My amazing art teachers,
We are living in historic times. The term "unprecedented" has already become something of a cliche in 2020. Right now, again, a light is being shinned upon racism and police brutality across the United States and around the world. Equilibrium is shifting beneath our feet and the air is thick with possibility. Americans must choose. Anyone with a platform, no matter how large or small, must use that platform to speak out for justice. And every teacher has a platform.
Today, I'll be using mine.
Workplaces and organizations across the country are deciding whether or not to join the #BlackLivesMatter movement in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by 4 police officers in Minneapolis, Minnesota. As I write this blog, it has been 11 days of demonstration and upheaval. My own workplace reached out to teachers and staff seeking input. I'd like to share my statement below:
The meaning of an artwork is defined largely by its context in relation to the viewer. The meaningfulness of learning is often determined by its relevance in relation to the student. I do not know how one can learn or teach about art in a vacuum separated from the real world and its myriad of messy issues without also severing from both context and relevance. In that circumstance, an education becomes purely an abstract, academic exercise, delivering content suitable primarily for bubbling in letters on a standardized test and not the knowledge necessary to live and even thrive in the reality outside the walls of the classroom. There is no act in relation to racism, specifically the death of George Floyd, that is not political. To be apolitical is in fact a political choice. As Foucault theorizes, there is no escaping power, as freedom cannot exist but in its relationship to power, like how light and dark define each other. And right now there is a darkness being brought to light. Let's keep in mind the number of times we mentioned the word "COVID" and "corona" and "pandemic" within content and instruction over the past 3 months. 3 months from now, how often will we see the words "race", "Black" or "justice" looking back? The answer will come to define us. Racism is a virus. The only vaccine is light. Why would we talk about one virus any less than another?
I hope you are talking to your students about race and justice right now. I am. White teachers especially must stop carrying on as if everything is hunky dory. And yes, I said hunky dory. In any case, I made a video for my teacher-students in my online classes and posted it publicly to make myself open to feedback from other anti-racist educators. I don't want a pat on the head or a like. My intention is not virtue signaling, though I understand if that's how this post may be perceived. What I hope to demonstrate is making yourself open to feedback and correction from others in your community. Not scripted and this video went over 10 minutes, and I wanted it to be shorter so I apologize for taking too much of your time. Also, video quality is potato quality. I just ask for honesty if I can do better. You can too.
White teachers like myself must do better. Because there is no point in Killing Color Wheels until Black Lives Matter.
What can you do? Below is a list of resources you may use to educate yourself and others:
I'll mostly be blogging about my experiences teaching. I teach a class online right now called Teaching K12 Art Online where I'll be exploring art online with art teachers. I also currently teach a (formerly?) face-to-face course called Visual Culture: Investigating Diversity & Social Justice which is an art, critical writing, and research course for undergrads. Before this, I taught a class called Art Curriculum & Concepts for Teachers where I was experimenting with cooperative & creative teaching integrating art and "going gradeless" with preservice early childhood education majors.