Summer Reading List

Congratulations teachers, you are at the finish line for the year! While it is time to trade the classroom for wherever your heart desires, the truth is that art and education never take vacations. Therefore, while you are just relaxing or traveling from adventure to adventure, the following very concise selection of books will keep you feeling inspired to vacation artfully.

I don’t know about you, but museums are an essential part of any travel itinerary I make. This post features two influential books that address engaging experiences at art museums. Museums have evolved into so much more than a repository for fine objects. They have focused on fostering participatory-based relationships with their diverse visitors. The two books that I am recommending below are important resources for understanding contemporary museum models and ensuring that you are making the most out of the museum experience.

Exploring museums in this manner is a vital a learning tool, and should be part of any art (or science, history etc.) curriculum. Museum exploration is a key tenet for social, emotional and cognitive learning, because it enables viewers to perceive and respond to things in a unique way. The museum experience acknowledges that viewers will fulfill their own desired paths while interacting with the physical space, the collection and one another. Museums are great examples of spaces where differentiation of learning styles and dialogical methods (see: Shor & Freire, 1987) for creating knowledge are implemented.

I previously wrote about some pedagogical functions museums have within society in the post The Classroom in the White Box


Screen Shot 2019-06-06 at 12.59.34 PMThe Museum Experience by John H. Falk and Lynn D. Dierking (Whalesback Books 1992), is an experiential research-based book about why people go to museums. In a very clear and concise manner, the authors explain what visitors often expect prior to visiting a museum; what they do when they get there; and what they take away from the experience. The quantitative and qualitative data collected for this book is explicitly explained in a manner that is helpful for anyone who is interested in museology, sociology, curatorial practice and museum education.

Essentially, The Museum Experience is contextualized from the perspective of the viewer. Therefore, it should be especially helpful for museum administrators, curators and educators who are looking to increase engagement and recurring visits.

For example, the book discusses the different ways that visitors move throughout the museum and how they behave while creating their pathways throughout the building. The interactive experience is described in three overlapping categories: Personal Context, Social Context and Physical Context.

There is a strong pedagogical focus around making the museum experience central to individuals and groups. This vision is bolstered by the philosophy that viewers are meaningful co-constructors of knowledge and experiences within cultural institutions. This philosophy and methodology is applicable to all areas of the museum or institution from accessibility (i.e. museum layout and exhibition design) to special programming that focuses on equity and equality. Museums must be places where everyone in the community is welcome and have the agency to engage with the overarching museum environment. Taking astute account of visitor-centered experiences in conjunction with the demography of visitors is necessary for museum staff to create welcoming participatory spaces that enable visitors to feel comfortable and inspired.

The next book recommendation below takes a very precise and critical look into the individualization of museums and cultural institutions.


Screen Shot 2019-06-07 at 1.26.35 PMThe Personalization of the Museum Visit, by Seph Rodney, Routledge (2019)

Seph Rodney specializes in museology and the ways that we engage with our cultural institutions. His first book, titled The Personalization of the Museum Visit scrutinizes the history of Western museums in order to explore the current framework many institutions have put in place to develop a viewer-centered participatory environment.

Rodney’s research reveals that contemporary museums no longer serve as ‘banking models’ (see: Freire, 2008) where visitors are presented with didactic displays of objects and text, but rather environments that enable viewers to curate their own experiences in dialogue with the museum’s collection and architectural space. Just as pedagogy has progressed to fulfill diverse learning styles and student-centered interests, museology  has taken account of unique interests and diverse identities.

Rodney explains that today’s museums are driven to incorporate distinct factors that are in-line with visitor’s needs. Akin to our collective culture, these needs are influenced by factors such as “social interaction (meeting friends for drinks, for example), spiritual sustenance, emotional connection, intellectual challenge, or consumerist indulgence” (Rodney, 2016). Contemporary museums have addressed these needs by creating inviting spaces for visitors to congregate or contemplate; interdisciplinary events that bring large and diverse groups together; adult and family workshops; artist talks, panel discussions, screenings and other informative programming; and novel culinary and commercial spaces.

Another key area for museum operation is crowdsourcing methods for developing a communal dialectic and collaborative aesthetic in tandem with the public. For example, museums have increased their mission to co-create meaning by giving viewers agency as co-curators, collaborators and exhibitors.

Rodney cites examples of crowdsourcing: In 2014, The Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, exhibited collaborative drawings created by visitors while they were at the museum. In the same year, the Frye Museum in Seattle initiated an exhibition called #SocialMedium, which featured a selection of works made by visitors utilizing social media. The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston gave curatorial agency to the public during their exhibition Boston Loves Impressionism, by asking them to vote on the selection of works to be displayed in the show. The popular vote resulted in the final collection of paintings within the exhibition.

These undertakings provide experiences that support experiential learning, collaboration, socialization and the democratization of public spaces. Museums that take heed of the visitors’ unique personalities and treat them as participants, are likely to retain them.


This concludes another edition of suggested books that would be apt for readers of this blog. These titles and the previously suggested publications, fuel my own artful learning and enduring understandings about education, visual art and placemaking. I hope that you will also find meaning in what you read here and make significant connections to your own practice. Happy summer and happy reading! Please feel free to contact me if you have any particular book recommendations in relationship to the integration of contemporary art, museums and educational practices. 


