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February 1, 2024

Exchange Classic: Approaches to Art

The art of art, the glory of expression and the sunshine of the light of letters, is simplicity.
—Walt Whitman, 1818-1892, American poet and essayist

With a Focus On Artistic Expression in the upcoming issue of Exchange magazine, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this message from 2006:

In her Exchange article, “Changing the Lenses: It’s All About Art!” Patricia Pinciotti describes three different orientations to teaching art in schools…

  • The complementary approach, found most often in early childhood and special needs classrooms, views the arts as self-expression; therefore, anything a child does is considered precious, creative, and worthy. The teacher’s role in these classrooms is to supply materials and let children make art. The teacher’s involvement in children’s art making is supportive; however, the type of artistic guidance or engagement in the process of putting things together is very limited.
  • Another method is identified as imitative, approaching the arts as product oriented entertainment. This approach is based on the notion that there is a correct form for art and, therefore, children’s work should look like the example provided by the teacher. Primarily a cut and paste on pre-designed activity, the children and their ability to put things together are literally bound by patterns, step-by-step directions, and mediocre examples of a product.
  • An approach consistent with the work done in arts rich schools such as the preschools of Reggio Emilia and those that take an arts-infused approach to teaching and learning is the cognitive approach to art. Here, children use art as a language to communicate thoughts, ideas, images, and feelings through various artistic media. Their work demonstrates knowledge of the arts as a discipline, a repertoire of media with artistic reasoning woven throughout the process. In these classrooms children are guided to use art as a way of learning and develop artistic knowledge, skills, and dispositions about visual thinking and ways to put things together.

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