally and internationally. ORCID ID:

Alan Kaprow and Manuel Barkan: 21st Century Incarnations for the Neoliberal Era of Art Education

Heather Kaplan
University of Texas at El Paso, USA

Kristine Sunday
Old Dominion University, USA

Citation: Sunday, K., & Kaplan, H. (2019). Alan Kaprow and Manuel Barkan: 21st Century incarnations for the neoliberal era of art education. Transdisciplinary Inquiry, Practice, and Possibilities in Art Education. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Libraries Open Publishing. DOI: 10.26209/arted50-11


In 1965, Alan Kaprow and Manuel Barkan presented alternate visions for art education curricular change. Whereas Kaprow was suggesting a way to bring art back into the schools that focused on leading with playful artmaking and artists, Barkan was in favor of a more formalized and structured use of the aesthetician, critic, and art historian. Kaprow and Barkan offered prescient, almost prophetic curricular suggestions that would presuppose the present curricular incarnations of the teaching artist and the internet/ information age (respectively). Ultimately the 1965 conference paved the way for the largest centralized curriculum overhaul of art education to date, DBAE, and yet, in the midst of this centralized movement were the whisperings of alternate curricular applications: those that would unexpectedly find their voice in a contemporary, neoliberal adaptation of curriculum. This paper serves as an invitation for discussion regarding contemporary art curriculum, as it relates to Kaprow and Barkan’s prophetic visions and in relation to our research experiences in early childhood settings.

Historical and Contemporary Contexts

As Barkan suggested, in 1965, much of the art teaching that occurs in schools is conducted by the educational generalist; or rather the classroom teacher who has little to no expertise in matters of art. For Kaprow the structural problems of schooling, occurring at both the primary and secondary level situate young children, and early education, as an ideal starting point for re-thinking art and art education. In discussing the state of art education, he suggests two equally narrow views of conceptualizing art; one that is based on the individual and social psychology [read: expressionism] and the other on formal analysis of artistic activity and certain kinds of artworks [read: formalism] (p. 82). In response, he suggests, “It seems to me that an attitude of childlike curiosity and intellectual uncertainty would be our proper course rather than a dependence on the analytical investigative procedures we are now engaged in.” (p. 81).

Barkan realized that the issue of centralizing art curriculum as both necessary and precarious. Unwilling to relinquish all teacher authority to a centralized power, yet aware of the necessity for such governmentality and professionalism, Barkan made a wishful, if not futuristic, plea for technological advancement in the form of a teaching machine. He wrote, “without doubt the proper machine can do this job [read: teaching art] better, in the fullest sense of the word than most if not all classroom teachers and it can even do it better than most art teachers who travel the circuit from room to room in elementary schools”. Although unwilling to relinquish the role of art teacher as expert and guide, Barkan’s plea for a teaching machine seems to him to be an efficacious way to centralizing art knowledge without marginalizing and diminishing the wealth of artistic expression available for study. Barkan’s teaching machine functions much like today’s digital and electronic technologies, where children can search, explore, and even produce artworks. However, unable to predict the present day information explosion, and the ways that the internet has re-shaped and re-defined available knowledge, Barkan’s conception lacks the sophistication, and complexity, of the information age.

Together, Kaprow and Barkan present complementary aspects of DBAE that predated the neoliberal political climate of contemporary education, but also eerily prophesized alternate curricular applications that would unexpectedly find their voice in a contemporary, neoliberal adaptation of curriculum where teachers are marginalized and de-professionalized, art curriculum comes in pre-packaged form, and private teaching artists replace the art teachers. Barkan’s teaching machine, as proposed in 1965, was a type of multi-modal media center that presented child-led explorations of pre-programmed artistic content including artworks, artist’s views, criticism and history serving to provide the criticism and art history through a priori defined aesthetic works, while Kaprow’s visiting artist served as the professional production component; where children make work with artists.

Today, contemporary education reform efforts, under neoliberalism, seek to re-define the worker [read: teacher], accountability, and risk and what this means for teaching art. Neoliberal politics promises to shift decision making to the individual rather than nation-state making way for individuals to make choices about the allocation of resources which, in turn, will improve economic conditions and increase productivity (Gielen and De Bruynye, 2012). The emphasis on privatization, competition, and outsourcing that drives the free market ideologies of neoliberalism have redefined systemic failures to personal ones (Lather, 2013, p. 635). Through creating conditions in which systemic failure is imminent, and subsequently placing responsibility for such failures on the individual [read: teachers], neoliberalism has created the conditions in which teachers are now viewed as the cause of student failure in public education.

So how do we come to understand Kaprow and Barkan in relation to contemporary neoliberal policies in art education? One possible read of their contributions to the 1965 conference is an almost prophetic devaluing of the classroom teacher; positioning them as superfluous, if not damaging, contributors to the job of educating children. In what follows, we present 21st manifestations of Kaprow and Barkan’s vision in our work in urban early childhood classrooms.

Kaprow and the visiting artist: An experience in an urban preschool

For Kaprow, the visiting artist provided an opportunity for children to experience art, in the company of practicing artists … pied pipers who could lead children into the magic of artmaking. According to Kaprow (1966):

All artist harbor feelings of being unusual in a positive (as much as negative) sense: they are keepers of a man’s spirit, searchers of truth. A mixture of the shaman and the philosopher pervades their inner core…. It gives them permission to be curious about unknowns, to do things not generally approved, and also promoted the psychological strength to keep going when their work is flagging. (p. 77)

Kaprow believed that the artist could provide the art, magic, and “special wisdom” (p. 77) that was lacking in the everyday, schooled art curriculum. Something he believed regular and art classroom teachers weren’t properly prepared to do or who hadn’t shown that they could. Kaprow claimed, “Instead of benefitting from a healthy intellectual evolution, art teachers are confronted with little more than good intentions and senseless course plans” (p. 82) In other words, art education and art teachers had left out the kind of curiosity and thinking that studying art and artmaking engenders.

As a visiting artist and researcher in two classrooms in a University Child Care Center in a Midwest American city my role simultaneously met Kaprow’s call for a playful pied piper and neoliberal economy’s desire of an independent outside artistic worker. As an artist and independent worker, I provided the “art” that Kaprow noted as missing from the schooled art curriculum. The children, teachers, and I explored art and materials in an open-ended, explorative manner where the encounter between children and materials led to new ideas, understandings, and expressions. Together we searched the great search, the one that asks, “What is art?” and simultaneously is art. While Kaprow claims that it is the work of artist to bring the art or to create a space of artmaking, it is my proposition that the explorations we experienced and that in Kaprow’s words fostered “an attitude of childlike curiosity and intellectual uncertainty” (p. 81) would not have been possible without the conditions created and the disposition “toward art” championed by the school and most notably by the lead teacher. It was not merely the detached, top-down, drop-in acculturation that Kaprow proposed when he stated:

These schools…;would at first limited to providing no more than space and facilities, while the Federal Government would underwrite the expenses of salaries and supplies. The individual school should hardly feel imposed upon, the pressures and influence of often recalcitrant school boards and district supervisors would be reduced to a minimum, and regular teachers at the school and in the surrounding area could study the experiment and discuss it with the artist-teacher, as it goes along.

Rather this magical space of playful artistic production and epistemological inquiry was possible because it was an artistic space begun by and cultivated in conjunction with the teachers and administrators at the childcare center.

Barkan’s 21st century teaching machine: The NAO robot

For Barkan, the teaching machine served as a means to improve the art experiences of children who were being taught by teachers lacking expertise in art and/or by art teachers dislocated from art classrooms and relegated to art on a cart instruction.

Whereas his “teaching machine” reads much like an “Art 21” for the elementary classroom, it appears as if his intent was to suggest a possible tool for teachers to extend student’s knowledge base of art through with the support of technology. Though eerily foreshadowing the technology revolution, Barkan could not have predicted the prevalence or sophistication of technology in the 21st century.

The NAO humanoid robot is an autonomous, programmable robot developed by Aldebaron Robotics headquartered in Paris, France ( that became a focus of two research projects in an urban preschool in southeastern Virginia, in the spring of 2016. Standing approximately 2 feet tall, the NAO robot features an inertial unit that enables balance and motion, sensors located in the head, hands, and feet that can detect touch, microphones and loudspeakers for speaking and listening, and cameras that record the environment. The robot can be programmed to meet the needs of its user and has Wi-Fi capabilities to connect easily with programming on a personal laptop.

Whereas the initial study utilized a quasi-experimental design to understand how the robots could support developmental learning outcomes and dispositions, of young children, a second study allowed for a more flexible design in which the humanoid robots were utilized as provocations for children’s performative thinking and making through drawing and storytelling.

Our initial research included focus group interviews, training sessions, and observations of how 8 teachers implemented the use of the robots, in economically diverse classrooms serving children ages 3-5 years of age. Like Barkan’s “teaching machine” the results of the initial study suggest that teacher’s viewed, and used, the robots as tools that could replace aspects of teaching and pedagogy; particularly those areas that presented them with challenges in the classroom.

In the second study, the researchers took the lead in the classroom, designing and implementing a 90-minute lesson that included story-time and a series of simple, center based classroom activities related to the robot and the children’s ontological understandings of the robot. Through playful storytelling, drawing, and performative actions during group time, the researchers were able to extend and thinking differently about the materiality of technology and its possibilities for the preschool classroom.


While both Barkan and Kaprow conceived of utopic curricular visions meant to address earnest artistic and systemic challenges of the Post-World War II era of education and art education these alternative solutions ultimately were not incarnated until the much later with the neoliberal shift to a privatized service economy.

Ultimately this shift poses the most complexity for the position of the teacher and the perception of the product or service they provide. This asks, what is the space, and role, of the teacher, the visiting artist, and the teaching machine (or technologies like it such as YouTube, Art21, and hyperlink internet) in the neoliberal era?


Barkan, M. (1965). Curriculum problems in art education. In K. R. Beittel & E. L. Mattil (Eds.) A seminar in art education for research and curriculum development (pp. 240-258). University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University.

Kaprow, A. (1965). The creation of art and the creation of art education. In K. R. Beittel & E. L. Mattil (Eds.) A seminar in art education for research and curriculum development (pp. 74-89). University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University.

Gielen, P. & De Bruynye, P. (2012) Introduction: The catering regime. In Gielen, P. & De Bruynye, P. (Eds.), Teaching art in the neoliberal realm: Realism versus cynicism. Amsterdam: Valiz/Antennae.

Lather, P. (2013). Methodology-21: What do we do in the afterward? International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 26(6), 634-645.

Heather Kaplan and Kristine Sunday

Dr. Heather Kaplan is an artist, educator, and researcher who studies studio artmaking and early childhood education. She is interested in notions of play and materiality, community, contemporary artmaking practices, and storytelling. Theoretical investigations of epistemology and ontology prevail as reiterative themes in her writing, research, and pedagogical and artistic practice. She is currently an Assistant Professor of Art Education at the University of Texas El Paso.

Dr. Kristine Sunday is an Assistant Professor of Teaching and Learning at Old Dominion University where she teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in early childhood education. Her research focuses on the visual arts in early childhood as it relates to questions of learning and pedagogy in the early years.

Critical Digital Making: 21st Century Art Education (in)Formation

Karen Keifer-Boyd
The Pennsylvania State University, USA

Aaron D. Knochel
The Pennsylvania State University, USA

Ryan M. Patton
Virginia Commonwealth University, USA

Robert Sweeny
Indiana University of Pennsylvania, USA

Citation: Keifer-Boyd, K., Knochel, A., Patton, R., & Sweeny, R. (2019). Critical digital making: 21st century art education (in)formation. Transdisciplinary Inquiry, Practice, and Possibilities in Art Education. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Libraries Open Publishing. DOI: 10.26209/arted50-12

Abstract: The following is a transcript from a roundtable session at The Penn State Seminar in Art Education @50 on April 2, 2016 titled “Critical Digital Making: 21st Century Art Education (in)Formation.” Four roundtable respondents discussed their research and collaborative work together to present emerging formations of curricular spaces that conceptualize critical digital making as a form of learning that negotiates technological materialities and computational approaches while cultivating semiotic and performative expressions relevant to the arts. The respondents discussed critical inquiry as an important contribution from the field of art education and contemporary art practice as it applies to the intersections of transdisciplinary curriculum in STEAM and the do-it-yourself (DIY) ethos ascribed to maker movements. The conversation was offered in relation to insights from the various authors from the Research report from the Seminar in Art Education for Research and Curriculum Development (1966) as respondents endeavored to synthesize the past with the present.

Keywords: maker movement, transdisciplinary, STEAM, critical digital making

Participants in this roundtable presented speculative musings concerning critical digital making and “informing disciplines” for 21st-century art education from intersecting energies between makerspace practices, STEAM curriculum initiatives, contemporary art, and critical, embodied, participatory, inclusive, feminist art pedagogy.

In a 2009 speech launching the “Educate to Innovate” campaign, President Barack Obama called upon educators to create opportunities that “encourage young people to create and build and invent—to be makers of things, not just consumers of things” (para. 69). President Obama’s call echoes a tidal wave of enthusiasm around the idea of making, but the current surging cultural capital for making has ironically captured the public imagination in a time when arts education programs are under extreme duress. So, what kind of making is valued?

The excitement around makerspaces and ideas of tinkering and inventing that are garnering so much attention has been embedded in programs intended to advance experiential curricula in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines. STEAM (adding the “A” for Art) has gained momentum as a curricular approach as it is taken up in the popular press as a conundrum for educators (Jolly, 2014) as a way of merging art and science education (Chen & Cheers, 2012), and a way to “encourage holistic learning” (Krigman, 2014, para. 1). There has even been a call from federal legislatures for “reintegrating the two [STEM and Art disciplines] in our classrooms” (Bonamici & Schock, 2014, p. 2), but the lack of substantive funding continues to marginalize initiatives in STEAM (Hynds, 2014). Importantly, the rationale of an impactful STEAM curriculum is the centrality of “thinking through materials” (Guyette et. al., 2014, p. 17), but there is also a significant component to this initiative that grapples with how to keep education relevant within the context of rapidly evolving digital making.

It is precisely this intersection of transdisciplinary curriculum in STEAM and the do-it-yourself (DIY) ethos ascribed to maker movements that the authors would like to assert critical inquiry as an important contribution from the field of art education and contemporary art practice. The following is a transcript from our session at The Penn State Seminar in Art Education @ 50 on April 2, 2016 where roundtable respondents discussed their research and collaborative work together to present emerging formations of curricular spaces that conceptualize critical digital making as a form of learning that negotiates technological materialities and computational approaches while cultivating semiotic and performative expressions relevant to the arts. We chose to submit the transcript to the proceedings in the spirit of the original proceedings (Mattil, 1966) that included transcripts of audience participation involving the authors in question and answer sessions. Our conversation is offered in relation to insights from the various authors from the research report from the Seminar in Art Education for Research and Curriculum Development (Mattil, 1966) as respondents endeavored to synthesize the past with the present.

