The following are excerpts from outstanding works on arts education. Bibliographic details are listed at the end.
Support the Joy of Seeing
From "The Art of Seeing," by Mihaly Csikszentmihaly & Rick E.
Robinson (The J. Paul Getty Trust and the Getty Center for Education
in the Arts, 1990).
Conditions for the aesthetic experience (pgs. 139 -)
Freedom from distraction (both distracted by outside inputs or
internal discomfort at attention focused on the self). Students
should feel connected to the viewing space. Their beliefs and
attitudes and artworks should be valued if they are to value the
work of others. Perhaps a studio atmosphere of working, discussing
artists should be cultivated?
"Seeing takes time." What is important is that the viewer be
able to control the length of the interaction with the artwork.
"It takes a long time to actually see a painting" (147). "Seeing
art" as opposed to viewing it, tends to be a solitary experience
(or with a friend or the artist).
The viewer's frame of mind when approaching a work of art has
a huge impact. To look actively is needed to experience a work
fully (p. 157).
"The contemporary viewer is simply not interested and
attentive enough to face the challenges presented by the art
object... it's as if the viewer has to have courage enough to
undertake the task of dealing with objects seriously and
attentively; it is only then that the aesthetic experience can
occur" (p. 158) [, an experience] which is like an "interpersonal
dialogue, friendship, and love" (p. 149). ... you have to be able
to put part of yourself aside and allow the experience to take
"Given that the encounter with art often requires both
considerable work and the use of a whole range of skills, it
should come as no surprise to learn that support is also
necessary, some form of encouragement and direction that might
lead viewers to engage themselves with a measure of conviction.
Role models, for example, may be instrumental in this context,
'watching how other people do it, people I respect' ... 'it is
important to have reinforcement from people who have come to
believe in me, whom I respect as well - that kind of reinforcement
gives me the permission to trust my instincts' (p. 161).
"to supply the viewer with the support and confidence to
confront works of art openly and honestly" (p.
Conclusions from Csikszentmihaly & Robinson:
It should be communicated [to the student] that viewing art
is its own reward, a chance to embark on an adventure that will
challenge their senses, their emotions, and their knowledge.
"The viewer ought to be made to feel that there are no
right of wrong responses to the objects displayed. Rather than
promote one correct way of responding, the museum [or teacher]
should try to encourage a sense of adventure, of openness.
After all, the artists who created the works on display more
often than not were themselves iconoclasts searching for new
values and new forms of expression. At the same time it should
be made clear that viewing art is a complex, challenging
proposition" (p. 174).
Ways into the works should be provided: things that
highlight the "perceptual, emotional, cognitive and
communicative content of the works" (p. 175).
Learners must control their interactions because "...the
felt quality of the experience may be the same (ubiquitous
centering of attention, sense of clarity, wholeness, freedom,
etc.) for every aesthetic encounter, but the details that make
the experience possible are infinitely varied" (p. 177-78).
The rewards of "seeing" art are "feelings of personal
wholeness, a sense of discovery, and a sense of human
connectedness" (p. 178).
General Strategies Drawn from a Review of the Literature
Value Student Expressions and Experiences
Dimension of Thinking #1 (from Robert
Marzano) suggests that students' underlying attitudes and
perceptions regarding the learning environment, the content,
and themselves be valued and validated if they are to go on to
engage the planned learning experiences.
Keep the focus on developing the aesthetic experience over
Teachers should overtly model "seeing art" and then share
their enjoyment of the process.
Personalized timeframes must be some part of the teaching
method. Even with the typically compartmentalized and on-task
attitude toward classroom time management, for students to
truly see a work of art, they must be given leeway in how much
time they allot to "looking."
Intimacy and privacy must be cultivated for students to
truly achieve an aesthetic encounter with a work of art.
Remember that the experience is at the whim and motivation
of the seer; without this you have nothing.
Raise the notion of putting the self aside to allow the
work room to express itself. As much as students need to be
validated, the artists' creations also warrant this respect.
Highlight the interconnected humanness that comes from
seeing art. Draw in emotions, ideas, themes, history, etc.
Realize that even though the content of paintings and
student interpretations may differ, if students are truly
engaging in aesthetic experiences, the overarching goal of
"learning to look" has been served.
Create a Community of Seers
Develop a "network" of mentors + peers who value seeing
(teachers can tap into an E-mail listserver or newsgroups, use
collaborative partnering with other classes, videoconference
with professionals/college students, or connect to world wide
audience through a Web presence).
Work to overcome the given passivity toward viewing
engendered by television and videos.
Engage in active viewing and a lot of it.
Create classroom and online exhibitions of students'
Provide students with successful "seeings" on which to
Communicate and model that viewing art is its own reward.
Illustrate that viewing art is a complex, challenging
Accentuate the sense of discovery and adventure to be had
in viewing art actively.
Use questioning as the primary strategy. Let students
engage and offer answers! (see Perkins)
Use a Clear Strategy for Viewing Art
A paraphrased except from David Perkins' "Art as Understanding"
(in Art, Mind and Education, Howard Gardner & David N.
Perkins, University of Illinois Press, 1989), suggests to,
for "Aesthetic Effects" (the things that carry the 'kick' or
'oomph' in artworks). This taps into the "inner relations" of
aesthetic experiences rather than the "outer relations" of art
history (p. 121). Look for motion (or stillness), mood,
personality, and surprise to hook into the aesthetic effects.
Also, consider using Perkins' recommendations for promoting
Make looking broad and adventurous.
- Give looking time!
Make looking deep and clear.
- Position yourself. Find a good distance, where the work becomes a whole.
- Let your eyes work for you. Remember to have a "hungry eye."
Make looking organized.
- Let what you know inform your looking.
- Let questions emerge.
- When the flow stops, look away for a few seconds, then look back. This refreshes the eyes.
Acquire Background Knowledge
- Tell yourself when you notice interesting features.
- Label the features in words to yourself.
- You can look for what awaits in the art - features meant to be seen. And you can look for what hides - the technical devices that help the work achieve its intended impact.
- As you keep looking you will resee features that have become familiar. You are getting to know your way around the work. Enjoy this mastery.
Provide a window into a few key works for elementary
Juxtapose paintings to promote seeing.
View both breadth (a array of images) and depth (one
Use a Discipline-Based Arts Education approach to develop a
Repeatedly view and summarize works so that quality and
connections can be seen.
Develop Aesthetic Experiences
Accentuate the personal, deep, human, connection for
teenagers (cultivate and describe the aesthetic experience).
Keep returning to the image.
Always look for the "point of entry," the
emotional/intellectual hook that challenges the viewer to
engage his or her skills (things that highlight the
"perceptual, emotional, cognitive and communicative content of
Develop a specific and graduated set of challenges.
- Csikszentmihaly, Mihaly & Robinson, Rick E. "The Art of
Seeing." The J. Paul Getty Trust and the Getty Center for
Education in the Arts. 1990.
- Perkins, David N. "Art as Understanding" in "Art, Mind and
Education." Gardner, Howard & Perkins, David N. University of
Illinois Press. 1989.
- Perkins, David N. "The Intelligent Eye: Learning to Think by
Looking at Art." The Getty Center for Education in the Arts. 1994.