Digging deep and looking wide to hear how educators across Australia traverse the Visual Arts Education landscape: What is happening out there?

Year: 2017

Author: Selkrig, Mark, Bottrell, Christine

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Politics in the field of arts education is well reported and discussed globally. The rhetoric can centre around tensions and pressures for example in policy, time, confidence, credentials, place, crowed curriculum, and unstable and complex environments (see Bakhshi, 2015; Bamford, 2006; Cachia & Ferrari, 2010; European Commission, 2009; Ewing, 2010; Hickman, 2010; Lemon & Garvis, 2013; Robinson, 2015; Russell-Bowie, 2013; Seidel, Tishman, Winner, Hetland, & Palmer, 2009; Selkrig & Keamy,2017). Similarly, political and ideological agendas also shape curriculum perspectives, which in turn impact on the provision of quality arts education. As the place of arts education appears to be diminished in school contexts, a similar phenomenon seems to be occurring in the tertiary sector with preparation of preservice teachers. Barton, Baguley, and MacDonald (2013) claim "... that the arts are consistently at risk of being marginalised in teacher education courses across Australia" (p. 86). It is these politically contested spaces which led to an investigation aimed at exploring how the range of political, social and economic issues identified in the literature as affecting the broad field of education, shape the provision of quality visual art education in Australia.

In this presentation, we draw on findings that emerged from a nationwide study designed to explore the state of Visual Art Education in Australia. Over 100 individuals who work in various sectors of visual art education across the country participated in an online survey during 2016. The responses from early years, primary, secondary, higher education, adult education, community, and gallery/museums visual arts educators provides rich, insightful perspectives and expanded understandings that contribute to the debate about the state and place of visual art education.

This study provides important impetus for visual art educators, other educators and policy makers. The range of perspectives we gathered signposts how art educators have developed standpoints that inform their work as they navigate between what Ewing (2010, p. 5) describes as the 'uneasy relationship between Arts and Education' and the changing policy environment. We have opened up a space for visual art educators voices to be heard by describing, documenting and sharing their views about germane issues. While these issues impact on the ways in which art educators work, the resilience, creativity and capacity of participants in this study reveals how they operate with diminished resourcing and contradictory policy, yet continue to aspire to shine a light on, and deliver quality education.