Transcript of the Critical Digital Making Session

Aaron Knochel: My name is Aaron Knochel, this is Karen Keifer-Boyd, Ryan Patton, and Bob Sweeny. We’ve been working together in various ways in different styles of presentations, formats and workshops for a number of years now. So, I put in a proposal to bring all of them into a conversation around this idea of “critical digital making.” Ryan and I have used that term in a publication that put together (Knochel & Patton, 2015), and I think in some ways we all grab onto to words in that spectrum. I think that “critical” can talk about this in ways that we need to think about in a really important way, but I also want to acknowledge that we can all identify with the ways that critical theory moves within all of our work, not only in education but in how we approach the arts. I think that would be seconded by colleagues as something we have in common. Our presentation today will be given in a format that will take place in rounds. We’ve identified three concepts that we are going to be looking at: making, spaces, and STEAM. I’ll try to keep time, keep things moving around, as we each have short responses to these themes that will build a collective. We’d like this to open up into a discussion as we keep this moving along.

I’m going to open up with a quote from Arthur Foshay (1966) who is the non-art educator in the Red Book. I find his article about educational innovation and art education really interesting as I am interested in how we think of innovation. My whole investment in considering the Red Book is in looking at it to consider now and the near future. So, Foshay states,

The first thing to recognize about the criticism of an art object is that it is not you. It is, as has been pointed out, radically other than you. While your engagement with it — its immediate effect on you, and what it calls up of your experience — is of importance, there are things of considerably greater importance: all those things that have to do with the fact that it exists independent of your experience of it. The radical otherness of things is difficult to accept, especially for children. If, therefore, one was to attempt designing an innovation that sought to introduce to children the possibility of art criticism as a valid way of knowing art one of the first tasks would be to deal with the fact that art objects exist, whether you know it or not, and that their existence is in no way contingent on yours. One might ask "as a teacher, what is it that one can do that will bring home the realization of radical otherness?" (p. 364)

Now, anyone who has been paying attention to the evolution of theory in new materialisms will notice that Foshay’s concept of the art object could easily contribute to one of those contemporary publications. The idea that object agency in the world that is entirely outside of us. The non-human impact on the world and how we respond to our relation to that is an important consideration in art and education. This quote leads, for me, into considering how methods of production are radically changing the possibilities of material exploration and methods of fabrication. I’m drawn to the term fabrication. The innovative technologies of what I call collectively digital fabrication (3D printing, CNC, laser cutting) are changing how we conceptualize making in education. The term “making” has a lot of cultural capital right now and I’m very interested why we are using this term of making right now. Ironically, the power of the term making is coming at one of the more dire times for art in education. Making in educational settings is the active construction of things in the learning process that focus on “hands-on” experiences (Honey & Kantor, 2013, p. 4), “creative production in art, science, and engineering” (Sheridan et. al, 2014, p. 505), combining “computation, tinkering, and engineering” (Blikstein, 2013, p. 7), and “designing, building, modifying, and/or repurposing material objects, for playful or useful ends, oriented toward making a ‘product’ of some sort that can be used, interacted with, or demonstrated” (Martin, 2015, p. 31). These quotes describing making start with at art educator and end with an engineer educator, so you can see an interesting progression in the purposes of making.

By contrast we have the concept of “materiality.” I’m trying to articulate a difference between the idea of material in relation to its formal realization as being an important part of what this idea of making is all about, but it also has to be related to the idea of materiality. Materiality” indicates a theoretical approach that focuses on physical things as one starting point for building an understanding of thought and behavior (White 2009). Many of the discussions of materiality dwell on its nature as matter, as things and objects, but devolve quickly into indeterminacy as digital materiality rears its head in social interactions. The term "digital materiality" does not yet have a fixed meaning, but it has been used to refer to the physical manifestations of the computer age (Manoff, 2006), to the processes by which digital representations become physical architecture (Gramazio & Kohler, 2008), or to the effects of digital information in the modern world (Leonardi, 2010). Materiality has also been defined as to its properties to do something, what objects do, or what science and technology studies scholar Andrew Pickering (1995) calls “material performativity” (p. 7). Pickering (1995) states

Scientists, as human agents, [aside: notice that we are talking about scientists and not artist here] maneuver in a field of material agency, constructing machines that, as I shall say, variously capture, seduce, download, recruit, enroll, or materialize that agency [aside: sounds like an art object to me], taming and domesticating it, putting it at our service, often in the accomplishment of task that are simply beyond the capabilities of naked human minds and bodies, individually or collectively. (p. 7)

So, there is a world of material agencies doing things in the world, but that doing is never alone: for example, the digital materiality of something like software is not tangible matter, but rather its material agency to interact with its human counterpart accounts for a certain character of materiality. I am trying to get to the thinking of, or how we think through the material performances of those makers who are using software and computation as a material performance. It is not yet a physical object, although undoubtedly the computer itself is a physical object, rather this making exists in a world of virtual form that is a part of that manufacturing or digital fabrication that is my central concern. This interaction between the material as thing and performance makes it important within curriculum as a way to follow material agencies in ways that engage, disrupt, and conjure modes of making.

Karen Keifer-Boyd: In our circle around this square of tables, we are thinking about the past as far back as 1965, present, and future. So, in each of our responses you may see this pattern, certainly in mine.

I begin with the past. This is a cover for the Red Book. I’ll pass around a copy for everyone so that you will have this in front of you as a making space on the opposite side of the cover. On the Red Book cover side is the past, 1965, and then on the other side is a large white cover, the present, your maker space. However, I’d like you to think about what making we will be in 10, 25, 50 years; and use the paper as a space to speculate what that may look like. Go ahead and create with your makerspace at any time, even when one of us is talking and you may hold up your making to share at any time.

If you want to share we can think of this as a disruptive technology, only with pen and such, because when you see something it reshapes the words coming out of your mouth. Brain research shows that these socio-visual cues will impact how the mind forms language (Fiske & Taylor, 2013). Therefore, if you hold up your work it may impact what I am saying or what anyone else is saying so that this space will be changed by what you do. This is your makerspace to think about making.

June King McFee (1966) was the only woman-invited speaker to the “Seminar in Art Education for Research and Curriculum Development” held at The Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) (Mattil, 1966). In her speech, she encouraged art educators to address mass media and its effect on social change. She emphasized “there has been extensive concern over violence on television but little for this subtler influence of its distorted picture of the good life” (McFee, 1966, p. 131). She is talking about the unattainable, a farce of a good life; and she talks about how mass media can create frustrations and hostilities among the economically deprived. While smartphones were not conceptualized in 1965, she warned to consider an infrastructure for access to information communication technologies. Economic privilege has much to do with who gets to play with technology. As much as it seems access to the Internet is accessible, there is still deep, systemic, and widespread poverty in the United States and a digital divide. McFee emphasized in 1965 the impact of new technologies in relationship to poverty and consumerism.

McFee also raised issues of automation in relation to work and play. She refers to automation as a fourth area of change. One concern she noted was that many people have stereotypes of art as play for the leisure elite. In 1965, McFee is talking about the baby boomers reaching 17 years old, being out of school and looking for work. Her concern is when you are out of work that unemployment is not leisure, but again you’re struggling to find a job. Her concerns are of a pattern of poverty that has not [been] been dealt with in terms of making. As June King McFee forewarned there is much disparity in access to making with new technologies.

Given McFee’s view of the role of art education in 1965, let’s look at the present state of art education. The baby boomers are now elders. I am the youngest of the baby boomers. Since 2003, the cost of 3D printers continues to decrease. Aaron has one in his office and so do other colleagues in the School of Visual Arts. I expect in the next decade that many people will have 3D printers in their homes. So as a baby boomer seeing the first computers fill several rooms, making a whirling noise and producing much heat, I did imagine mobile devices when I began to teach art in the late 1970s. In the future, with 3D printers, we will order raw materials to use for printing objects. Art education is beginning to explore and teach about the properties of materials and 3D printing. In the future instead of buying shoes, for example, we will select and buy materials and designs, and perhaps know how to custom design. Art educators need to be prepared for teaching students the potential and limits of materials situated in intersecting social, political, and environmental systems around the world.

Ryan Patton: I was fortunate enough to start thinking about the Red Book earlier in the year when Aaron invited me to be a guest speaker for the Colloquium they had here at Penn State in the fall. Originally, I was going to focus on the Kaprow (1966) chapter, but because of the nature of the sessions we were doing in looking at technology as it relates to the Red Book, Aaron suggested I look at the Hausman (1966) article, which I was glad to do as I got into it. At the time when I was reading it I was really looking at the article in terms of technology, where technology was in 1965 and where it is now. But rereading it for this conference I really noticed Hausman’s theme in a way that I had not noticed before, [which] was about change and progress. His major point in the essay is about change, the need for art education to keep up with change and keep up with the modern day. He is not saying progress is necessarily a good thing, or that we need to be focused on progress, but we need to adapt and recognize change. So, I’m going to, as it relates to the making theme, I’m going to read you some quotes from Jerry Hausman:

Given a greater sense for the changing forms and styles in the traditions of art, made more aware of the changing purposes and values motivating the creation of art, and conscious of new materials and images, today’s artist is, at once, faced with an infinity of possibility and the responsibility of (their) own choice (p. 97).

So, in this quote, Hausman is saying now artists can do a greater range of things due to the number of material choices that they have. One other quote in terms of making is:

Students should become more aware of the limits and possibilities for their tools and media; they can consciously seek inventive, aesthetic, and craftsman-like solutions to the problems they undertake (p. 102).

Based on the discussion from other presentations today, it is really interesting to go back to 1965 to find a quote that is really relevant to today. That is one of things that struck me in reading this is just what Hausman was trying to say, in terms of change and progress, and being able to adapt, to think about art education as constantly going through change is so relevant today.

Some things about making in terms of in the past versus current and future times, I have recently authored an article on the media arts standards that its natural home is in the visual arts and that if we as art educators resist media art and all the things involved in the media arts, we are doing ourselves a disservice. Again, not changing to contemporary times, not that it is necessarily a progress thing, but rather it is about change and adaptability.

One of the things that I am doing in my research is having students make video games. This is research I’ve been doing for 10 years, working with K-12 students with video game development, developing curriculum, having my students at VCU help me with that curriculum to develop it further. One of the things about starting my dissertation research is that it opened up for me all the different ways that you could also be making that ties back to video games. While many people may think that video games are a natural introduction to coding, it also led me to thinking about physical computing and the devices you use to play with video games, sounds design, audio production, animation, all of these things that go into making video games but don’t necessarily have their own disciplinary spaces. For me, video games are a great gateway to get K-12 students engaged because they are already interested in video games: they already have extensive language about it, they already have great knowledge of video games, and making the games provides them a tremendous opportunity to develop that.

In terms of making and the future, one of the things that Aaron and I have been writing about recently is the need for collaboration within art education and between fields while embracing the idea of open data, open material for collaboration to have that material, that data available to everyone to use and manipulate in their way and open to sharing. While the structures, and structures have been a popular theme at the conference, may be limiting, I think something we can do to subvert that is to not think about the structures of tenure, institutions, or copyright. If we embrace openness with what we are collecting, what we are researching. and other join into that, then there are limitless possibilities.

Robert Sweeny: I’m going to start by structuring my comments by going back to the Red Book and not dismantling it, although you know that there are 5 copies of the Red Book in the library at my university and it is interesting to go back to those and think of those as an artifact from this period because now we are easily able to make copies [referring to the cover prints that Karen had passed out]. So, to do this to the actual books would be a different experience. There is something to making with materials that is easily replenishable, that are common, versus ones that have a different cultural impact. Even just starting to prepare my comments for this conference, I went back to the Red Book and it is a document from 50 years ago. So, we are marking that time at a certain increment, why at 50 years have we fixed that cultural meaning on that increment? Its relatively arbitrary if you think about it. Had we not had this conference I would not be looking at the Red Book. I understand the importance of it, but it would not be coming to my mind and attention. So oftentimes we need these arbitrary structures to be imposed upon us to make us say oh let’s see what was happening. So, that’s my introduction to making, really making sense of those original texts.

The two texts that I found made the most sense for our talk are from Allan Kaprow (1966) and June King McFee (1966). In terms of making, I pulled this quote from Allan Kaprow who was not entrenched in art education and his perspective and writing really reflects that in his eventual suggestions are antithetical to art education. From the professional artist’s viewpoint and especially those that are also teachers, art education from the primary and secondary schools suffers from one simple defect no contact with art. His solution is to bring artists into the schools and have them perform as what he describes as “pied pipers” in this magical, somewhat loosely defined improvisational way which in the comments people are raising concerns that this is counter to what is being discussed about institutionalized art education, but he is not talking about artist-in-residence working with art educators, he is talking about artists teach students in schools. He suggests a three-tiered system that he has thought out. When I was a student in grad school here at Penn State I found one of his writings, he was an artist in residence in Wichita Public Schools with a project called Blind Sight. It is an interesting text, as Kaprow, one of the founding creators of happenings, he was having students do these works that were improvisational, performative and very loosely defined.

I think that this idea of bringing the artist into the classroom now is also a current issue in that the art is at the click of a button. If we are open to defining art as art, design, fabrication, new media etc., in this expanded vernacular, which I think we are, then Kaprow’s suggestions maybe are already happening. Maybe we don’t need to have that person deemed the artist in the space with the space, because the students are already going online, viewing tutorials, finding information in a variety of places, playing games, getting kids feeling all fuzzy. They have access to it. It challenges the role of the educator in the art educational space, because do young people need a mediator for these types of experiences and ways of making? I would argue, perhaps counter to many art educators, that the experiences that they have with media, with artists that are working in a variety of spaces are already happening without the help of art educators.

Aaron Knochel: Okay, so I am sure no one is surprised that we have gone over our original allotted times, so I’d like to open it up to discussion.

Karen Keifer-Boyd: Perhaps we could share what we decided to do with our making space.

[general noise, people holding up their papers]

Aaron Knochel: I defaulted to the most basic thing I know how to do with a large piece of paper, I did a contour line drawing of the people in the room.

Participant 1: Bob, you folded yours up. Is it a camera obscura?

Robert Sweeny: No, I folded so that you can experience the text in a dimensional way, like a cityscape.

Aaron Knochel: It is a good example, though, of the idea of thinking 3D That to me is one of the most important shifts in how I conceptualize what needs to be happening. Not even working in clay per se as a 3-dimensional sculpture, but rather thinking 3D on the screen or in your hands. That is a really powerful set of technical and conceptual skills that are vital for maker right now.

Ryan Patton: I think also, going back to a presentation that the four of us did at NAEA 2016, about placeability. The layer of GPS data as another form of space. If I place it here via GPS, at State College, you can have that experience is local because of that capability.

Participant 2: I have a comment. I’ve taught at a vocational high school for 16 years and I have always been concerned about the lack of communication between relationship between traditional art and vocational art. It has always been my concern. I have tried to figure out how to integrate the two using fine artists, because there is really not a support system for digital art in a vo-tech, CTE (Career and Technical Education) environment. You really are out on your own. The state curriculum is not worth looking at, but I don’t know how those two worlds can meet. And I know it is based upon funding, because traditional arts get 500 and vo-tech gets 5000. There is such a huge difference, but they overlap so much.

Ryan Patton: My understanding of it, is that the decision makers are looking at the economic outcome from that education. So, if a student knows how to use a graphic design software like Photoshop in a vo-tech setting they can then do commercial printing. Funders are not thinking that those technical skills can be learned in the fine arts environment as well.

