Teaching vs. Teaching Art (BLG)

This is from Billi London-Gray.

I have five years of classroom teaching experience, but teaching art to college students strikes me as something that will be different from my experiences teaching general education courses. I think of myself as a good teacher – fun, organized, clear about my expectations and course goals, respectful, attentive to different learning styles, building co-learning into class activities, prompt at giving feedback, making good use of time, etc. using best practices – but I feel like there’s more at stake in teaching art. I think people tend to regard art-making as something different, something way more personal and reflective of their own creativity and identity, than other kinds of learning activities. (I mean, think about why you are an artist.) At some point in childhood or adolescence, it seems like many people categorize themselves as either “artistic” or “unartistic” and correspondingly develop confidence or anxiety toward anything art-related. Since a foundations course will have both art majors and non-majors, I would expect folks to enter the class looking for confirmation of their gifts and choice of major, or concerned about being creative/talented “enough”, or dismissing the class, perhaps as a safeguard against anxiety.

So how do you encourage creativity and make art rewarding while still evaluating performance? How do you help break down that binary – artistic vs. unartist, creative vs. not creative – when students will still self-sort through evident levels of skill, interest and performance? What are your thoughts?


About utagtateaching

This blog is dedicated to providing resources to the Graduate Teaching Assistants in the UTA MFA program pertaining to teaching strategies, methods, and materials. We aim to start a public discussion that serves to enhance the classroom experience for both teacher and student.

One comment

  1. Hey this is Christine! Not sure if we are supposed to leave comments as a guest or not, so this is my temporary solution 🙂

    Thinking back to high school art class we typically had prescribed assignments, i.e., paint this flower using pointilistic techniques, draw this still life of random objects using only black and white, make a linocut of these group of nuts and bolts using complementary colors. In a sense everyone had the security of certain prescriptions for the visual output.

    Moving forward in my art education, including some of my VC classes in undergrad, it seems like these benchmarks became more fuzzy. The teacher stepped out of prescribing what the outcome would be. My professors focused on a certain idea, technique, concept, or theory. Then if we made anything there were a few guidelines, i.e. it should be this big, you should make 5 variations, it should remain black and white.

    Perhaps teaching art at this stage involves focusing on suggestion over prescription, but still creating some guidelines for those with artistic anxieties.


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