Notebook, 1993-

Return to - Notes for a Perspective on Art Education

Notes from: Tollifson, Jerry. "A Balanced Comprehensive Art Curriculum Makes Sense." In EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP

A Balanced Comprehensive Art
Curriculum Makes Sense

In Ohio, they call it BCAC, and, despite some implementation obstacles, teachers report moderate success in translating theory into practice in K-12 classrooms.

BCAC: Balanced Comprehensive Art Curriculum. Balanced because students in K-12 receive equitable instructional time, staff, and resources in all four curriculum areas.

It includes art criticism, art history, and art in society, as well as traditional art production.

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"SELF-PORTRAITS" - 7th grade unit. Unit extends usual art production activity and ties together activities in all four curriculum areas of the BCAC model.

Art Production. Traditional studio activity involves making self-portraits, which can be done in tempera paintings, collages, clay sculptures, or papier mch masks. The medium is not of central concern in this unit; the main purpose is for students to get in touch with their own personalities as sources for ideas in art and to transform these ideas into self-portraits, paying particular attention to color, shape and texture.

Art History. Can come before or after the activity in which students make their own portraits. Students examine artists' self-portraits in order to see connections between their own work and that of the artists. Through careful observation of artists' self-portraits and through readings in art history, students learn to speculate on the different sources from which artists obtain their ideas for their work. For example, some artists, like Albrecht Drer, get their ideas for portraits for themselves by looking at their reflections in a mirror. Other artists, like Vincent van Gogh, look at their inner feelings, moods, and personality traits for ideas. And still other artists recall earlier events in their lives, as Chagall did for his portrait, I and the Village. In selecting artists' self-portraits for students to study, the teacher has all of art history to choose from--up to as recent as five minutes ago. In their study of the history of self-portraits, seventh-graders could also examine the different ways artists transform their ideas into works of art by means of color, shape, and texture. The emphasis in this activity is on the artists' expression.

Art Criticism. The emphasis in teaching art criticism is on responding to art, on deriving meaning from works of art. In this unit on self-portraits, a teacher could have students respond critically to their own completed self-portraits or to artists' self-portraits....students learn to do three things that are part of the critical process--to describe the aesthetic qualities in works of art, to interpret their meanings, and to judge them. These are the three components of art criticism, also the tasks of professional at critics. Thus, another activity might consist of helping students understand the ways art critics describe, interpret, and judge self-portraits.

Art In Society. In additional to the personal ideas of artists, self-portraits can be seen as expressions of the societies in which they have been made [context]. Thus, art-in-society activities become opportunities for students to study the values and beliefs of social groups that are embodied in works of art. In this unit, activities would help students discover the social messages from the social environment hidden in self-portraits. What could these be? To me, logos are the self-portraits of businesses and corporations. Teachers ask students to assemble a variety of logos found in newspapers, magazines, and phone books. Then students try to decipher the social values and beliefs expressed by the logos. Learning to read their visual environment in this way is essential for elementary and secondary school students. Without being able to read their visual environment students will be insensitive to the ways they are affected by visual forms and images around them in advertising, architecture, and environmental sculpture, and therefore vulnerable to control by forces they cannot understand or change.

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Six major goals that constitute a balanced comprehensive art curriculum. Art is for people: Art is experienced as Expression and Response

Personal Development

Artistic Heritage

Social Groups
Art in Society

Art production, the traditional studio approach, is the core. The main activity is making art, but the meanings their own work has for students expand considerably as they learn to talk about art, find out about artists and their work, study the work of art critics and art historians, and observe art in society. Learnings in one curriculum area build on and reinforce learnings in the others.

While some units could address all six goals, not all units need to do so. At least three goals of the teachers' choosing would be enough to constitute a BCAC unit.

In essence, designing a BCAC unit is a matter of finding relationships among students, art professionals, and society. "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 artists and critics 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." [Manuel Barkan]

The Ohio art curriculum guide, Planning Art Education in the Middle / Secondary Schools of Ohio,received the National Art Education Association (NAEA) award for the best state art curriculum guide in the nation in 1983. --the guide explains the BCAC theory and give directions for designing new units. Our half-hour TV tape, "What's an Art Curriculum for, Anyway?", can also provide help. Nine other states have developed materials to help teachers plan comprehensive art curriculums in the BCAC or DBAE models, and they are available for the asking from state departments of education......[Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia] Three publications have great potential for overcoming the implementation obstacles for planning and teaching BCAC units: Discover Art,by Laura Chapman, Davis Publishing Company [elementary school level]; Art in Focus,by Gene Mittler, Bennett McKnight Publishing Company [high school level].

The BCAC approach can give students the tools they need to live in the world of the future. Instead of being helpless victims of visual images in their lives and undiscerning perpetuators of their collective past our students can become imaginative and articulate consumers, creators and builders of the future.

[Notes from: Tollifson, Jerry. "A Balanced Comprehensive Art Curriculum Makes Sense." In EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP]



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