Participant 2: Thing is vo-tech education has changed now. Kids are not coming out of high schools getting jobs in say photography studios, straight to industry, so you have to go to school to get that training. That is no longer the society that we live in: straight from high school into the field.

Aaron Knochel: That is that pipeline rhetoric that we keep hearing about. I think that there needs to be a recognition that even to make a film there are layers of understanding of social-historical factors that flesh out your technical skill set in order to achieve a kind of aesthetic experience. Part of the vo-tech problem comes from a burden of naming, recognizing that individual teachers often have no control over naming, but the identification of program is important. I mean, fine art is really an old school way of thinking about the arts learning environment.

Karen Keifer-Boyd: And that’s a very political thing. Even the National Core Arts Standards using the term media arts is very political in that it is about economics. There is this idea that media arts need to be separate from the visual arts like vocational media, not media art, so that students are prepared for industry jobs. Although there are possibilities to teach yourself, typically credentials—such as a university diploma, graduate degree, or certificate in a specialization—are needed for employment.

Participant 3: I’m interested in this idea of considering 20 years from now, and I think that this consideration for credentials will end up caving in at come some point. Obviously, students need to make a living and what’s happening more and more is this DIY culture so how can we embrace that in the K-12 environment while school is free? Really the elephant in the room is that tuition is insane. If you think 1965, my mom went to Penn State and paid $550 a semester before housing. What going to end up happening is that learners are going to be forced to operate on the outside more and more. Even at the same time when this is happening, out cultural labor is not being compensated either. I think for these reasons that it is going to cave in on itself and there will be an occupy the institution movement. There is just no way to suck blood out of a dead horse

Aaron Knochel: But you can suck blood out of the National Science Foundation and I say that as kind of a joke, but I think what begins to happen within such a pessimistic outlook is that you begin to strategize. So, I’ll rephrase this again, that the anxiety in striving to be a discipline in 1965 I see as being parallel to our striving to understand transdisciplinarity right now. It’s a survival mechanism. I think it is deeply intellectually satisfying, but I think it is emblematic of, or symptomatic, that need to be strategic. It’s like Ok well that funding has dried up so how do we begin to think through conceptualizations of art as being much more embedded and connected to practices where funding can be found.

Robert Sweeny: Let me follow up on that metaphor, do you have the antibodies to not become the host because that is the challenge. When you go for NSF grants and star to use that language, can you subvert that within the field of art education or are you now a part of that field? For me it was a real wake up call to start teaching in a middle school with one section of technology education with a set curriculum and all the resources needed to teach the class: everything was labeled and boxed, all the assessment was there and it was like done and done. I thought, wow this is much different than art education which is DIY. I think there is some issues with branding, some political issues within our field that when design was being brought up as a part of the field and not endorsed within the ethos of the national organization that made change difficult. Change can be good, but change is change.

Participant 2: One of the problems is that art is not looked upon as technical. Like technology electives are all about testing and if it is another kind of assessment it is not valid. There is no reason why a 1st grader cannot learn Photoshop, but that is not going to happen. As long as art is looked at as leisure, something for play, a time for the classroom teacher to get a break, as long as the art teacher is teaching on a cart and without a real classroom it will not be taken seriously. The technical part of teaching art will not be taken seriously.

Ryan Patton: I was just reading something automation in various forms for example filling out legal documents will lessen the need for lawyers. Same for accountants, auto mechanics, to the point where 50% of the jobs that exist now will be automated and now longer need human workers (Pugh, 2016). Like no one will need to make salad because this machine will make it for you. The article makes the case that if this trend continues there will be a need for a standard living stipend so that people can survive, but that will significantly free them up, similar to the ways that the industrial revolution created a leisure time for the middle class, but there were not robots back in the 19th century.

Aaron Knochel: To follow that line of logic, the robots are going to make us more important as creative practitioners?

Ryan Patton: Not more important, but more free time.

Aaron Knochel: To make art

Participant 3: That was an argument from the 1950s

Aaron Knochel: Can robots make art?

Karen Keifer-Boyd: That was June King McFee’s concern that leisure time was the privilege of elite populations. For example, to receive a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant, you need to have a Ph.D. to be considered for an NSF grant. There is so much divide. It really comes back to that elephant in the room, that McFee was warning us about, the notion that many people will not be able to get the appropriate education. Some will but others will not. Even downloading legal documents may seem convenient but when you walk into court with a high-profile lawyer you will more likely win your case then if you come in with a form you downloaded from the Internet.

Participant 4: I also wanted to point what has been the bane of art, artist, and art educators for a long time, and what I am even now finding at a private institution at the collegiate level looking at accreditation, we are still getting asked the same questions. If you develop curriculum what are the objectives, what will it actually prove out, and if you are not able to make that evident then they are not interested in identifying that as a viable art class. Literally we are writing stuff up that feels very technical and very grasping and a total rejection of art students that have been art students for 12 years and now they are going follow a strict path.

Participant 2: It was funny at my last school the principal decided to change up the assessment so besides have tests, he wanted the academic subject teachers to have a portfolio of all of their writing. I’m looking at him like how are we supposed to accomplish this? All of the teachers now are managing tests and portfolio assessments for 30-40 students.

Karen Keifer-Boyd: You can make a test for any subject, but whether that is something valuable and captures really anything about learning is questionable.

Participant 2: Yes, that had these forms and teachers would record if students had improved without really knowing.

Aaron Knochel: They had a similar situation in New York where they introduced Student Learning Objectives assessments, SLOs ironically, as a part of teacher evaluation in the stipulations of Race to the Top funding. Schools would develop SLOs in all subject areas and so, for example, in the elementary school the classroom teacher would be working with 30 students but the art teacher would be working with 600-800 students. There was no recognition from the administrations of schools in the difference in that assessment burden. Many of districts went through a full year of planning and implementation and when the scores came out the scores were so erratic, the assessment system of baseline testing was so irrevocably broken, that some districts chose one subject by which to judge all teachers. It is this utter failure of the kinds of policies and systems of school accountability, but when you get down to the brass tacks of implementation there is a lot of missteps and misconceptions of what is possible.

Robert Sweeny: Aaron, you’re involved in other conversations of say engineering education, so I wonder if STEM fields are also scratching their heads.

Aaron Knochel: I think their burden, that they recognize, at least in the conversations that I have had, is that they are incredibly isolated in who they are reaching. They are reaching white boys and so I think they are looking at interdisciplinarity as a possible way to open up spaces, but that is coming from more progressive educators. I am generalizing of course, but I think there is an understanding of value, and an alliance that art educators can make, around project-based learning. Engineering educators are feeling the burden of standardized testing and curricula as really limiting to what they can achieve in a robust engineering program, because they cannot develop those broader projects. That, again, is an alliance that we have with them. Laboratory sciences such as biology, chemistry, etc. have the same challenge. The hands-on laboratory learning is being demoted to standardized testing. So, I think in some ways STEM disciplines are our major allies in contemporary education. Ten years ago, I would have not seen this landscape of allies, but increasingly as I conceptualize the future of education I see the centrality of project-based work as a mode of connecting STEM and art subjects in ways that subvert trends in standardized and limiting assessments models.


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McFee, J. K. (1966). Society, art, and education. In E. L. Mattil, E. L. (Ed.), A seminar in art education for research and curriculum development (pp. 122-140). University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University.

Obama, B. (April, 2009). Remarks by the President at the National Academy of Sciences annual meeting. Speech presented at the National Academy of Sciences, Washington D. C. Retrieved from

Pugh, J. (2015, March 18). It’s time to start talking seriously about Basic Income: or: How we can save ourselves from the coming robot revolution. Medium. Retrieved from

Karen Keifer-Boyd, Aaron Knochel, Ryan M. Patton, and Robert Sweeny

Dr. Karen Keifer-Boyd is professor of art education and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies at Penn State. She co-founded the journal Visual Culture & Gender, is an NAEA Distinguished Fellow, 2012 Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Gender Studies at Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt in Austria, 2006 Finland Fulbright awardee, and co-authored: Including Difference (NAEA, 2013); InCITE, InSIGHT, InSITE (NAEA, 2008); Engaging Visual Culture (Davis, 2007); Real-World Readings in Art Education: Things Your Professors Never Told You (Falmer, 2000).

Dr. Aaron D. Knochel is Assistant Professor of Art Education at Penn State School of Visual Arts and an affiliated faculty at the Art & Design Research Incubator (ADRI) in the College of Arts & Architecture at The Pennsylvania State University. Generally, he tries to live up to his @artisteducator twitter bio: artist-teacher-visual culture researcher-digital media flaneur-novice hacker and pixel stacker.

Dr. Ryan M. Patton is an Associate Professor of Art Education at Virginia Commonwealth University. Ryan taught art in the South Bronx and animation and game design with the Smithsonian Associates. Ryan has explored digital media with CurrentLab, a new media art education research initiative for developing curriculum, teaching tools, and best practices for visual arts educators. Ryan’s current research interests include: play and games-based pedagogy, physical computing, socially-engaged art practices, and urban education.

Dr. Robert W. Sweeny is Professor of Art Education at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He studies digital visual culture. He is the author of Dysfunction and Decentralization in New Media Art Education (2015, Intellect) and is the editor of Inter/Actions/Inter/Sections: Art Education in a Digital Visual Culture (2011, NAEA). He is incoming Associate Editor of Studies in Art Education (2019–2021) and is former Editor of The Journal of the National Art Education Association (2012–2014).

The Immaterialization of Art Education’s Labor: Disciplined-Based Knowledge Production and the 1965 Penn State Seminar

Juuso Tervo
Aalto University, Finland

Citation: Tervo, J. (2019). Immaterialization of art education’s labor: Disciplined-based knowledge production and the 1965 Penn State Seminar. Transdisciplinary Inquiry, Practice, and Possibilities in Art Education. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Libraries Open Publishing. DOI: 10.26209/arted50-13

Abstract: This paper situates the 1965 Penn State Seminar within the post-industrial turn in the United States and examines how the emerging disciplinary framework for art education that reconfigured the content of art curricula from manual activities to cognitive capacities reflected the changing landscape of work in the American society. Drawing from Maurizio Lazzarato’s concept of immaterial labor, I propose that the 1965 Seminar helped to set new criteria for art education’s labor that put the emphasis on immaterial practices of art education. I focus specifically on two sets of criteria: one proposed by art educator Manuel Barkan and the other articulated by Allan Kaprow, the only artist who was invited to speak in the seminar. I suggest that they both, in their own ways, made it possible to imagine the outcomes of art education beyond its manifestations as therapeutic and/or self-expressive objects and turn it into a social and economic relation that ensured the need for art education in a society where the very nature of work was changing.

Keywords: immaterial labor; art education; Allan Kaprow; Manuel Barkan

Ten years before the 1965 Penn State seminar, Manuel Barkan (1955) noted in the introduction of his book A Foundation for Art Education that “[a]rt in general education is becoming less a body of subject matter composed of certain specific skills, and more a way of working and a way of seeing” (p. 4). While this statement was not entirely alien to the Lowenfeldian framework of creative self-expression, the ambitious title of his book suggested that the “way of working” and the “way of seeing” denoted activities that have identifiable foundations that go beyond individual expression (e.g. child art) or “specific skills” (e.g. Arthur Wesley Dow’s elements and principles). In the 1965 Seminar, Barkan furthered this claim by stating,

there are controls operating in competent works by artists, critics and others engaged in art; and to this important extent, they engage in structured inquiry which is disciplined. Hence, though there is no formal structure in the arts, they are a certain class of disciplines. To this extent, too, inquiry into art curriculum can be both structured and disciplined, and so can the curriculum itself.” (Barkan, 1966, p. 244, emphasis added)

This paper situates Barkan’s words, together with the 1965 Seminar itself, to the changing landscape of work in the United States at that time, that is, the so-called post-industrial turn that shifted the focus of economic productivity from the production of goods to the increasingly growing service economy. Here, I reflect on curator Helen Molesworth’s (2003) argument that various practices of American post-World War II avant-garde art (specifically practices that involved deskilling of artistic work) were highly involved with rethinking artistic labor in this new landscape of work. Molesworth argues, “[t]he liberation of art from traditional artistic skills, the production of a unique object, and the primacy of the visual necessitated new aesthetic criteria less focused on appearance and more concerned with ideas” (p. 29). These words bear intriguing similarities with Barkan’s claims concerning art education in the 1950s: rather than a set of “specific skills,” art education had become a “way” of working and seeing in a similar way that art became “less focused on appearance and more concerned with ideas.” While the “new aesthetic criteria” that Molesworth mentions can be seen as one of the central issues of debate in contemporary art (both in practice and theory), I see that Barkan’s seminal claims concerning the “structured” and “disciplined” approach to art curriculum constituted “new criteria” for art education: it helped to approach art education beyond the production of objects and treat it also as a process of knowledge production.

My investigation is fuelled by the ongoing discussion concerning the position of art in the current social, political, and economic milieu of education. The current neoliberal return to creativity (expressed in discourses that emphasize the importance of innovation and imagination for economy) has made art education, yet again, an intriguing companion for economic growth and productive labor. If, as one of National Art Education Association’s slogans states, art educators “Shape Human Potential,” (National Art Education Association, n.d.) I see that it is important to examine how the aforementioned new criteria might have contributed to the way that human potential and agency that we “shape” have become relevant for economic growth today.

Interestingly enough, creativity was also part of the discursive landscape from which the 1965 Seminar emerged. It is well known that the launch of Sputnik in 1957 had a strong effect on the educational policies in the United States. While the National Defense Education Act (NDEA) of 1958 increased the federal support mostly for mathematics and sciences, August Heckscher’s The Arts and National Government (1963), commissioned by the Kennedy administration, accompanied by the nomination of Francis Keppel as the U.S. Commissioner of Education in 1962 and Kathryn Bloom’s nomination as the head of the newly established Arts and Humanities program in 1963, opened the doors for significant federal support for research in art education in the 1960s (Hoffa, 1970). According to Vincent Lanier (1963), it was possible to articulate the societal need for art education within this early 1960s post-Sputnik era along the following line of reasoning:

United States scientists need to be creative.
Art education can develop creativity.
The United States needs art education.
(Lanier, 1963, p. 13)

It is crucial to point out, however, that this approach to creativity already differed quite radically from what one finds in creative self-expression of the 1940s and 1950s. In his article “Transition in Art Education: Changing Conceptions of Curriculum Content and Teaching,” Barkan (1962) noted that while creative self-expression had helped art educators to do away with rigid formalism, it had also made artistic practice too disconnected from the intellectual capabilities involved in this practice. He wrote, “in trying to bring art education to all people, well meaning but overzealous art teachers have themselves made learning in art appear to be all too simple, all too easy, and all too much fun” (Barkan, 1962, p. 13, original emphasis). Echoing similar sentiments, Joshua C. Taylor (1966) noted in his address at the 1965 Seminar that “[i]n educational programs the theories of John Dewey were bizarrely distorted to support the idea that art could be studied only through the act of production. ‘Creativity’ became the virtuous catch-word, and it was largely restricted to the activity of the hands” (p. 44).

