Rebecca Heaton on Art and Design Education

Investigating cognition in the creative arts.

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To curate

What does it mean to curate? Can art, thought, cognition, concepts, learning and lived experiences all be curated? Is it the curation of these facets, in ones experience as an artist teacher, that leads to knowledge generation? I ask myself these questions after a day exploring the concept of curation with Katie Boyce from the Alfred East Gallery and artist teachers from Northampton University. img_0026

From a theoretical perspective curating means to organise concepts and actively take on the role of curator (Macdonald, 2009), I contextualise this as an artist teacher to mean the designer of your own thoughts and outputs. The role of the curator involves researching, exhibition design, selection and a responsibility to communicate thought (Haas, 2003). The curator makes links between thoughts, concepts, art and cultural contexts (Acord, 2010). So as I see it, we are all curators and creators of our own cognition, as a creator we generate thought and knowledge . As a curator we design and own the paths we formulate. I offer insight into how I managed the role of curator and creator today. 

Curating: I formulated thought today through the exposure to new and unexpected experiences whilst making connections to prior experiences I had encountered. Whilst listening to Katie and the artist teachers discussing how exhibitions were organised at the Alfred East Gallery in Kettering, I began to connect threads of thought from a number of recent experiences I have had myself as an artist teacher. These threads interconnected to help me build knowledge.

For example, Katie shared how the recent exhibition, hosted by the Alfred East Gallery, Collection Connections (see images below) used links between the range of artists on show to map out relationships, histories and personal stories. The links were portrayed visually using colours to generate maps, in a similar way to the London tube map, it was this notion of mapping that connected with me. I reflected that I had recently posted on this blog about cognitive links and theoretical webs and theorised through my doctoral writing that experiencing and reflecting on intercultural, interdisciplinary (Bresler, 2016) and multi-directional (Stanley, 2015) pathways was one strategy which led artist teachers to generate knowledge. The value of interdisciplinary and intercultural arts based research was also reinforced in a seminar by Professor Pam Burnard @Pam Burnard I attended at Homerton College Cambridge University on Tuesday 22nd November 2016. This experience again connected with the metaphorical web of cognitive curation I was generating in my own mind to connect, consolidate and curate my own learning to ultimately build knowledge. Through the  process of connecting I had been actively curating cognition because I had been making links, as Acord (2010) stated between thoughts, concepts, art experiences and cultural contexts. 

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Creating: As creators artist teachers can take responsibility for generating thought and knowledge. In todays experience I did this in a number of ways, I was open to the art experience I encountered influencing my own and students learning, I took a risk to invite another to assist in the pedagogical structure of the course I had designed and was willing to reflect on the experience and apply reflexivity (Grushka, 2005) to this reflection, through this blog, to identify how the learning pathways I generated led to the creation of thought. As a result todays experience impacted my own development as an artist, teacher and researcher because I learnt more about the process of curation, questioned my own pedagogy and have identified how as a researcher I curate cognition within the lived artist teacher experience I encountered today. After all “The arts move us to see what is hidden or tacit to ourselves” (Burnard et al, 2014, p.101). 

References:

Acord, S. (2010). Beyond the head: The practical work of curating contemporary art. Journal of Qualitative Sociology, 33, 447-467.

Bresler, L. (2016). Interdisciplinary, intercultural travels: mapping a spectrum of research(er) experiences. In Burnard, P. Mackinlay, E. and Powell, K. (eds) The Routledge International Handbook of Intercultural Arts Research. Chapter 29. Abingdon: Routledge.

Burnard, P. Holliday, C. Jasilek, S. Nikolova, A. (2014). Artists and higher education partnerships: A living enquiry. Education Journal, 4.3, 98-105. 

Grushka, K. (2005). Artists as reflective self‐learners and cultural communicators: an exploration of the qualitative aesthetic dimension of knowing self through reflective practice in art‐making. Reflective Practice: International and Multidisciplinary Perspectives, 6.3, 353-366. doi: 10.1080/14623940500220111

Haas, J. (2003). The changing role of the curator. Anthropology, New Series, No. 36, Curators, Collections, and Contexts: Anthropology at the Field Museum, 1893-2002, 237-242. Retrieved from: http://www.jstor.org/stable/29782683?seq=1&sid=21105716830753&uid=2134&uid=5910784&uid=2&uid=2129&uid=31173&uid=377736371&uid=3738032&uid=70&uid=3&uid=67#page_scan_tab_contents

MacDonald. C. (2009). Issues in curating contemporary art and performance. Contemporary Theatre Review, 19.2, 242-243. Retrieved from: http://www-tandfonline-com.ezproxy.northampton.ac.uk/doi/abs/10.1080/10486800902809651#.VLfiXFp4-RI

Stanley, P. (2015). Writing the PhD Journey(s): An Autoethnography of Zine-Writing, Angst, Embodiment, and Backpacker travels. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography. 44.2, 143-168.

