STAR-POST (Art) January 2020 FINAL_STAR Post Art Jan 2020 - Page 74

Reframing Art Teachers as Active Art Practitioners Megan Miao Art Teacher Jurong Pioneer Junior College A rt theorist Thierry de Duve proposed in 2009 that the art school of the future will not take the form of a building run by professionals, but a “mode of transmission of art” to individuals who are artists. Such a proposition implies that teachers of art are inherently art practitioners first and foremost, in order to be capable of “transmitting” art. Although de Duve may be speaking of dedicated art schools (as opposed to mainstream education) and although he refers to a hypothetical future, we can already find such art practitioners within our fraternity who take on a dual role as art teachers. In this essay I refer to art practitioners as those who maintain an artistic practice 1 through experimentation and sustained developmental processes. I will examine the benefits of and needs for the teacher-artist model, the challenges present, and evaluate the sustainability of this dual role. In late 2018, I had the pleasure of scrolling through a Google Sheet, with descriptions of the most fascinating art practices exploring a range of rich thematic concerns and revealing a set of complex and thoughtful artistic dispositions and processes. Stretching one’s imagination along divergent directions, these submissions by art teachers to aedge 2 2019 shared a common alignment and impulse to make art – to practise. Research shows that art practice creates intentional learning for art teachers and allows them to feel authentic. The desire to practise is also evidenced in numerous teacher-artists who maintain a practice external of the fraternity 3 . These impulses are supported by the integration of studio practice into pre-service training at NIE and a range of professional development opportunities offered by STAR once an art teacher enters service. 1 Here the word “maintain” is not tied to any particular frequency or level of achievement. The word “practice” is also used loosely to cover a range of artistic pursuits across a non-exhaustive list of media and processes, such as - and in no means limited to - exhibiting in individual or group exhibitions, writing for art publications, running a craft project. 2 aedge, an acronym for “Art Educators’ Developmental and Generative Explorations”, is an annual teacher-artist art exhibition organised by STAR. 3 Some notable examples include Sarah Choo, who has exhibited her work at the Venice Biennale and whose work has been collected by local and international individuals and institutions, as well as Priscilla Tey, Illustrator and Author of “In-Between Things” 74 In the Pre-Vernissage panel at aedge 2019, the art teachers fraternity comes together to discuss the importance of art practice and the processes, thoughts and concerns that surfaced through the work of the teacher-artists. Art teachers make a natural transition to being practitioners. Like the artist, art teachers respond to external stimuli and seek to reflect the zeitgeist through carefully crafted learning experiences. And just like the artist, art teachers experiment with materials and concepts to create new meaning, guided by their experience in facilitating a studio practice for their students. Teacher-artists are also particularly adept at dealing with ambiguity, benefiting the educators’ capacity for creative pedagogy, as well as in preparing students for the VUCA future. However, despite these proven strengths of an art and pedagogical practice that go hand in hand, teacher-artists are still a minority in the fraternity, especially when it comes to sustained exhibition of work. Why might art teachers find it challenging to maintain an art practice? Firstly, professional development programmes might be too structured and skills based, with exploratory and open-ended practices only supported up to a lesser degree . Secondly, time is a constraint, with a packed school year causing residency programmes to be not viable and limiting exhibition opportunities. This creates a conundrum - while independent studio practice is a necessity in pre-service teacher training in NIE, art teachers’ practice might also be perceived as an additional commitment over and 75