“Too simple,” “too easy,” “too much fun,” and too restricted to “production” as “the activity of the hands.” Art education in the 1960s was to become more than mere entertainment, therapy, or manual labor: it was to exceed the confinements of individual artworks and become a system of knowledge production in a society where, as Heckscher (1963) noted, the increasing amount of free time “contributed to the search for a new dimension of experience and enjoyment” (p. 96).

What follows is a proposal for a frame of contextualization that looks at the legacy of the 1965 Seminar as new criteria for art education’s labor; criteria that put the emphasis on knowledge production as the immaterial practice of art education. I will focus on two sets of criteria: the one proposed by Barkan and the other articulated by Allan Kaprow, the only artist who was invited to speak in the seminar. I propose that they both, in their own ways, made it possible to imagine the outcomes of art education beyond its manifestations as therapeutic and/or self-expressive objects and turn it into a social and/or economic relation that ensured the need for art education in a society where the very nature of work was changing.

Immaterialization of Labor

The term “immaterial labor” is often connected to Italian sociologist and philosopher Maurizio Lazzarato, who has used it to describe the changing nature of work in contemporary Western capitalism that he (among other theorists connected to the Italian Autonomia movement) calls post-Fordism. Lazzarato defines immaterial labor as “labor that produces the informational and cultural content of the commodity” (Lazzarato, 1996, p. 133). These two aspects refer to characteristics of contemporary labor that, on the one hand, requires an increasing amount of information technology in its execution (informational content) and, on the other hand, exceeds the confinements of traditional work by being involved in “defining and fixing cultural and artistic standards, fashions, tastes, consumer norms, and, more strategically, public opinion” (p. 133). What is important to note about Lazzarato’s conceptualization of immaterial labor is that it “produces first and foremost a ‘social relationship’ (a relationship of innovation, production, and consumption)” (p. 138) which means that social life becomes increasingly connected with capital accumulation. “If Fordism integrated consumption into the cycle of the reproduction of capital,” Lazzarato writes, “post-Fordism integrates communication into it” (p. 140). This blurs the boundaries between work and life both spatially and temporally: spatially in the sense that labor is not confined to one’s workplace, but disperses itself in all realms of public and private activity and temporally in a sense that work time and free time become indistinguishable.

For my discussion here, what is central about Lazzarato’s definition of immaterial labor is that it offers a theoretical framework to discuss the changing nature of work that accompanied the post-industrial turn specifically from the perspective of knowledge production. Going back to Barkan’s (1966) claim about “controls operating in competent works by artists, critics and others engaged in art” (p. 244), it is notable that these controls were, for Barkan, not only a question of the relation between the artist or critic and their work (e.g. skills), but first and foremost dealing with one’s relation to life:

The professional scholars in art — the artists, the critics, the historians — would be the models for inquiry, because the kind of human meaning questions they ask about art and life, and their particular ways of conceiving and acting on these questions are the kinds of questions and ways of acting that art instruction would be seeking to teach students to ask and act upon. The artist and critic would serve as models for questions that could be asked about contemporary life. The historian would serve as model for questions that might be asked about art and life in other times, other societies, and other cultures in order to illuminate the meaning of the past for better understanding of current pressing problems. (Barkan, 1966, p. 246)

While similar calls for the integration of art and life can be found from the social reconstructionists of the 1930s (e.g. Edwin Ziegfeld’s Owatonna Art Education Project), what is specifically interesting about the discipline-based approach suggested by Barkan is that “questions&helip; about art and life” are segmented and organized in different professional “models” that constitute three cognitive configurations of art and life. Contra the “simple,” “easy,” and “fun” learning in creative self-expression that centered around the ambiguous pair art and creativity, these configurations provided identifiable subject positions that directed art education’s knowledge production. Learning, in other words, was to become a performance of the cognitive capacities of art professionals and the societal task of art education was to integrate this performance in students’ lives by teaching them “to ask and act upon” questions that these configurations delineated.

These linguistic and cognitive performances of asking and acting upon questions that art professionals provide are, indeed, in striking contrast with the mere “activity of the hands” that Taylor (1966) criticized. These new cognitive characteristics of art education come close to the informational and cultural aspects of immaterial labor, namely to its function as a social relationship that engages workers by activating them rather than by commanding. As Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri (2004) argue,

When Dewey confronted the modern industrial paradigm he viewed the characteristics of factory labor as running counter to democratic exchange and tending to form a silent and passive public. Today, however, post-Fordism and the immaterial paradigm of production adopt performativity, communication, and collaboration as central characteristics. Performance has been put to work. Every form of labor that produces an immaterial good, such as a relationship or an affect, solving problems or providing information, from sales work to financial services, is fundamentally a performance: the product is the act itself. (Hardt & Negri, 2004, p. 200)

In the context of art education, the claim that “product is the act itself” can be understood in terms of Barkan’s initial suggestion concerning the change from “specific skills” to ways of working and seeing; ways that, following his advocacy for discipline-based approach, find their form in the cognitive abilities of the artist, the critic, and the art historian. This performative element is what makes the immaterial content of learning seem liberating when contrasted with material work: rather than being constrained by the form of the work (e.g. “activity of the hands”), learning is coupled with human agency as an active relation with the social world. Lazzarato writes,

workers are expected to become “active subjects” in the coordination of the various functions of production, instead of being subjected to it as simple command. We arrive at a point where a collective learning process becomes the heart of productivity, because it is no longer matter of finding different ways of composing and organizing already existing job functions, but of looking for new ones. (Lazzarato, 1996, pp. 135)

This is what we currently see in, for example, National Education Association (NEA)’s advocacy for the “Four Cs,” that of, critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity, as part of the advocacy for the “21st Century Skills” (National Education Association, n.d.). The “human potential” that art educators “shape” is, then, raw material for what we have now become accustomed to call life-long learning. Akin to post-Fordist labor, the boundaries between life and learning are blurred, while simultaneously being organized in cognitive segments like the Four Cs or Barkan’s three disciplines of art.

Immaterialization of Art

What does Allan Kaprow bring in to this discussion? Here, it is worth going back to Molesworth’s (2003) argument concerning the post-WWII American avant-garde and its relation to the changing landscape of labor. She points out the “new criteria” for judging works of art emerged from a “double rejection:”

as artists stopped employing traditional artistic skills, they also stopped making works of art that imagined the museum or the collector’s home as their final destination. Instead, artists attempted to make works of art that would actively resist easy assimilation into the realm of the art market, where art was seen to be one luxury commodity among many. (Molesworth, 2003, p. 29)

Indeed, Kaprow was one of the key figures in the scene that Molesworth discusses. Heavily influenced by Dewey’s Art as Experience (1934/2005; see Kelley, 1993), Kaprow’s artistic practice prioritized experiential aspects of art. After leaving painting in the late 1950s in favor of his Happenings, Kaprow’s works clearly manifested the aspects of new forms of artistic labor found in Molesworth: they were not based on traditional skills and they did not produce objects that could be sold in the art market.

Kaprow offers an approach to the immaterialization of art that, unlike discipline-based knowledge production in art education, was much less structured. Here, my point is not to say that Kaprow was somehow more liberating than Barkan. After all, Kaprow’s Happenings also manifest what Hardt and Negri argue on the performative nature of immaterial labor; that the “product is the act itself.” Thus, both Kaprow and Barkan ought to be understood as two sides of the same coin, that is, as attempts to seek new approaches to the relation between labor and human agency during the post-industrial turn. Indeed, taking Kaprow’s deep engagement with Dewey into consideration, Taylor’s critique of the “bizarrely distorted” reading of Dewey’s aesthetics by art educators in the past (that “art could be studied only through the act of production” [Taylor, 1966, p. 44]) finds an intriguing counterpart in Kaprow, whose experience-driven artistic work focused on the very act of art.

Kaprow’s address at the 1965 Seminar seems, at first, to stand in striking contrast to Barkan. Contra Barkan’s attempt to identify the controls that operate in art and criticism, Kaprow argued that “by wishing to systematically investigate creativity for the sake of establishing controls for teaching purposes, we may be unconsciously searching for another, merely updated, academic rulebook” (Kaprow, 1966, p. 74). For him, artists operate on the basis of “mystery or magic” (p. 82) that their work unfolds when in contact with the audience and it is in this mystery where the educational potential of art resides. Despite the danger of oversimplifying his argument, Kaprow’s suggestion for the seminar can be distilled into the following statement:

Instead of extrapolating criteria from what artists seem to do in so-called professional situations, for application to school situations, it might be a good idea to see what happens when an artist interested in school children tries to convey his magic in the classroom (p. 82).

“Might be a good idea,” “see what happens,” “tries to convey.” The inherent unpredictability that Kaprow’s words express reveals a close affinity between his approach to art and education. After all, Happenings created situations that, as Molesworth (2003) put it, “provided no discrete or permanent object, no comfortable or passive spectatorship” (p. 44) that, in the context of education, would have functioned as a basis for a clearly articulated curriculum. For Kaprow, “[t]hings, people and their needs sit still only when our mind substitutes for them a stable concept” (Kaprow, 1966, p. 81), meaning that the cognitive configurations of art and life that Barkan suggested (the artist, the critic, the art historian) were stabilizations of mind that removed the element of experience from education and replaced it with discursive control. By prioritizing the experiential and the ephemeral in art and education, Kaprow offered new criteria for art educators to perform their labor through scenes of magic that could never form the kind of “rulebook” like Barkan’s A Foundation for Art Education.

How, then, to understand Kaprow’s suggestions in terms of the immaterialization of art education’s labor in the emerging, post-industrial landscape? While the shift from object-centered to experience-driven practices allowed Kaprow to resist the commodification of his own artistic work, it was also an attempt to create what he, in an essay written in 1958, had called “total art” (Kaprow, 1993, pp. 10-13). The totality of art emerged from its blurring with non-art and, eventually, with everyday life. As he wrote about Happenings in 1966, “Unlike the ‘cooler’ styles of Pop, Op, and Kinetics, in which imagination is filtered through a specialized medium and a privileged showplace, the Happenings do not merely allude to what is going on in our bedrooms, in the drugstores, and at the airports; they are right there” (p. 65). When read vis-à-vis the educational program Kaprow suggested in the Seminar, his take on the relationship between art, life, and education went beyond practical applications (as in the aforementioned Owatonna Art Education Project in the 1930s) and the kind of questions about life that Barkan was after. Instead, the immaterial labor of art educators and the student agency it ought to bring about were to stem from the very lack of rules in artistic production, leading to a kind of “collective learning process” that Lazzarato would later position at the heart of productivity in post-Fordism. From this perspective, Kaprow’s ideal students are not the ones who simply do what the teacher tells them to do, but the ones who are open to the unpredictability of art and ready to immerse themselves completely in the educational event set up by the art(ist) teacher. At the end, imagination — one of the central components of experience-driven art for Kaprow — becomes, “a way to be alive” (Kaprow, 1966, p. 84), thus turning the external control embedded in objects, rules, and passive spectatorship into internal adaptability to the events of education. In Lazzarato’s terms, Kaprow’s art education prioritized the cultural content of immaterial labor over the informational, allowing a kind of art-based knowledge production without clearly delineated limits. Art was, in other words, what turned life into education and education into life, further consolidating Hardt and Negri’s claim that performance has been put to work.


Needless to say, there are some limitations and possible shortcomings in my argument. Since Lazzarato does not specifically address the work of artists or educators and locates the beginning of the transformation from Fordism to post-Fordism to the early 1970s, it would be problematic to draw direct, causal relations between his conceptualization of immaterial labor and the 1965 Seminar. It is also important to emphasize that post-industrial turn and immaterial labor are not to be understood as totalizing, epochal concepts that signify all work in the 1960s or today. After all, both art education as well as industrial production continue to be embedded in very material practices whose materiality is always connected to the global distribution of people, labor, and materials. In addition, my aim is not to suggest that the emerging immaterialization of art education’s labor (i.e. the shifting emphasis from “activity of the hands” to “ways of working and seeing”) in the 1960s led art teachers into a totalizing trap of managerialism that embeds their work together with all social life in capital accumulation. I do believe that there is always work (both material and immaterial; artistic and educational) that remains under the radar of institutions as well as institutional discourses that try to represent it.

Despite these limitations, I see that such comparative reading between these two histories — labor and art education — may help art educators to better contextualize the new criteria for their work that emerged around the time of the Seminar and its relation to the broader social and economic changes that have taken place in the past decades. Today, when art educators are expected to “shape human potential” so that it fits with the needs and interests of the so-called creative industries (immaterial labor par excellence), the political task of art education research is, I believe, to approach the relation between art, education, and the potentials of human life aside from clearly constructed or seemingly boundless models for flexible labor. This requires critical re-examination and historicization of our current “ways of working,” just like what the 1965 Seminar attempted to do.


Barkan, M. (1955). A foundation for art education. New York, NY: The Ronald Press Company.

Barkan, M. (1962). Transition in art education: Changing conceptions in curriculum content and teaching. Art Education, 15(7), 12–18, 27–28.

Barkan, M. (1966). Curriculum problems in art education. In E. L. Mattil (Ed.), A Seminar in Art Education for Research and Curriculum Development (pp. 240–258). University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University.

Dewey, J. (2005). Art as experience. New York, NY: The Berkley Publishing Group. (Original work published 1934)

Hardt, M., & Negri, A. (2004). Multitude. War and democracy in the age of Empire. New York, NY: The Penguin Press.

Heckscher, A. (1963). The arts and the national government. Arts in society, 2(4), 93-113.

Hoffa, H. (1970). An analysis of recent research conferences in art education. Final report. Washington DC: Bureau of Research, Office of Education, U.S. Dept. of Health, Education and Welfare.

Kaprow, A. (1966). The creation of art and the creation of art education. In E. L. Mattil (Ed.), A Seminar in Art Education for Research and Curriculum Development (pp. 74-89). University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University.

Kaprow, A. (1993). Essays on the blurring of art and life. Berkley, CA: University of California Press.

Kelley, J. (1993). Introduction. In A. Kaprow & J. Kelley (Eds.), Essays on the blurring of art and life (pp. xi–xxvi). Berkley, CA: University of California Press.

Lanier, V. (1963). Schismogenesis in contemporary art education. Studies in Art Education, 5(1), 10–19.

Lazzarato, M. (1996). Immaterial labor. In P. Virno & M. Hardt (Eds.), Radical thought in Italy. A potential politics (pp. 133-147). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

Molesworth, H. (2003). Work ethic. In H. Molesworth (Ed.), Work ethic (pp. 25-51). Baltimore, MD: Baltimore Museum of Art.

National Art Education Association (n.d.). About us. Retrieved from

National Education Association (n.d.). An Educator’s Guide to the “Four Cs.” Preparing 21st Century Students for a Global Society. Retrieved from

Taylor, J. C. (1966). The history of art in education. In E. L. Mattil (Ed.), A Seminar in Art Education for Research and Curriculum Development (pp. 42-59). University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University.

Juuso Tervo

Dr. Juuso Tervo works as a University Lecturer and the Director of University-Wide Art Studies at Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture, Finland. His research and writing combine historical, philosophical, and political inquiries in art and education, drawing from fields such as literary theory, poetics, theology, philosophy of education, and philosophy of history. He received his Ph.D. in Arts Administration, Education and Policy from The Ohio State University in 2014.