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@Tate Modern

How did experiencing Phillippe Parreno’s Turbine Hall exhibit @Tate Modern develop artist teacher cognition? 

Third year artist teachers and I engaged with the Turbine Hall exhibit at the Tate Modern yesterday. We focused on how the work on show was accessible for vulnerable learners of art (Aged 5-11). We know that active art experiences, such as engaging with exhibitions first hand, enable learners, in this case university based artist teachers, to learn, solve problems and map cognitive meaning (Cuncliffe, 1999; Smilan et al 2006). But how did this exhibit specifically aid this learning to occur? The clip below provides an insight into Parrano’s ‘Anywhen’ exhibit the artist teachers and I experienced.

As you can see from the images below Parreno’s work uses the audience as part of the exhibit, the viewer, or in this case inter-actor, is experiencing the art but is also contributing to others experience of it. The artist teachers theorised a number of ways to engage young and vulnerable children with this concept. A couple of examples included 1) allowing children to experience the exhibit in different ways, such as with blind folds on, 2) drawing from different positions, recording sounds and 3) following different pathways through the work. The work is influenced by the concept of perception, the artist teachers made the connection that we all perceive in different ways, children would too.img_0018

One of the strengths of this exhibit is that due to the range of multimedia components used, evolving nature of the work and value of audience presence or lack of it, it naturally suggests accessibility to at least one sensory component. However, the university based artist teachers felt that the work may be far removed from what some children may perceive as art, this is of course dependent on their prior experiences and knowledge, so to make the piece accessible they identified a need to make links to the everyday world of specific children. The artist teachers trialled a number of strategies to achieve this, they included 1) Getting the children to draw their expectations of the piece before experiencing it so that relationships could be created between the two works  2) using a familiar object, such as a toy, household item etc. for the children to add into the exhibit as if they were the artist and 3) exploring the work with a focus on a particular sense, e.g. touch to feel the vibrations, and texture of the materials. By theorising these strategies the artist teachers were able to think about how to break down accessibility barriers for different groups of vulnerable learners such as those with Social, Emotional, Needs or Disabilities (SEND) or those with English as an additional Language (EAL), Traveller Children or children from different socio-economic groups or those with vulnerabilities such as feeling ill on the day of a visit or experiencing a bereavement. 

A personal reflection:

To document a more personal response to Parreno’s exhibit and gallery experience I shared with the university based artist teachers a poetic reflection I created:

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Each capitalised word represents a response to my experience, whilst the word string on each line intends to create visual imagery. I used the digital app Visual Poetry, to provide another metaphorical representation of my response and experience, suggesting that it is the connections involved in the experience, collaboration and reflection that have led to my creation of knowledge. By writing this blog post, generating poetry and creating the image below I have been able to identify how myself and learners are building their cognitive knowledge due to finding space to reflect. Through experience and reflection we built an understanding of self and other (Henry and Verica, 2015). We questioned contemporary culture through art experience, engaged with identities and generated knowledge in a collaborative capacity  to develop our cognition. 

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References:

Cuncliffe, L. (1999) Learning how to learn, art education and the ‘background’. Journal of Art and Design Education, 18.1, 115-121.

Smilan, C. Kakourou-Chroni, G. and Ricardo, R. (2006). Art Education at the intersection of creativity: Integrating art to develop multiple perspectives for identifying and solving social dilemmas in the 21st century. Worlds Arts Alliance. http://www.unesco.org/culture/en/artseducation/pdf/presentation104cathysmilan.pdf

Henry, S.E. and Verica, J. M. (2015) (Re)visioning the Self Through ArtEducational Studies, 51.2, 153-167.

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Roman Textile Art: A partnership between Croughton All Saints Primary School and The University of Northampton

Pupils from Croughton Primary School worked with first year non art specialist BA Primary Trainees to develop their printing skills in a collaborative workshop Northampton University trainees designed. The experience was designed to give first year trainees the opportunity to try out their printing skills with children in a scaffolded environment, whilst enriching school pupils with textile skills they may not otherwise have access to. The dual learning experience was successful in developing pupil, student, teacher and lecturer cognition.

Pupil cognition developed in different ways, the school children were able to make connections with their topic work on Roman life developed in school and apply this knowledge to the print work they were completing, many discussions were heard relating these experiences during the practical workshop. The finished artefact above models the children’s thoughtful making, the collaborative print shares a contribution by each child sharing their learning surrounding Roman design and the printmaking process.

