My mission in the field of art education is to influence the curriculum content of public school art education. I urge teachers to analyze the hidden curriculum of old stand-by projects and to invent new school art styles that teach meaningful making in the context of contemporary art practices.
My art education writing is based on the curriculum experiments of the youth art program Spiral Workshop, on engagements as a visiting artist in schools and communities, and on my work with teachers in school district, museum and university settings.
I classify my curriculum research in three categories: inventing new projects, considering new structures for organizing school curriculum, and developing conceptually-oriented theme-based curriculum units.
Art projects are structures that encode complex technical, aesthetic, and conceptual methods of investigating the world. When students are not introduced to a range of new meaning making strategies, they tend to fall back on familiar, hackneyed image making techniques. In the age of “post-studio” practice, it is challenging to invent projects that engage students while introducing them to authentic open-ended techniques through which they can explore significant content.
In my article, Principles of Possibility: a 21st Century Art and Culture Curriculum, I propose new organizing principles for art education curriculum. Noting that all state and national standards include goals related to understanding the uses of the arts in a culture, I articulated a list of major functions and potentials of cultural experience—Playing, Forming Self, Investigating Community Themes, Encountering Others, Attentive Living, Empowered Experiencing, Empowered Making, Deconstructing Culture, Reconstructing Social Spaces, and Not Knowing—and suggested that each year of an art education curriculum be organized to introduce students to these possibilities. My research plan now includes writing articles that demonstrate how each principle contributes to meaningful art education in a democratic society.
My current work with pre-service teachers and teens in the Spiral Workshop focuses on developing theme-based curriculum, exploring the intertwining of conceptual and aesthetic content. Recent curriculum groups have included Painting: So Cute and Creepy (exploring how social meaning is generated through the minor aesthetic concept of cute), Drawing Dirty Pictures (a post-neat art curriculum that utilizes the metaphor of mess to investigate notions of the body, order, control, and appropriate behavior), and Ice, Bling, and Shiny Things (a group that used computer-manipulated imagery to investigate the possibility of personal meaning making within the Society of the Spectacle).