Art Education after DBAE: A K-12 Postmodern Curriculum in Practice

Robin Brewer
Garnet Valley High School, USA

Lisbeth Bucci
West Chester University, USA

Claudia Eckel
Garnet Valley High School, USA

Citation: Brewer, R., Bucci, L., & Eckel, C. (2019). Art education after DBAE: A K-12 Postmodern curriculum in practice. Transdisciplinary Inquiry, Practice, and Possibilities in Art Education. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Libraries Open Publishing. DOI: 10.26209/arted50-14


Since the 1965 Art Education Seminar at Penn State and the emergence of discipline-based art education (DBAE), art educators have been trained to teach the formal qualities of art: art history, aesthetics, criticism and studio practice centered around the elements and principles of art. National and local standards were based on DBAE and curricula were written based on those standards. For it’s time, DBAE united art educators with concrete concepts and vocabulary to support what we teach. More recently, the new National Core Arts Standards have opened up ideas on what a 21st century art classroom might look like, promoting growth through student response and connections through art.

A “postmodern” curriculum continues with the 1965 Penn State Seminar emphasis on contemporary art practices yet transcends the original, DBAE standards. Postmodern ideas are a direct reaction to DBAE. Olivia Gude’s article, “Postmodern Principles: In Search of a 21st Century Art Education” is critical of the elements and principles of art, the foundation of DBAE curriculum. She writes:

The elements and principles are presented as the essence of artmaking, as pure art education gospel. If not literally engraved in stone, the big seven (elements) + seven (principles) are reified in print, achieving theoretical unity, not by dint of persuasive argument, but through seemingly endless repetition in formally oriented textbooks or, during the last decade, as government-mandated standards. (Gude, 2004)

She continues in the article to propose her own postmodern principles. Units like “Layering”, “Juxtaposition”, “Interaction with Text and Image”, and “Appropriation” encourage students to begin within themselves to create work that is unique, their personal visual voice rather than a carbon copy project. Postmodern visual arts curriculum emphasizes contemporary art practices. Students approach artmaking as an investigative process.

Through research and collaboration, art educators from one district in southeastern Pennsylvania designed a new K-12 curriculum based on the Understanding by Design (UbD) model by McTighe and Wiggins. Lisbeth Bucci. The Visual Arts K-12 Curriculum Coordinator for Garnet Valley School District, took the opportunity to use enduring understandings and essential questions as a launching point to add vibrancy to the art program. A connection was made between the concept of “Big Ideas” in the UbD framework and the broad concepts that Gude’s Postmodern Principles presented. Other initial lead writers included Robin Brewer and Diana Stevenson. A concern for our student artists at that time was lack of visual voice, personal connections and somewhat passionless experimentation and discovery in their artmaking. Faced with the challenge of writing a rigorous art curriculum using the UbD format, the GVSD Visual Arts Department began a multi-year process of investigation, experimentation, and writing.


In 2006, the Garnet Valley School District began a major curricular revision cycle. The focus of the district-wide initiative was a unification of curricula across disciplines using the Understanding by Design model. Over 6 years, curricular areas K-12 would cycle through phases of reflection, research, mapping, and writing, while looking intently at our curricular content. District professional development was on-going and often required departmental collaboration. The first phase included 6 high school studio art courses with the curriculum mapping phase beginning in 2007.

Marilyn G. Stewart and Sydney R. Walker’s book, Rethinking Curriculum in Art, was the first step in linking art with the UbD format required by the district. Stewart and Walker (2005) seamlessly provided language to address big ideas along with early examples of student-centered art activities. Enduring ideas are described as “broad, umbrella-like ideas that guide students in understanding what it means to be human, to live alongside others in the natural world” (25).

The publication of Rethinking Curriculum in Art was influential in shaping our curriculum and became a staple for reading, research, and collaborative professional development for the Garnet Valley Visual Art Department. Multiple copies were purchased and shared K-12. It became evident that our DBAE practices were in much need of vital augmentation to better meet the needs of our students and their artistic pursuits. This publication was the first bridge between our old curriculum and our current direction.

Our high school art curriculum was now imbued with enduring understandings and topics such as identity, social justice, relationships, and power conflict. We had been practicing non project-centric approaches with our students; however, this publication provided us with the evidence, data, and pedagogy necessary to articulate a shift and unification in our curriculum K-12 as we moved forward. We also began to display student works with statements of big ideas in our classrooms, hallways, and district art exhibitions K-12.

The next discovery and influence on our curriculum design was the work of Olivia Gude. At the same time the Garnet Valley High School art faculty were beginning to map their new curriculum, Olivia Gude’s presentation at the 2007 NAEA Convention in New York City would prove to have great impact on the future of our K-12 Visual Art Department and the redesign of our curriculum. Gude’s presentation was centered around her 2004 Art Education publication, “The Postmodern Principles: In Search of a 21st Century Art Education.” Gude’s principles of appropriation, juxtaposition, recontextualization, layering, interaction of text and image, hybridity, gazing, and representin’ would become the foundation of our own Garnet Valley Postmodern Principles.

Olivia Gude’s 2004 “Postmodern Principles” journal article, along with her 2007 article, “Principles of Possibility: Considerations for a 21st Century Art & Culture Curriculum” became suggested reading for all Garnet Valley art educators for review and reflection. Gude’s writings became the springboard for discussion on possible postmodern principles to guide our own curriculum. Discussion topics such as article language, ease of transition, nurturing a visual voice, and what generative themes should or could be appropriate for our student demographics, shaped our list of postmodern principles. Over several K-12 art department meetings, we began to decide which of Gude’s principles would work for us. We removed, reworded and renamed a few. We also came up with our own new principles, including “integrity” and “sensitivity”. The list of 15 Garnet Valley Postmodern Principles was two years in the making but worth the time and research. (See Figure 1: Garnet Valley School District Visual Art Department: Postmodern Principles)

Figure 1: Garnet Valley School District Visual Art Department: Postmodern Principles

Garnet Valley School District
Visual Art Department: Postmodern Principles

Adapted from the work of Olivia Gude
Compiled by Lisbeth Bucci, Robin Brewer and Diana Stevenson

Artists bring together familiar images and objects either intentionally or randomly.
Artists combine multiple images or ideas to create complexity of ideas or experiences.
Artists consider the interplay between the two elements as a source of meaning, process and product.
Artists use new media as an approach to contemporary artmaking.
Artists use previously established imagery as a springboard for one’s own creative expression.
Artists question who creates and controls imagery and how this imagery affects our understandings of reality.
Artists communicate meaningful self-expression using artmaking to explore the potentials and problems in one’s own cultural and political setting.
Artists immerse themselves in the process of experimentation and discover empowered experiences to create their visual voice.
Artists construct, select, edit and present visual images through formalism, expressionism, craft and postmodern practices.
Artists use pictures, symbols and text to create metaphors in works of art.
Artists use their art to locate their own voice within their own personal history and culture of origin.
Artists use themes to investigate issues locally and globally. “Think Globally, Act Locally”
Artists notice and shape the world around them using nature, the environment and everyday life.
Artists create strength and stability through sequential processes.
Artists use the process of change to explore and communicate their ideas in art.

Gude’s Spiral Curriculum and journal articles on Postmodern Principles and Principles of Possibilities combined with Stewart and Walker’s big ideas and essential questions to produce lessons and learning activities that go beyond discipline-based art education and personally engages students with the meaning of their work. Directives from our district were already shaping our curricular path, however we saw a great opportunity for further research to better connect our visual art department with a stronger common language and greater K-12 curricular unification.

The new Garnet Valley Postmodern Principles became the focus of our units. We now have 25 curricula; one for each grade level and, at the high school level, one for each media-based course. Each curriculum contains 5 or 6 units. For example, the Drawing and Painting I curriculum has 5 units: Integrity, Sensitivity, Recycled Imagery, Experimentation and Discovery, and Juxtaposition. The curriculum is written in a way that allows the teacher and student multiple ways to interpret how to achieve the objectives of the unit. Guided by enduring understandings and essential questions, students work through learning activities using their own visual voice. In the past, a still-life drawing lesson would begin with a still-life chosen and arranged by the teacher. A new postmodern lesson would begin with a theme or big idea like childhood memories. Students bring in their own items of importance and arrange their own personal still-life, allowing for ownership and personal expression.

Addressing the National Core Arts Standards

The openness of the postmodern curriculum merges easily with the National Core Arts Standards and is applicable to all grade levels. A team of leading art educators, including Olivia Gude, worked to create a framework that supports the complexity of art education. The cornerstone of the new standards, “artistic processes,” emphasizes the qualities of an artist through Creating, Presenting, Responding, and Connecting. Familiar UbD categories like Enduring Understandings and Essential Questions add rigor to the discussions around art.

Consider one of our postmodern principles, Experimentation and Discovery, inspired by Gude’s “playing”. When you read the NCAS, the first Enduring Understanding under the Creating process states: “Creativity and innovative thinking are essential life skills and can be developed.” The corresponding Essential Question asks, “What conditions, attitudes, and behaviors support creativity and innovative thinking?” A postmodern curriculum unit on experimentation and discovery will allow students the freedom to think through their ideas, experiment, problem solve, self-assess, and create. To say creativity and innovative thinking can be developed is an invitation to the student to take risks and learn from their mistakes.


The outcomes for students instructed with a postmodern curriculum begin with overarching enduring understandings and trickle down to specific unit content and vocabulary. The enduring understandings reached through postmodern units are consistent across courses and grade levels, although the level of depth may vary. By focusing on learning goals that span courses and levels, students develop a fluency of language, which they can apply to artworks inside the art classroom, across curriculum in other subject areas, and beyond the school day. Students are able to critique artwork with postmodern vocabulary and focus on the creative outcomes of the work, rather than dwell in judgment and praise of precise observational skills (which have their place but all too often take over the conversation). Students understand that learning about art and asking questions about art are not limited to specific prompts but can be self-generated and extend into their environment. For example, students working on an experimental unit in photography are challenged to build their own pinhole camera. The camera needs to prove functional in the end, however there is no limit to size or design. Recently, one student asked if he could make a miniature camera, about 1”x1”. When reminded that there is no limit on size, he began designing and building a camera that he wasn’t even sure would work. Through multiple experiments, the camera was able to take a tiny recognizable photograph. He was fully involved in the inquiry-based activity as the inventor, designer, and photographer.


Assessment for a curriculum designed around postmodern principles can easily meet the assessment requirements of both the Pennsylvania State Standards of the Arts and Humanities and the National Core Arts Standards which require “Artistic literacy that includes philosophical foundations and lifelong goals, artistic processes and creative practices, anchor and performance standards that students should attain, and model cornerstone assessments by which they can be measured.” (NCCAS, 2015) The original curriculum, written under the Pennsylvania State Standards and developed to measure Discipline Based Art Education, is currently being transitioned and revised to meet the requirements of the National Core Arts Standards. The new National Standards are a better partner for a postmodern curriculum due to the emphasis on “Philosophical Foundations” and “Lifelong Goals” rather than mastery. To broadly cover assessment needs across classes and units, a Common Assessment was developed at Garnet Valley High School for the Performance/Production standard. The following qualities of an artist are emphasized under the rubric for assessment: development and ownership of ideas, perseverance, pushing boundaries, and craftsmanship. The same qualities (and specifications under these qualities) can be recognized both formally and informally, across each postmodern principle, and through all grade levels. The alignment of language used to assess learning through a postmodern curriculum along with the repeated use of postmodern vocabulary help students to develop a fluency in articulating their ideas, critiquing artwork, and growing in the future. (See Figure 2: Garnet Valley High School Visual Arts Common Assessment)

Figure 2: Garnet Valley High School Visual Arts Common Assessment

Garnet Valley High School Visual Arts Common Assessment

Excellent Good Needs Improvment Poor
Demonstrates outstanding achievement & mastery of all established objectives. The student’s work is characterized by accuracy, thorough understanding and maximum effort. Demonstrates achievement & mastery of most of established objectives. The student’s work is characterized by a high degree of understanding & effort Demonstrates satisfactory achievement & mastery of some established objectives. The student’s work is characterized by a sufficient degree of understanding & effort. Demonstrates achievement & mastery of a minimal amount of established objectives &. The student’s work is characterized by inconsistent performance & has not developed sufficient understanding.
UNIT STANDARDS (Project Specific)
Project Criteria #1:       / 15
Project Criteria #2:       / 15
Project Criteria #3:       / 15
Craftsmanship:     / 15
  1. Attention to detail
  2. Commitment to artwork (time, sensitivity)
  UNIT TOTAL:   / 60
Ideas, Planning and Preparation   / 10
  • Content shows evidence of planning, insight & knowledge
  • Idea is refined through experimentation
Creativity   / 10
  • Unique and compelling
  • Idea reflects back on artist
  • Artist’s voice is evident
Design/Composition   / 10
  • Use of elements & principles of art
  • Attention to overall design/composition (space, emphasis, balance, TBOE, 70/30)
Qualities of an Artist   / 10
  • Perseverance
  • Intrinsically motivated
  • Conveys depth and exploration at a level that pushes the artist’s abilities

Future and Flexibility of the Postmodern Curriculum

The Garnet Valley K-12 postmodern curriculum took over two years to research and 4 years to write. We are now beginning revisions, which will allow us to address the National Core Arts Standards through our enduring understandings and essential questions. We are also adding a 16th principle, Collaboration, to address the work and meaning that our students accomplish while working with others. This student-centered curriculum allows both student and teacher to work with ideas and meaning on a personal level. The creative process begins with an idea, connecting the student to their work, allowing for ownership of their visual voice. The success of the postmodern curriculum design is measured in the complexity and diversity of student work. The flexibility of the postmodern curriculum has already allowed us to adapt to the National Core Arts Standards and sets us up for future visions in art education.


Gude, O. (2014). Postmodern principles: In search of a 21st century art education. Art Education, 57(1)): 6-14.

Gude, O. (2007). Principles of possibility: Considerations for a 21st century art & culture curriculum. Art Education, 60(1): 6-17.

Stewart, M. G., and Walker, S. R. (2005). Rethinking curriculum in art. Worcester, MA: Davis.

Wiggins, G. P., & McTighe, J. (1998). Understanding by design. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

National Core Arts Standards (2015). National Core Arts Standards: A Conceptual Framework for Arts Learning.

Rights administered by State Education Agency Directors of Arts Education (SEADAE). All rights reserved. This is as stated in the NCCAS educational use guidelines:

Robin Brewer, Lisbeth Bucci, and Claudia Eckel

Robin Brewer is an art educator at Garnet Valley High School teaching courses in photography, film, and animation. She is also adjunct faculty for The University of the Arts and Moore College of Art, Graduate Art Education with an Emphasis in Special Needs. Robin is an active artist, showing work in the Philadelphia region and is currently serving the Pennsylvania Art Education Association as President.