Additional References and Notes:

Freire, Paulo. “The “Banking” Concept of Education.” Ways of Reading. 8th ed. Bartholomae, David and Anthony Petrosky. Boston: Bedford- St. Martin’s, 2008. 242-254. Print.

Rodney, Seph. “The Evolution of the Museum Visit, from Privilege to Personalized Experience.” Hyperallergic, 22 Jan. 2016. https://hyperallergic.com/267096/the-evolution-of-the-museum-visit-from-privilege-to-personalized-experience/

Shor, Ira, and Paulo Freire. “What Is the ‘Dialogical Method’ of Teaching?” Journal of Education, vol. 169, no. 3, Oct. 1987, pp. 11–31, doi:10.1177/002205748716900303.

 

Summer Reading List

It’s that time of the year when both educators and students are dreaming of long days on the beach (or anywhere outside the classroom really!) during Summer Vacation. The two months outside of the classroom is also the perfect time to catch up on reading some very engaging books on Contemporary Art, Education, and Activism (and beaches are the perfect environments to read!). There are so many worthy titles to read and the list can go on and on, however, for the sake of constraining it to a short period, below is an abridged list of some essential publications that anyone who’s interested in arts-centered learning should pick up.

Against the Flow: Education, the arts, and postmodern culture, Peter Abbs, Routledge (October 4, 2003)

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Peter Abbs is one of the UK’s (and the world’s) leading practitioners and theorists in Arts Education (and a very celebrated poet too!). In Against the Flow, Abbs argues that the quantitative focus of modern education –the reliance on a universal proficiency standard to measure student assessment– is a disservice for students because it doesn’t acknowledge that students develop at their own pace. Furthermore, by using proficiency standards and “teaching to the test,” institutions have regarded essential subjects like the arts to be mere specialty areas of study. Abb’s brilliantly argues why this practice is short-sided and how the arts add vitality, engagement, and relevance to the overall contemporary education environment. This book will prepare educators with a wealth of topics, which they can bring back into the school environment. Especially, during the meetings where other educators may snidely say to the art teacher “well art is easy, I wish my students were as engaged in ________ class” or “how do you even asses something as specialized as art?” The answers that art educators can respond to these questions with will have profound influence across the curriculum. Every student can be engaged across the curriculum if they are thinking like an artist (studio habits of mind) and are engaged in creative, collaborative, problem solving activities. The lecture where the teacher talks for 45 minutes straight is a relevant as the arrogant “educated” owl in the Tootsie Roll Pop commercials.


Art as Social Action: An Introduction to the Principles and Practices of Teaching Social Practice Art, Gregory Sholette and Chloë Bass of Social Practice Queens with others, Allworth Press (May 22, 2018)
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What is Social Practice Art? Well, if you refer back a few posts, you’ll have your answer! Social Practice Art is a recent, much needed artistic movement that is rooted in socialization, pedagogy, and activism. Social Practice artists focus on the interconnectivity between diverse groups of people and explore ways that humans can express themselves through a collaborative, and embodied process. Art As Social Action is a refreshing publication that should be of interest to all educators and art professionals alike. The book is edited by Gregory Sholette and Chloë Bass of Social Practice Queens with contributions by a diverse group of artists, educators, and activists. The book contains a well balanced combination of theory and practice, including lesson plans that are sure to inspire educators who want to make learning more involved and relevant to their students’ experiences. John Dewey and Paolo Freire would be elated to know that their visions on progressive education have been put into action and are shaping the way we think, collaborate, and produce within the arts and education communities. There is something for everyone in this tome, which is just as engaging to read as the actual projects being described. If you want to do your part to bring some much needed change into this world, read this book, share it with others, and put these words to work in your community!
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Resnick states a problem: today’s educational system is zapping the creativity out of learning, even at the Kindergarten level, which is typically an age of exploration and discovery through artistic processes. His solution is that the Kindergarten model, started by Friedrich Wilhelm August Fröbel, centered on play and activity, is an enduring model that has benefits for individuals of all ages. Imagining, creating, playing, sharing, and reflecting, are necessary elements of living a creative, well rounded life. Kindergarten has typically been the arena for these elements to thrive, however, Resnick believes that the methodologies of Fröbel and other early childhood educational philosophies like Reggio Emilia, should be continued throughout one’s life. We are living in a time when technological advances occur on a daily basis. Resnick believes that we can learn a lot by embracing technology and harnessing its creative potential. By engaging in collaboration, exploration, and play via technology, we can live an artful life. Teachers who are looking for inspiring ways they can bring digital projects into their classrooms will be delighted by this book’s content.

Art-Centered Learning Across The Curriculum: Integrating Contemporary Art in the Secondary School Classroom,  Julia Marshall and David M. Donahue, Teachers College Press (August 29, 2014)

Screen Shot 2018-05-16 at 6.39.57 PMThis publication was highly influential on my own writing and thinking about creating an inter-disciplinary curriculum that is relevant to contemporary life. In this book, Marshall and Donahue present the framework for inquiry based art-centered learning across the entire Secondary School curriculum (social studies, math, science, and ELA). Many of the ideas are inspired by Harvard’s Project Zero and are further supported through a wide range of examples from the Contemporary Art field. The book breaks down how art projects can relate to students’ lives and support a lifelong thirst for knowledge through visual learning and enduring understandings.

 


These are just four examples of the amazing array of literature that will quench your thirst for learning how to live, work, and educate artfully! If you have a particular book, publication, or blog that you’d like to share, please add it in the comments!