“Education is a discipline with many differing theories and practices, and we should respect it more seriously. We need a professionally active faculty committed to both teaching and pursuing its own extracurricular projects.” (Pujol, 2001, p.11)
 



OBSERVATIONS ON PROFESSIONAL CONTEXT

There is no doubt that specialist educators should be using their professional practice to inform and support their work as teachers. This is supported by the criterion and standards that mark our success (
AGOTL, 2014). However, it is a difficult balance to strike. Particularly when, like me, you are still trying to find your voice in both areas.

As I progress through this Graduate Diploma and reflect on my professional context and emerging career as both an artist and educator, I am beginning to identify some critical avenues within art education that deserve further enquiry. Namely, those relating to the role of art in promoting lifelong learning in its viewers. Concerning my own experience in both gallery education and tertiary education, I recognise that I am still a novice. While I am at a stage in my career where I believe I have valuable experiences to draw from, I have had limited opportunity to put them into practice.

In my work as an artist, I am interested in how I contextualise information for my audience. I often use references to familiar mediums, such as popular film and literature, to draw them in and encourage them to connect their personal experience with the conceptual content of the work (Clover, 2018). Increasingly, I see no distinction between my work as an artist and an educator. My recent learning experiences have immeasurably informed this amalgamation of professional aims. When I reflect on the standards that underpin this portfolio, I can see that without some understanding of how we learn, young tutors and educators are unable to consider the implications of their work as both educators—roles which equally serve to promote and honour important social responsibility of the arts (Williams, 2010). Equally, these mechanisms of learning must also be shared with the young artists who hope to create a transformative experience for their viewers (Becker, 1993).

Carol Becker, current dean of faculty at Columbia University’s School of the Arts, raised an interesting idea in her 1993 essay, The Education of Young Artists and the Issue of Audience, which I paraphrase. Within the context of the art school, there is a common question posed to students when attempting to contextualise their work, essentially asking, ‘what is the audience taking away from this experience? What do you want the artwork to say?’ (Becker, 1993). However, the question that a concerning number of educators forget to ask, myself included, is about the audience themselves. To put it simply, who is the audience? Students are not prompted to consider where they might display their work, or for whom. Thus it is assumed that the artwork is destined for the gallery context, for an audience equipped with the visual-literacy to decode it, often artists themselves. As a result, this assumption becomes self-fulfilling. “[We] perpetuate the isolation which has allowed art to become a vulnerable subject of narrow-minded political attacks“ (Becker, 1993, p.54). Such as the removal of funding or meaningful art education in public schooling (Madoff, 2009).

Given the complexity of these pedagogical concerns, educators must set out clear programmatic goals to help students consider their work within a broader societal context and to guide the viewer through the complexity of their work (Becker, 1993). However, as I progress through my journey into adult education, I question how those engaged in the education of young people, can be expected to perform such a delicate task without understanding how to do so effectively. Along with the ability to appropriately facilitate this learning experience for art students, so too does this understanding of education offer an added insight into the learning processes of their viewers (DeBacker, et al., 2015).

In practice, these fundamental questions of audience and social responsibility are relative to both the educators that train our artists and the galleries that display their work. As a result, my interest in engaging artists with their public and educational potential of art stems beyond the art school and into the gallery itself.