Lisbeth Bucci has 27 years experience as a Visual Art Educator in public education; as well as a K-12 Curriculum Coordinator, Department chair, Mentor, and AP teacher. Rethinking Curriculum in Art Education has been the topic of several of her presentations and articles on national, state and local platforms. Lisbeth is currently a member of the Department of Art + Design at West Chester University and is President-elect for the Pennsylvania Art Education Association.

Claudia Eckel is a Philadelphia based art educator, artist, and storyteller whose work focuses conceptually on accessibility. Claudia teaches drawing and painting and advanced placement art courses at Garnet Valley High School.

Connecting with the Past and Considering the Future: Reengaging the Big Red Book

Rebecca Brittain Taudien
The Pennsylvania State University, USA

Citation: Taudien, R. B. (2019). Connecting with the past and considering the future: Reengaging the Big Red Book. Transdisciplinary Inquiry, Practice, and Possibilities in Art Education. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Libraries Open Publishing. DOI: 10.26209/arted50-15

When we were first told that our Colloquium for the Fall 2015 semester would focus on the 1965 Seminar in Art Education at The Pennsylvania State University, I became eager to learn more. A copy of the Big Red Book was passed around the classroom. When it came to me I quickly flipped through it in hopes of finding traces of my late grandfather, W. Lambert Brittain. He was, in fact, a participant in the seminar — his photograph appearing on an opening page (Figure 1). At the time he was an Associate Professor in the Department of Child Development and Family Relationships at Cornell University. I grew increasingly excited to discover his possible contributions to the 1965 Seminar.

Grandfather W. Lambert Brittain, 1965 Penn State Seminar in Art Education participant and contributor to the Big Red BookFigure 1. Photograph of my grandfather, a participant in the 1965 Penn State Seminar in Art Education and contributor to the Big Red Book

It is clear that the field of art education has changed since the 1965 Penn State Seminar, and continues to evolve. In this paper I will first discuss my personal connection to the seminar’s proceedings, often referred to as the “Big Red Book,” through the work of my grandfather. I will then discuss my considerations for the future of the field and reflect on what happened to the promise of 1965 and the goals of art education. As we consider how the field of art education has evolved since the 1965 Penn State Seminar, we foremost need to consider the significance of the child.

Connecting with the Past

As a child, I did not know or did not actively think about my grandfather’s work as an art educator. He passed away when I was four years old. To me, he was just Daddy Lambert, a name that I coined when I was first learning to speak, that somehow stuck, and a man that used to sneak me sugar-coated raisins from the cereal box. I loved to visit my grandparents’ house in Ithaca, New York, where drawing was a common activity. I enjoyed drawing on their large, circular, wooden dining room table (Figure 2). There was an entire wall of windows in the dining room that allowed for ample natural light. I would get on my knees on the wooden chair, finding the most comfortable position to immerse myself in drawing. I cherish the little memory that I have of us drawing together. Drawing, and art in general, was a valued and encouraged activity in my family.

Rebecca Brittain drawing. Photo by W. Lambert BrittainFigure 2. Photograph of me drawing taken by my grandfather, W. Lambert Brittain

My grandfather never knew how much those early drawing sessions would influence me and that I too would become an art teacher and attend Penn State for my M.S. and Ph.D. degrees. My grandfather also earned both of his graduate degrees from Penn State. During his graduate studies at Penn State, Viktor Lowenfeld was his mentor. My grandfather was probably most well known for his co-authorship, with Viktor Lowenfeld, of the last five editions of Creative and Mental Growth, which were published after Lowenfeld’s death in 1960. He was chosen by Viktor Lowenfeld to continue his work. In these editions, my grandfather included drawings from his five children; all of whom were very interested in art. My father remembers being pleased when his drawings were anonymously included in the textbook. It was fun for me to flip through the different editions with my father to discover which drawings were created by him (Figure 3). I also discovered images created by one of my aunts and two uncles when they were young. My father described his house as one that encouraged art and where art was an integral part of their childhood activities. When his friends came over to the house to play, drawing was always a popular option — one that was cultivated by my grandparents.

father of author drawing confidently (Fig 5) and his drawing of a working model of an airplane (Fig 6)Figure 3. Photograph of my father (10 years old) and his drawing of an airplane in Creative and Mental Growth (1987)

As my father, aunts, and uncles grew older, my grandfather had an increasing interest in adolescent art. At the time of the 1965 Seminar, my father was 13 years old and my uncles and aunts were 9, 11, 15, and 17 years old, respectively. In the 1965 Seminar, my grandfather participated in the presentation of research and development proposal reports. His proposal report, titled An Investigation into the Character and Expressive Qualities of Adolescent Art, seemed to be a departure from his primary research interests involving young children and his work with Saturday art classes, but was directly tied to the age of his own children.

At the time of his proposal in the Big Red Book, there was a dearth of information regarding art produced by adolescents. He was interested in the expressive qualities of the art created by 12 to 15 year olds, and how it differed from that of children and adults (Brittain, 1966). He discussed that much of the adolescent art created in schools was directed to mimic the art of adults. His purpose was to determine whether “there is an art form that is distinct and expressive of adolescent youngsters” (p. 403). He proposed the collection of numerous drawings that included diverse subject matter, such as personal drawings as well as school art. He would then have adolescents analyze the works to determine if there were norms for this adolescent age group (Brittain, 1966, p. 403). He listed the possible benefits of this research in his proposal:

  1. The variety and quality of responses should reflect the projected feelings, emotions, or images of importance to the adolescent population.
  2. A comparison of the stimulus drawing and the recordings of students’ comments should provide information about the need for the development of skills and techniques or the degree of the satisfaction or dissatisfaction in adolescent expression. Some current research indicates that growth or change in art expression at this age is nil (Frankston, 1963).
  3. If the responses gathered reflect qualitatively different characteristics from the traditional patterns of art forms for this age group, a continuum of developmental characteristics of art expression would be hypothetically possible to plot or graph, thus forming an extension of norms for child art through the adolescent period. (Brittain, 1966, p. 403)

Following the 1965 Seminar and the publication of the Big Red Book in 1966, my grandfather followed through with his research proposal and published a similar study two years later in Studies in Art Education titled, “An Exploratory Investigation of Early Adolescent Expression in Art.” In the conclusion of his article, he stated:

This present research makes it abundantly clear that the 12- to 15-year old is full of energy and potential expression which needs artistic guidance and encouragement. The reduction of a program in art education to the level of manipulative skills such as lettering, perspective, or pencil shading seems inexcusable. (Brittain, 1968, p. 11)

His cautions for the art educator still ring true today. Even now, forty-eight years later, many art teachers are focusing their lessons on the elements and principles of design and concentrating primarily on technique. However, the focus needs to shift to providing meaningful learning opportunities for children. Many art teachers also are primarily concerned with the final product, not the process, hard work, and explorations that contributed to the completed creation. Teachers may feel as though the aesthetics of the finished art projects are a reflection of their worth and thus care a great deal about the appearance of the final product. As a result, in many classrooms today, children are directed to follow specific instructions to create “beautiful” products to please parents, administrators, and fellow teachers. Focus needs to be redirected to concentrate on learning processes and discovery, not the adult-driven aesthetics of the final product. This is not to say that product as a whole does not matter, but that the artwork the children create needs to be a result of their own observations, questions, and investigations. The process as well as the product should be meaningful for the children. Making it possible for children to work at their own pace, with as much time as they need for their own inquiries, encourages exploration and in-depth studies in their project work. I believe we need to consider that this approach provides the most benefit overall for children.

Considering the Future

In the preface of Creative and Mental Growth (1987) my grandfather wrote, “Children are the essence of this book, but more than that, they are the essence of society. How children are cared for, nourished both physically and psychologically, give an indication of the value society puts upon itself and its future (p. viii).” This statement, which is 29 years old, is still of utmost importance and relevance. Unfortunately, our society has not progressed to the point where children are treated with such respect.

How should the field of art education evolve and grow so it can better contribute to the development of a healthier and brighter future for our society? The field of art education is vast and diverse; ultimately, however, its focus is the education of the child. The child can get lost in the discourse — lost in the aims of particular curricula and pedagogies. The “image of the child,” which is critical to the discussion, needs to be thoughtfully considered (Malaguzzi, 1994). How we view children and what we believe they are capable of influences our research, our interactions, our teaching. Many art teachers today still see children as vessels that they need to fill with art knowledge; not as competent, capable children that are already coming to the classroom full of wonder, curiosity, knowledge, and life experiences (Gandini, Hill, Cadwell, & Schwall, 2005). We need to fully respect children and the importance and role of experimentation in children’s artmaking. The children’s work should be regarded seriously. They are artists who should be given opportunities in the classroom to make their own artistic choices and have those decisions valued.

When reflecting on one of the objectives of the 1965 Seminar, “To re-reconsider the goals of art education,” I wonder what most art teachers would articulate to be the goal of art education today (Mattil, 1966, p. 2). Now, in 2016, fifty-one years later, we might again re-reconsider the goals of art education. Over ten years ago, Christine Thompson (2005) and Patricia Tarr (2003) encouraged educators to reflect on their image of the child and the ways in which their assumptions might influence their practices. Thompson (2005) discussed how educators should not rely on developmental theories as a way to understand children’s artistic experiences. Tarr (2003) stated, “Experiences in visual expression are not add-ons or isolated activities but are a form of inquiry or way to investigate a theory, idea, or problem, a way of clarifying understanding, the communication of an idea” (p. 11). Tarr (2003) concluded, “We can think carefully about how we might move beyond the constraints we have placed upon ourselves to provide opportunities worthy of children who are making and communicating meaning and who are capable of creating rather than replicating culture” (p. 11).

Both Thompson (2005) and Tarr (2003) wrote that one approach educators can use to begin to understand and provide greater value to children’s work is through a “pedagogy of listening.” Educators need to truly listen to children. McClure (2009) argued for “localized, site-specific reconsideration of images of children and pedagogy that renders images of young children as constructions simultaneously mythologized and marginalized by the categorizations of art and education” (p. 91). In our Colloquium course a presentation by art educators Christopher Schulte and Sylvia Kind titled, Putting Things into Play, discussed the importance of process and experimentation in children’s artmaking and taking children’s work seriously (personal communication, October 13, 2015). Art teachers must listen to children, reflect on their preconceived ideas about children, and put the needs of children back at the center of their efforts. Focusing children’s work to create art that is designed to serve and please adults does not meet the needs of the child.

I only knew W. Lambert Brittain as my grandfather. I never knew him professionally as an art educator, or was able to discuss with him my thoughts about art education. Reading his work not only helped me appreciate his contributions to art education, but gave me the opportunity to connect with the past and provided perspective on possible future direction for the field. I can only hope that personally, and collectively as art educators, we can continue to make strides toward the progress that he envisioned, a hopeful future for children and art education. The field will never truly be able to achieve these goals until we change the way we view our children — where the needs, potential, and abilities of children are genuinely and fully respected and reside at the heart of every art educator’s practice.


Brittain, W. L. (1966). An investigation into the character and expressive qualities of adolescent art. In E. L. Mattil, A seminar in art education for research and curriculum development (pp. 402-403). University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University.

Brittain, W. L. (1968). An exploratory investigation of early adolescent expression in art. Studies in Art Education, 9(2), 5-12.

Gandini, L., Hill, L., Cadwell, L. & Schwall, C. (2005). In the spirit of the studio: Learning from the Atelier of Reggio Emilia. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Lowenfeld, V. & Brittain, W. L. (1987). Creative and mental growth (8th ed). New York: Macmillan Publishing Company.

Malaguzzi, L. (1994). Your image of the child: Where teaching begins. Child Care Information Exchange, 96.

Mattil, E. L. (1966). A seminar in art education for research and curriculum development. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University.

McClure, M. (2009). Spectral childhoods and educational consequences of images of children. Visual Arts Research, 35(2), 91-104.

Tarr, P. (2003). Reflections on the image of the child: Reproducer or creator of culture. Art Education, 56(4), 6-11.

Thompson, C. M. (2005). Under construction: Images of the child in art teacher education. Art Education, 58(2), 18-23.

Rebecca Brittain Taudien

Rebecca Brittain Taudien is a current Ph.D. candidate in Art Education at The Penn State University. She earned her M.S. in Art Education from Penn State in 2009 and her B.S. from Union College in 2005. Prior to returning to study at Penn State, she was an elementary school art teacher in Washington, DC Public Schools and in San Diego, CA. Her research explores how young children relate to and engage with nature through art.

Exploring Transdisciplines: Middle School Students Explore Art & Ecology in Virtual Worlds

Mary Stokrocki
Arizona State University, USA

Citation: Stokrocki, M. (2019). Transdisciplinary excursions: Middle school students explore art & ecology in virtual worlds. Transdisciplinary Inquiry, Practice, and Possibilities in Art Education. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Libraries Open Publishing. DOI: 10.26209/arted50-16

Abstract: Transdisciplinary Art Education is the unity of disciplines by an overarching theory or concept. For three years now, middle school students and I have delved into real life ecological problems such as predator and prey relationships, keeping life in balance on the OpenSim virtual world. Students constructed their own installations with uploaded drawings at my Hive, acknowledging the biological importance of their eco critters that they researched. The next year the same students built a 3-D critter installation and wrote a group story, Night Nests with Pests, strengthening their perceptual cognition (nature of creativity as problem solving and metaphoric thinking) guided by real life and moral concerns. Contextual studies and participatory action research methods demand role-reversals, in which researchers become transdisciplinary co-learners whenever they step into new situations.

Mass Media Technology

Early research on mass media technology began with the 1925 radio series Art in Everyday Life for adults and continued with art education researchers Edward Mattil and Alice Schwartz’s Meaning in Art instructional television programs in the 1950s (White, 2004). Jerome Hausman (1966) led the efforts to examine and change art education components. He stated, “We need to go beyond the shallow use of arts in mass media and offer students ways of interpreting subtle messages” (pp. 131-133). Vincent Lanier (1966) challenged art educators to explore new media. Famous for communications and humanistic theory, Lanier tried to teach the Beatlemania generation art appreciation by determining what they value and then teaching them to critique their products (mentioned in Hausman, 1966). June McFee (1966) further addressed the problem of mass media and its effects on social change. She asked us to (1) offer students more alternatives, (2) evaluate the subtle messages of the one-way electronic communication system, and (3) to consider interdisciplinary education (McFee & Degge, 1977, p. 131).

Continuing their concerns, Stokrocki (2009/2005) internationally called for interdisciplinary examples. Keifer-Boyd (2005) added four intersections of technology with art education: cross-cultural, intertextual, longitudinal, and creatively collaborative (p. 1369). These conditions demanded courage in order for researchers to proceed in spite of criticisms and challenges, so that the art education community is continually informed about effective art teaching practices in diverse educational contexts (Stokrocki, 2004) including electronic and digital means.

Digital Contexts

Electronic contexts are those now controlled by a computer or computer network. These electronic contexts include student-centered versus teacher-centered instruction (Galbraith, 1996), interactive versus passive learning (Julian, 1997), multidirectional rather than linear thinking (Taylor, 2000), conversational learning style rather than a talking-heads television format (Garber & Stankiewicz, 2000).