The trainee teachers involved in the workshop also drew connections in their own learning, students had to articulate their awareness of the pedagogy behind print making to the children in order to assist them with creating their own print designs. The trainees had to think through both visual and verbal languages in order to model to the children how to create a successful print.

The class teacher accompanying the children commented that “the stimulating university environment and the one to one teaching was inspiring for the children and engendered their aspirations.” The teacher recognised his own cognition had developed because planning provision of this type was highly beneficial for learners to be able to embed and enhance their understanding of artistic processes and historical developments.

As the lecturer who organised this experience I experienced cognitive development by thinking in a medium, I was tasked with mounting the finished canvas print on a felt background. Whilst using the sewing machine to complete the task I became aware of how I was problem solving through the making process, I was estimating sizes and designing the background whilst making. It was a task that I had to complete quickly and was required to think in action, a continual process of reflection occurred. The making experience was capturing the movements of my mind as an artist and I was transitioning between identities of artist, lecturer and teacher.

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Collaborative Cognition #NSEAD AD 2016

23rd April 2016 an exciting day, the post arrived and the new NSEAD AD 2016 Issue 16 magazine publication arrived sharing articles by University of Northampton art education students and myself as their lecturer. What was special about this particular publishing opportunity was its outcome as what I believe to be a result of collaborative cognition. To explain collaborative cognition I mean the process by which a group of people fuel each others thought process to achieve over a specific period of time and around a particular theme. The outcomes of which at the start could be seemingly unknown.

In this case the AD magazine shares two articles, ‘Our iJADE Conference’ (2016) by students Steph Morris and Alice Crumpler page 19 and my own article ‘Theory versus practice in art and design education’ pages 26-27. We were also fortunate to have an example of one students artwork on the front cover, well done Ellie Pask. So, how was collaborative cognition generated?

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The two articles have been the end result of a project comprising two avenues, the first a third year art specialism module for the trainee art teachers which involved the students exploring an area of art of their choosing and investigating current concerns in the realm of primary art education. The second avenue an awareness of change maker principles, an ethos which has underpinned the creation of the students art specialism course and which is at the heart of study at Northampton university, in short making positive changes in society to improve our world. When the students and myself embarked on these projects we were not aware of how much we would influence the direction of each others thought, practice and cognition. I was learning from the students as much as they were learning from me. A key example was the publication of the articles, as a fairly new academic and researcher I was guiding students through the publication process, offering advice on editing their work whilst also learning about this process myself. The work the students wanted to share stretched my own thinking, I was learning not only new content about the topics they were exploring but also how to offer critical feedback as a publisher would. Just changing the students audience stretched theirs and my cognition.

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Within my own research I also interviewed students about their understanding of changemaker principles on our course, my intention to share the research at iJADE2015, I did not envisage taking two students with me to present the findings and them being asked to review the conference for the AD Magazine or to extend this even further, writing a collaborative journal article. We are in the throws of producing it. In this example collaborative cognition occurred through social interactions with the students, with individuals at the conference and through the creation of articles. What became apparent was how spontaneous situations led to new directions in thinking, we had to take risks and be open to following new thought paths. The outcomes of which have been fruitful and now our ideas will hopefully inspire other art educators through shared viewing in AD and via this blog. One aim of the change maker ethos is to create positive impact, I hope this will be achieved to an extent by sharing cognition through these outcomes.

 

 

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Miro: Eastfield Primary School and The University of Northampton in partnership

Joan Miro, Figures at Night Guided by the Phosphorescent Tracks of Snails, 1940Joan Miro, Morning Star, 1940

Using one artists work to stimulate creative education can lead to innovative and inspiring outcomes. Working in collaboration with Eastfield Academy Nursery on project Miro I am becoming aware of the impact of collaboration on creative learning opportunities and the need to allow children the autonomy to personalise their own learning. Exploring one artists work in depth enables you to go on a learning journey with your pupils, you can find out and research new opportunties  across all areas of education, sharing the learning experience. This concept of journeys has inspired a creative week exploring Miro where Eastfield Academy and The University of Northampton are collaborating and allowing the Nursery children to immerse themselves in Miro. The outcomes are unknown and the creative journey will be shared with parents at the end of the week. Really exciting ideas have been developed just through staff collaboration around the idea, here is a short selection of activities that will be on offer:

The use of iPads to document Miro journeys- Nursery children as video directors

Meeting Miro

Exploration of journeys through Miro’s paintings

Creative activities inspired by fantasy spaces using Miro works as a stimulus- Miro dance, drawing and installation

Action painting- rolling, bouncing, dropping and twisting balls in paint to create movement in art

The collection of found objects to create sculptures exploring shape, form, tone and colour in the work of Miro

Explore project Miro and this blog for updates on our outcomes!

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