Artists' pedagogies: are they really that special?

Year: 2013

Author: Selkrig, Mark

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

We know the arts are a crucial part of our lives and provide a range of benefits. Similarly the evidence continues to mount about the positive impact arts initiatives-led by artists-can have on communities and individuals.  In the field of education successful arts projects have contributed to improvements in school engagement, academic performance, social inclusion and emotional wellbeing of students.  Bureaucrats, policy makers and researchers have expressed an interest in finding out what it is about arts-based projects that contribute to these encouraging transformations for young people.  As a consequence the creative pedagogies artists employ and the roles they adopt when they work with young people has become the focus of some attention. The purpose of this gaze has been to examine the methods artists use and consider how these strategies might inform the practice and approaches of ‘mainstream' teachers who work in schools.  Within the current fields of inquiry scrutinizing artists' pedagogy, the voices of artists involved in this type of work and how they describe what they do has received minimal attention.  In this paper I draw on the findings from a research project that focussed on visual artists who worked in learning sites such as schools.  As a result of the dialogue that occurred through semi-structured interviews  during the project openings emerged for the artists involved in the study to move from tacit or practical ways of knowing to more discursive ways of articulating how they went about their work. The artists described a range of strategies they employ to make learning meaningful and powerful for both themselves the participants.  While the artists did not couch their approaches in terms of educational nomenclature or theoretical perspectives, the strategies they referred to and used were not dissimilar from pedagogical principles to promote learning that are espoused in quality teaching standards and underpin pre-service teacher education courses in many parts of the world.   If artists are enacting pedagogies that teachers are-or should be-familiar with, what is it then that makes artists' work in sites of learning so distinctive, special and effective?