Micro and Digital Ethnography and Action Research

For over 30 years, I have been doing qualitative studies in real life, notably microethnography, based on Eisner’s (1991) qualitative research methods and McFee and Degge’s (1977) ethnographic study of different cultures. Ethnography is a research method of studying various cultures or transdisciplines (Stokrocki, 2014a). In so doing, we empower various peoples to assume control of their own lives/identities (Stokrocki & Andrews, 2010).

Digital ethnography, on the other hand, is the systematic study of immersive human societies embedded in the Internet, rooted in the real world, including such proficiencies as collaboration, global communication and interaction skills, 3-D mapping and construction, observing cultural play, analyzing chat/discourse analysis, and interviewing avatars (Stokrocki, 2014b). Researchers become learners whenever they step into new situations (Stokrocki, 2012), and desire to understand them from a practical view.

This ongoing practical action research case study involved one investigator (myself) and six-eight students in one school exploring their local desert environment for over three years (Clark & Creswell, 2015). Like Patton’s (2013) game studies, “Action research [on virtual worlds] is a reflective process of progressive problem solving that lessens the space between knowledge generation and the process of teaching” (p. 39). No correct way of action research exists. I used data collection, content analysis, and comparative analysis. For data collection, I used daily observation and screen capture, pre and post questionnaire, and informal interviewing (Stokrocki, 1997). I started with simple basic questions and as the study progressed, I noticed that students were learning informally from their explorations to other virtual world sites as well. This research methodology also empowered various people to assume control of their own lives/identities in the digital world of Second Life (Stokrocki & Andrews, 2010) including artists with disabilities (Krecker, Stokrocki, & Wexler, 2012).

Context: Real Life and Virtual

Later, I was invited with local students to participate on the Open Sim. In real life, the Sonoran Desert School is located in Gold Canyon Arizona in the foothills of the Superstition Mountains, as part of Apache Junction School District about 40 minutes east of Phoenix. The small contract school offers online computer classes from the fifth grade to high school with an enrollment of 75 students. Dr. Sandrine Han from the University of British Columbia offered me a section of her VCER Island on the OpenSim virtual world for such teaching, which she referred to as gamified pedagogy and research (Han, 2015; See Figure 1). Such teaching is open-ended and students need to cooperate together to solve problems.

Screencapture: ASU virtual world desert hive on the Open SimFigure 1. Research on the ASU virtual world desert hive on the Open Sim.


Findings included ecology information and nature of learning from prequestionnaires, creating fauna & flora creatures, 3-D cave structures, and post questionnaires.


When I asked students the first year What is a Desert, they mostly insisted that it was a hot, dry place. I also asked what desert they lived in and they overlooked the name of their school “Sonoran Desert” to highlight the place “Arizona.” When I asked them to define ecology, they simply stated learning to live with other creatures. Then I introduced ecology as “the study of organisms and system connections firmly rooted in an understanding of relationality… and the co-ethical nature of co-dependent connections among beings and natural/built communities” (Gradle, 2007, p. 397).

First Year: Uploaded Fauna & Flora Drawings Made into PhotoShop Transparencies

In 2014, six middle school students and I, the Queen Bee, delved in the ecology problem of pesticides and the importance of maintaining predator and prey relationships (Kingslover, 2000). After choosing their avatar characters and learning simple navigation and camera angles, students drew animals and desert plants. I made them into Photoshop transparencies and uploaded them and students mounted them onto simple prim or box forms (Figures 2 and 3).

Screenshot of student cave creatures and 3D nestsFigure 2. Students constructed a simple cave installation of their drawn creatures and 3-D nests made from simple dome forms and concrete texture.

Screenshot: Eco Problem Treasure TestFigure 3. Later, we made an Eco Problem Treasure Test about their eco critters and the bees that they researched.

The Second Year: Building and Linking 3-D Creature Forms

In 2015, three students repeated the study and clearly enjoyed the challenge of building three-dimensional animal characters with a sculpted form that they could stretch in any direction like clay putty. Linking the basic prims/forms was not easy because as one female complained, “I had to use two hands — one left hand finger constantly on the Shift key and a finger from my right hand selected the form.” This seemingly easy task took constant “disciplined” repetitive action.

Emerging Class Model for Building

One student’s dedicated practice later became the class creature model. Jacob helped his classmates adjust their size X (length), Y (width) and Z (thickness) coordinates (Figure 4). I timed him and discovered that the Build task could be completed in one two-hour class.

Screenshot: Jacob's creature "Ratty" with class interface for building a creatureFigure 4. Jacob’s Creature [Ratty], Class Model for building a creature object.

Evolving Creative Alliteration

Jacob also joked about his creature in a clever rhyming way. He stated, “At night, Ratty [the pest] prowls around for prey.” Alliteration is the repetition of the same letter or sound at the beginning of each or most of the words in a sentence. This “clever, creative word arrangement adds musicality to any piece of writing, making it more compelling and memorable” (Donovan, 2016). Thus students enjoyed the challenge and simple poetic writing became an emerging discipline and the title of the class presentation. Writing clever caption responses using poetic alliteration emerged as fun and challenging task.

Screenshot of installation titled "Night Nests with Pests" showing creature habitatFigure 5. Jacob jokingly came up with their installation title, Night Nests with Pests.


Finally, I distributed an open-ended post-questionnaire to ascertain students’ learning. What did you learn when exploring virtual worlds? They remembered that they lived in the Sonoran Desert, that the desert gets about 13 inches of rain, that even the pests and prey are valuable, and to leave them alone. Students also mentioned the words, “problem-solving, patience, and persistence that I had drilled about digital and transdisciplinary creation (LifeSciTRC © 2008-2016). They also mentioned to help each other and community support. Kristian further learned, “Follow the (Ecology) environmental rules/codes & need to blend/harmonize.”

Comparative Analysis: Ask the Biologist: What’s a Pest?

After contacting the website Ask a Biologist at Arizona State University, students learned about the impact of pests after deciphering the pests’ subtle messages. Biologist Matt Chew answered, “A pest, animal or weed, is any living thing that exists where you don't want it. One person’s pest is another person’s pleasure. The city, county or state you live in may have relevant laws.... Thus, are weeds and pests born” (Personal correspondence, Matt Chew, Retrieved from, June 01, 2015).

Art Education can lead by exploring with school students eco problems from their own real life context and sharing them globally (Stokrocki with Barnes, & York, 2014). Students learned about the excessive use of weed killer. They learned that we needed some of these predator insects to kill the dangerous prey that carried diseases (Kingslover, 2000). Students also learned that bugs [pests] would be our future food and big business (CBS National News, 2013). Our study of insects, Night Nests with Pests: A Case Study of Creative Placemaking and Exploring Sonoran Desert Ecology on the OpenSim now reaches global audiences (Stokrocki, 2017).


My desert hivebecame aknowledge farm with (1) a land model to showcase transdisciplinary learning about fauna and flora creations, (2) made by 3-D modeled virtual world build scripts to replicate real life (RL) models, (3) including responsive conceptual metaphors, and (4) eventually resulting in an interactive space. In this virtual world space, avatar folks can hang out, share their knowledge, and even participate in study groups. Students strengthened their perceptual cognition, metaphoric thinking, and understanding of the nature of creativity as problem solving (Messina & Stankiewicz, 1979). In so doing, children teach children, and adults too, as we learn together (Keifer-Boyd, 2005).

The Future of Transdisciplinary Research Using Virtual Worlds

Virtual world making is not mere playing around. Students learned that it is a challenging process of problem solving and thinking differently. Their installation was a way of world making (Goodman, 1978), linking forms and ideas (Marshall, 2005), and unifying different disciplines with an overaching concept (Klein, 1990). The future demands negotiation of contextual findings as a method of conflict resolution and as a result of the “push and shove” of democratic ways. Negotiation does not come without some degree of pain and heated argument. The question is not if we are qualified to teach certain concepts, but are we willing to take risks, do we have the courage to struggle with the problems, and are we humble enough to learn from our mistakes (Stokrocki, 2009).

The future of research demands more collaborative partnerships, where students and researchers should regard themselves as cultural workers for the betterment of equal access to knowledge (Lackey, 1994). This research also needs to be both ethical and self-critical (Bresler, 1996). It should embrace agency, critical awareness that leads to informed action to counter processes of domination and leads to identifying and solving problems and is guided by moral not logical concerns.


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List of Figures

Figure 1. Research on the ASU virtual world desert hive on the OpenSim.

Figure 2. Students constructed a simple installation of their drawn creatures and 3-D nests made from simple dome forms and concrete texture.

Figure 3. Later, we made an Eco Problem Treasure Test about their eco critters and the bees that they researched.

Figure 4. Jacob’s creature [Ratty], class model for building a creature object.

Figure 5. Jacob jokingly came up with their installation title, Night Nests with Pests.

Mary Stokrocki

Dr. Mary Stokrocki is Professor in the School of Art, Arizona State University. She was a 2012 Fulbright Scholar in Taiwan, 1995–96 World Bank Curriculum Consultant in Turkey, and now 2019–2020 Co-President of NAEA Women’s Caucus. She has authored seven books, 25 book chapters, and over 120 journal articles. Her most recent awards include the 2017 NAEA AED Technology Award, 2014 Distinguished Lecture Award 36th Honoree in the History of Art Education Miami University. She is 2018–19 Co-President and award winner of Women’s Caucus McFee & Rouse Awards, former President of USSEA, and InSEA Vice-President & World Councilor.

Three Doctoral Programs in Art Education and the 1965 Penn State Seminar

Eunjung Chang
Francis Marion University, USA

Borim Song
East Carolina University, USA

Jaehan Bae
University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh, USA

Citation: Chang, E., Song, B., & Bae, J. (2019). Three Doctoral Programs in Art Education and the 1965 Penn State Seminar. Transdisciplinary Inquiry, Practice, and Possibilities in Art Education. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Libraries Open Publishing. DOI: 10.26209/arted50-17

This paper will study the history of Art Education doctoral programs of our own universities — Indiana University Bloomington, Teachers College Columbia University, and Florida State University — to analyze their program studies, pedagogies, curricula, and other instructions. It will discuss an overview of the graduate programs at the time of the 1965 Penn State Seminar and in what way the seminar has influenced the doctoral programs in three universities. Wygant (1993) claimed that the Seminar in Art Education for Research and Curriculum Development held at the Pennsylvania State University in 1965 was one of the most significant conferences to bring together artists, critics, historians, philosophers, and art educators in the field of art education. This seminar re-evaluated and re-defined the nature of art education curricula from psychologically grounded, child-centered practices, which dominated art education for several decades to teaching and learning to more systematic and theoretical inquiry as a part of the humanities and discipline-oriented art education (Clark, 1984; Efland, 1990). According to Manuel Barkan’s proposals for curriculum reform, art education should exist in the structures of three domains — the productive, historical, and critical — and the teaching should employ both problem-centered and discipline-centered strategies. Furthermore, activities and learning objectives of art education should be developed on the focus of life problems (Wygant, 1993). The influence of this seminar seemed clear on both the program studies and curriculum development of these particular doctoral programs since Guy Hubbard and Mary Rouse from Indiana University, Arthur Foshay from Teachers College, and Ivan Johnson from Florida State University had participated in the Seminar (Mattil, 1966).

Indiana University Bloomington and the 1965 Penn State Seminar

I was a student of Zimmerman at IU. As my mentor, advisor, and role model, she has greatly influenced my current teaching, research, mentorship, and leadership, as well as my philosophy of teaching and life. Significantly, doctoral student interests, dissertation topics, research methodologies, teaching pedagogies, mentorship, and leadership depend on their faculty interest, expertise, and style (Clark, Hubbard, & Zimmerman, 2001). Indiana University’s doctoral program in Art Education was established in 1963. During the early 1960s, a Doctoral of Education (Ed.D.) only offered in Elementary and Secondary Education were the only doctoral degrees available in Indiana University. Art education students could only receive a doctoral degree in Elementary or Secondary Education that placed some disadvantages. Not only did larger school districts want to hire subject matter specialists as supervisors, but also many studio art faculties or art historians had to prepare art teachers for public school teaching. Moreover, Indiana state government mandated that all Indiana teachers should eventually hold master’s degrees, and some students wanted to continue their studies seeking their doctoral degrees (Clark, et al, 2001).

Accordingly, Guy Hubbard from Stanford University with John King McFee as his mentor was appointed in the fall of 1962 to undertake the establishment of the Art Education program. By the late fall of 1963, IU Art Education program that was separated from existing elementary and secondary graduate programs was approved. A new graduate from Stanford University, Mary Rouse who also studied with McFee, joined to IU Art Education program. They brought with them the philosophy of June King McFee from their graduate studies (Clark, et al., 2001). Like that established by McFee at Stanford University, IU Art Education program focused on “applications of the social science to art education, including psychology of perception, creativity, and the significance of sociology and anthropology of the study of art” (Clark, et al., 2001, p. 146). “June King McFee’s cultural studies approach to research based on psychology and anthology, Asahel Woodruff’s focus on learning objectives, also were theoretical framework” that influenced IU doctoral study during the early years (Clark, et al., 2001, p. 146).

At that time, many doctoral programs focused on the philosophical model of Viktor Lowenfeld (1903–1960), based on his own scheme of human development and creative self-expression. Lowenfeld’s philosophy was dominant in the field of art education; his Creative and Mental Growth (1947) reissued through many editions (1952, 1957, 1964, 1970, 1975) and remained a popular art education textbook for several decades (Marche, 2002). In the 1963 NAEA convention in Kansas City, Rouse critiqued and challenged Victor Lowenfeld’s Haptic/Visual Theory. Neal (1990) wrote, “no one had dared to publically question the principles and philosophy of Lownfeld” (p.16).

Hubbard and Rouse attended the Penn State Seminar and were profoundly affected by their participation in this event. At Indiana University, they had begun developing a series of graded textbooks as early as 1963 that were systematic, content-based, and articulated between grades. They gained new realization of the series’ importance by their participation at the Penn State Seminar and intensified their development and field-testing of materials. (Clark, 1984, p. 227)

Hubbard and Rouse published the first Art: Meaning, Methods, and Media series of art education textbooks in 1973 for classroom teachers in grades 1-6. Linked to the commercial publishing house and supported by strong sales, these textbooks were extensively and successfully used (Marche, 2002) and considered as the first commercially available elementary art curriculum (Hurwitz & Day, 2001). The Art: Meaning, Methods, and Media series include “objective-defined learning activities and is based upon sequenced, articulated presentation of content across the grades” (Clark, 1984, p. 227). Each graded textbook includes 60 lessons for each grade, and the subject matter of art is organized into six categories of learning: (1) perceiving; (2) the language of art; (3) artists and their art; (4) criticizing and judging; (5) tool and materials; and (6) art production. Lampela (1994) signified that this textbook provided students of art with sequential art lessons with the historical, critical, and inter-disciplinary content designed to build a discipline-based art learning experience.

Hubbard and Rouse were strongly influenced by that of Manual Barkan with his emphasis on art disciplines as the core of the art education program (Clark, 1984). Mannal Barken outlined a curriculum structure that would be both problem-centered and discipline-centered with content and inquiry drawn from studio production, history, and criticism (Marche, 2002, Mattil, 1966). In other words, “criticism/production and criticism/history were to function through inquiry-based activities, organized around life problems and framed by behavioral objectives” (Marche, 2002, p. 26). He criticized, “what is done in college studies, where criticism rarely stand alone and is most often incorporated with production and history” (Barken, 1966, p. 246). Hubbard also authored Art in Action, a series of junior high art textbooks which resisted simplistic “how to do it” lesson plans and encouraged students to explore four basic disciplines: (1) creative expression; (2) aesthetic perception; (3) art heritage, and (4) aesthetic criticism. Efland (1987) stated that his Art in Action was an adopted text in 20 states. Consequently, Hubbard and Rouse’s attendance at the 1965 Penn State significantly influenced the nature of IU doctoral program and research. They emphasized the structure and sequence of art curricula and modeled for students’ comprehensive thinking that was required for responsible curriculum planning.

In addition, Gilbert Clark from Stanford University with Eliot Eisner as his mentor, joined the faculty after the sudden death of Mary Rouse in 1976, and Enid Zimmerman had been a faculty member since 1979. At that time, Gene Mittler and Lovano-Kerr were also IU faculty and doctoral advisors in Art Education until the 1980s (Clark, et al., 2001). Clark was one of the leading members of discipline based art education’s (DBAE) contributions. Clark and Zimmerman soon have been recognized for their record of research and publication in art talent development, community-based art education, and curriculum studies. They co-authored the textbook Art Design: Communicating Visually (1978) that was influenced by the Penn State Seminar’s art as a discipline, and they added aesthetician to the roles of art historian, artist, and art critic (personal communication, 2015). In 1982, Hubbard and Zimmerman co-authored the textbook Artstrands: A Program of Individualized Art Instruction and included “art lesson grouped in strands through hypertext organization” (Sable & Manifold, 2009, p.14). All of the textbooks mentioned here published by IU faculty members certainly foreshadowed DBAE initiatives understanding an approach to art education as different disciplines — art production, art history, art criticism, and aesthetics.

In the 1970s, IU School of Education established doctoral programs in several curricular areas that were obligated to have special requirements in common for all doctoral programs, and it did persuade the University to recognize Ph.D. degrees in curricular areas including art education (Clark, et al., 2001). At IU, the Ed.D. is an internal degree in the School of Education as a practitioner degree, whereas the Ph.D. is a university degree administered by the Graduate School to serve both future teaching faculty and future researchers. This change made doctoral students to complete several required courses both in research methodologies and general education. Neil (1991) mentioned, “the IU School of Education acknowledged that the research course in art education was comparable to the standard research course required for all education doctoral students in various departments” (p. 19). Hubbard and Rouse showed tremendous enthusiasm for her students and their research. This was evident in a statement by Rouse’s faculty report in 1971.

Students in my doctoral-level curriculum courses expressed a desire to continue working on ideas evolved in that course and so we set up a process where this could occur. They worked together throughout the year, culminating in a multimedia project presented twice at our National Convention in Dallas, in the spring. Dr. Hubbard and I drove station wagons full of these students down to the convention so they could make these presentations which were extremely well received (Neil, 1991, p.19).

Rouse said, “art educators were building a significant collection of research based on a grounded-well of psychological and education research” (p.19). As one of the top research universities in the field, all of the IU faculty have emphasized the importance of research in art education as a discipline, actively engaged in their own research, and helped their students to develop their interests in research.

Teachers College, Columbia University and the 1965 Penn State Seminar

This section introduces the history of the Program in Art and Art Education at Teachers College, Columbia University, New York City, and investigates how the 1965 Penn State Seminar in particular influenced the graduate program. I studied in the art education program, pursuing the EdD degree in 2000 through 2007. While I learned a lot from the current director of the program, Dr. Judith Burton, and other great faculty members at the graduate school, my advisor was Dr. Graeme Sullivan; my learning experiences with Dr. Sullivan influenced my current research and teaching to a great extent. I now realize that his influence is evident in my strategies to prepare my students for their own future teaching practices and career.

Teachers College, which has a long history and strong tradition, began with the great hope of becoming a place for democratic public education. At its origin in 1880, the college began as a neighborhood school for the children of laborers. Entitled the Kitchen Garden Association (and then renamed the Industrial Education Association later), the school was founded with an educational vision based on philanthropy and social work (Burton, 2001). Furthermore, its founders believed that “handwork and practical arts — the development of skill and taste — could equip unprivileged children to build a better life” (Burton, 2001, p. 10). Based on the success of the Kitchen Garden Association, the school became the New York College for the Training of Teachers in 1887, and was formally affiliated with Columbia University in 1897, when the university moved to the neighborhood of Morning Heights (Wygant, 1959).

Teachers College became a focal point for innovation in education. John Dewey (1859-1952), who is well known for developing the theory of instrumentalism, strongly influenced not only educational practices at Teachers College, but also educational philosophy in America; he taught at Columbia from 1904 to 1930. At Teachers College, Dewey offered courses on philosophy of education and, together with his wife, Alice, founded laboratory schools. Two influential figures who played important roles in creating the foundation for the Art and Art Education program were Arthur Wesley Dow and Edwin Ziegfeld. Working at Teachers College in 1904–1922, Dow established “the groundwork for a recognition of the intimate connection between art education and its role in shaping personal experience, and as preparation for professional careers” (Burton, 2001, p. 13). Teachers College focused on two areas of art education, providing courses in manual training and industrial arts as well as the fine arts tradition. The first doctorate gained at Teachers College involving the visual arts was a Ph.D. in Industrial Arts Education, awarded in 1914 and conferred by Columbia University. The first three Ph.D.s were awarded in Fine Arts and Fine Arts Education in 1935. Ziegfeld developed “a curriculum of studies which then, as now, intermingled and integrated studio work with courses concerned with child development and curriculum and method” (Burton, 2001, p. 18). He played an important role in developing a new doctoral degree and emphasized the importance of design in the education of artists and teachers.

The Program in Art and Art Education started offering two kinds of doctoral degrees: Ed.D. in Art Education and Ed.D. in College Teaching of Art (Ed.D.C.T.). Studio art played a critical role in the doctoral education program. A unique aspect of the Ed.D.C.T. degree was the role of studio art in the fulfillment of the degree’s requirements. Both degrees required a professional exhibition of artwork at the time of certification. Interestingly, Ed.D.C.T. students continued to work in studio art and were required to have a second exhibition near the completion of their doctoral programs.

When the Penn State Seminar in Art Education for Research and Curriculum Development took place in 1965, Arthur W. Foshay, Associate Dean for Research and Field Service at Teachers College, attended this event. We can see the outcomes of this historically important seminar in the practices adopted by the Program in Art and Art Education at Teachers College as follows. First, the Program in Art and Art Education strongly emphasized a humanistic approach to art education. Faculty within this program rigorously collaborated with members of other programs in the department of Arts and Humanities at Teachers College. In 1986–87, the Department of Art Education became the Department of the Arts in Education, to bring together programs in visual arts, performing arts, and literary arts. And, in 1995, the new Department of the Arts and Humanities incorporated the programs in Art and Art Education, Music and Music Education, Dance Education (discontinued in 2001), and Arts Administration. Since the time of Dow, the Program in Art and Art Education has been rooted in humanities education. In consequence, faculty members in other Arts and Humanities programs such as Maxine Greene (aesthetic education), Philip Phenix (philosophy), Jonas Soltis (philosophy), and Harry Passow (urban and gifted education) have greatly influenced the learning and research of art education doctoral students. Dr. Judith Burton came from Harvard University to be a director of the Program in Art and Art Education in the early 1990s, and her research is also strongly based on a humanistic approach to art education and children’s artistic development.

A second outcome of the Penn State Seminar that has been utilized at Teachers College is problem-centered learning. This approach has been well examined and practiced in the Teachers College doctoral program in art education. In addition to various courses about art and education, the Program in Art and Art Education has been offering a course in the form of a weekend conference that explores diverse cultures with the filter of critical theory.

Lastly, the Teachers College’s Art Education program has successfully served as a regional center for research and curriculum development, based on the suggestions for regional centers by Elliott Eisner (Wygant, 1993) with the support of Manuel Barkan (Henry, 2002). Dr. Burton co-founded the Center for Research in Arts Education at Teachers College in 1995 and, in 1996, founded the Heritage School, a comprehensive high school featuring the arts that is located in Harlem, New York City. In addition, the program has partnered with several mainstream museums in New York City, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Florida State University and the 1965 Penn State Seminar

How does the Penn State Seminar impact the establishment and development of the art education program foundations at Florida State University (FSU)? Looking at journal articles, I found that art education faculty at FSU made an effort to establish new courses as a response to the Seminar. The art education program at FSU is one of the oldest programs in the United States. “On July 1, 1965, the Board of Regents of the Florida State University system established a doctoral program in Art Education in the Department of Art Education, Florida State University” (“Art Education Doctoral Student Handbook,” n.d., p. 7). In keeping with the Penn State Seminar, an art or art education is a discipline in which students need to have models to learn from, i.e., professionals of the art world, such as artists, art critics, and art historians (Efland, 1984, 1987, 1990). Thus the main paradigms in the field of art education should be shifted from child-centered to discipline-oriented.

Marylou Kuhn (1923-1999) was a professor of art education at FSU from 1950 to 1989 and helped establish its doctoral program (Johnson, 1999). She earned her master’s degree from Teachers’ College at Columbia University in New York and received her doctoral degree from Ohio State University (OSU). Kuhn also was an editor of Studies in Art Education from 1973 to 1975. The Penn State Seminar in Art Education for Research and Curriculum Development took place from August 30-September 9, 1965. It is not very clear how much the Seminar influenced the FSU doctoral program because the FSU program was established on July 1, 1965, about three months earlier than the Seminar took place. However, Barkan, through his critical discourses (1955, 1966), had previously criticized the child-centered approach to teaching in art and the romantic side of teaching art. Therefore, assumptions can be made that Kuhn was influenced by Barkan’s discipline-centered notion of art teaching and his theoretical speculations on curriculum (Barkan, 1966), which are similar to information presented at the Seminar. This assumption can be also supported by Kuhn’s offering an introductory-level art criticism course in the 1970s at FSU called Communication through Art Content (Sevigny, 1987), which was a case for offering the course for pre-service art teachers.

Three compulsory doctoral seminar courses in the Art Education Department have been offered at FSU: “ARE 6937 Structure in Art Education: Philosophical Foundations, ARE 6937 Social Foundations, and ARE 6380 Teaching and Learning: Psychological Foundations” (“Art Education Doctoral Student Handbook,” n.d., p. 11). Kuhn (1980) introduced her conceptual framework of the advanced graduate course called Structure. Through her critical discourse on theory development in art education through research, Kuhn illustrates a “structure of art education” that shows “art education is multi-disciplinary and subject to divergent philosophical orientations” (Kuhn, 1980, p. 21). I think that the “comprehensive philosophical framework” that Kuhn developed and elaborated (Kuhn, 1980, p. 22) serve as foundations of the art education doctoral seminar courses at FSU. Therefore, the Penn State Seminar was greatly influential in establishing and developing the undergraduate and graduate program at FSU.

Sevigny (1987) states that “Florida State University can be identified as having one of the earliest carefully sequenced, knowledge-based curricula that also incorporates critical and aesthetic dimensions in the academic preparation of art teachers” (p. 104). In addition, the department of art education at FSU offers art methods course for elementary majors, “A. Ed. 303, Art in the Education of Children” that consists of “teaching in children in art criticism, art production, and art history” (quoted in Sevigny, 1987, p. 105). Clearly, the content of the art methods course mainly was influenced by the seminar.

My advisor was Tom Anderson, who was a director of Florida Institute for Arts Education at Florida State University from the late 1990s to the early 2000s. This institution was supported by the John Paul Getty Trust and advocates discipline-based art education (DBAE) and provides DBAE resources and teaching and learning workshops to local art teachers and classroom teachers. DBAE considers, as an extension of the Penn State Seminar model, that art or art education is a discipline in its own right (Lovano-Kerr, 1985). Jessie Lovano-Kerr was also a professor of art education at FSU; she received her Ph.D. from the University of Oregon. Before coming to FSU, Lovano-Kerr was a professor at Indiana University and she advocates the notions of the Seminar as art or art education as a discipline. A comprehensive view of visual art education has been advocated by both Lovano-Kerr and Dr. Anderson through a book (Anderson & Milbrandt, 2005). The authors define comprehensive art education (CAE) as the following:

An outgrowth and maturation of discipline-based art education. DBAE focuses on making art, art criticism, aesthetics and aesthetics inquiry and art history. CAE incorporates additional strategies and understanding. There are various forms of CAE, but all are discipline-centered. Art for life is one model of CAE. (Anderson & Milbrandt, 2005, p. 235)

Anderson and Milbrandt add visual culture, individual and social creativity, and new technologies to the four disciplines such as aesthetics, art criticism, art history, and art making. Anderson also developed his art criticism model (Anderson, 1988, 1993, 1995) that modified Feldman’s model (1970). I think that Anderson adopted a basic structure from Feldman’s model (1970), which is the gold standard of modernist methodology in art criticism and mainly deals with the elements and principles of design to interpret works of art. Feldman was Anderson’s graduate advisor at the University of Georgia. It is not surprising that art criticism is one of Anderson’s research interests. Anderson’s analytic model includes a contextual examination stage which deals with historical and cultural context of artworks and artists. In addition to aesthetics and art criticism, his areas of expertise include, among others, the social foundations of art and education; anthropology of art and multicultural concerns; and philosophy and contemporary theory related to art and education.

In conclusion, FSU’s art education undergraduate and graduate program was greatly influenced by the Penn State Seminar, which is common at other research universities in the United States. However, individual faculty brought the Penn State Seminar’s ideas and new goals of art education into the art education program at FSU. These individuals, such as Kuhn, Lovano-Kerr, and Anderson, made efforts to transplant new and innovative ideas and theories that they learned from their graduate schools, advisors, and former professors at Ohio State University, University of Oregon, and the University of Georgia. They influenced and learned from one another at FSU as their working periods overlapped.


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Eunjung Chang, Borim Song, and Jaehan Bae

Dr. EunJung Chang is Associate Professor of Art Education at Francis Marion University — Florence, SC. She holds her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from Indiana University, Bloomington. Her scholarly interests include museum education, service learning, teacher education, cross-cultural education, and integrated curriculum. Chang’s writings have been included in many peer-reviewed journals and published books in the U.S., Germany, England, and South Korea. She received NAEA’s South Carolina Higher Education Division: Educator of the Year (2014).

Borim Song is Associate Professor of Art Education at the School of Art and Design of East Carolina University, Greenville, NC. She holds her Ed.D. and Ed.M. from Teachers College, Columbia University in New York City. Her scholarly interests include digital art instruction, contemporary art in K-12 curriculum, cross-cultural movements, and engagement scholarship. Song’s writings on art, art education, and cultural studies appear in publications in both the U.S. and Korea.

Dr. Jaehan Bae is Associate Professor of Art Education at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. He has taught art methods courses for elementary and art education majors and supervised pre-service art teachers since 2007. Jaehan earned his Ph.D. in art education at the Florida State University and was an elementary school teacher in Daegu, South Korea. Jaehan’s research interests include socially engaged art pedagogy and issues on art teacher education.