Saturday, June 18, 2011

Ramblings on being an Art Teacher

I wanted to post my thoughts prior to my first Prac (which I have just completed) and then afterwards to see how my thoughts on being an Art Teacher or being a teacher of Art was any different. I have been pondering this for many years in the lead up to my becoming an Art Teacher (of high school students). This distinct difference is key to understanding how the two roles, though very similar in nature are also quiet different.

A number of years ago I had posted a thread on an art forum I am a member of, asking if an art teacher needed to be good or a least competent in a majority of art forms to teach. Those that replied, some speaking from an art teacher background or experience answered my query with what I assumed to be the answer. Yes, you have to be proficient in a variety of art mediums and techniques to teach art. Also you need some greater ability then your students. 

Bearing this in mind then, I pondered about the differences between being a Tafe or Uni Art teacher, to a high school art teacher, to a workshop art teacher. As mentioned, all these roles are vastly different yet still cater to the single purpose of teaching their pupils about art and creating/making art. 

Having been through the institutions (TAFE and Uni) and now being on the other side as an Art teacher (Prac) I have come to realise the difference as a teacher of adolescents or school students. A high school art teacher is just that; someone who teaches art. It is mostly about mimicry by default. That is the way students at this level can learn; getting the foundation skills and knowledge down pat in junior working into more conceptual and wider thinking in senior. So how does this differ to a teacher of art?

I believe a teacher of art is moreso a guide to teaching and learning about art and how to make and create art. I feel Tafe and Uni, and workshop teachers cater more to this style. Neither way is necessarily wrong or negative, it is just different in approach. That is not to say you can't change your approach to teaching high school art. It is about knowing your students and making judgement calls about the best way they can learn.

I think as a high school art teacher, alot of personal artistic sacrifices must be made in your own creative being as the students depend on your ideas and guidance so deeply. I think as an Art teacher, it is still very important to keep your own passion and ideas flowing, and still maintain your own craft. Though the reality of this happening is silm. Just like any job being so draining, with all your ideas being zapped out of you by the end of the day, and the workload, I imagine there would be not much time nor well to keep your own practice doing. Though I hope I still keep my finger in the pot so to speak, as I feel it is just as important to your job as it is to yourself and your well being. Though it may be your job, being an artist is part of who someone is. And I know for me, I feel more fulfilled when I have done some art. They still needs to be something that gives!

Graffiti Vs Street Art -There is a difference!

I went to an artist talk/forum at the University of Queensland a couple of weeks back to see the travelling show 'Space Invaders'. Space Invaders is a National Gallery of Australia travelling exhibition featuring their collection of street artworks collected over the last 10years. I was lucky enough to participate in an artist talk given by Ghost Patrol and Miso (two well known and established street Artists in Australia). 

It was interesting to hear their perspective of graffiti and street art, describing the difference and explaining the ideas behind their art process. Whether or not you agree that what they do is morally right or wrong is your own opinion, however in the eyes of the Australian Law, this type of art is typically done illegally therefore classed as vandalism. Putting the law aside for the moment, it is interesting to take this artform for what it is and better try and understand it, as once you come to understand an artform you can become more understanding of how and why something happens.

Ghost Patrol and Miso made it clear that what they do is Street Art and it does not necessarily fall under the umbrella of Graffiti. They are two different yet similar art styles. Street Art, though still is illegal, is more about the artists creating art and then displaying it for the public to freely see and enjoy. They get pleasure out of sharing their art, however, they still pertain the copyright of their art.

Graffiti is done more for the thrill of the action -doing risky stuff and not getting caught. Graffiti becomes territorial and some is more about 'tagging' then about art. It is also done usually and 'hidden' places such as alleyways where the focus isn't on the public necessarily viewing it but other gangs.

It was interesting to talk to Ghost Patrol and Miso about their view on what they do with their art. They explained that where they are from , Melbourne, it is more prominent and accepted as part of the city's culture. However, somewhere like Brisbane, the council very much stamps down on Graffiti, and it is not ridden in our streets as described by the duo in Melbourne. 

They don't feel like they are 'vandalising' the city or the community, if anything, they defend their actions by saying they are sharing their creativity with the people for their enjoyment for free. This type of art makes cities interesting and creates an artistic community. They describe it as beautifying their city.

Miso is so spiritual in her artistic process. She describes how she loves her work being ephemeral, and that something that was made on paper and glued as a 'paste on' somewhere is not permanent. That over time the artwork deteriorates until it is no longer or another artist has stuck their work up. Though she says, unlike Graffiti artists who deliberately overtag other's art, she says street art is very much respected by other street artists and to create over another's work is disrespectful.

Then there is the issue of copyright. People think because their artwork is placed around in public (freely) that it is there for the taking. Some can argue that it is due to it being unlawfully displayed and knowing shared for 'free' while others will argue it is still copyrighted no matter the circumstances -it is still artwork which needs to be protected and values. But, like I said, copyright is another issue.

Since hearing their talk, I did feel more of an appreciation for what they do -street art- and that by understanding it better, I can now see their point of view and don't necessarily look at it like it is vandalism anymore. They said they are conscious of where they place their art and ensure they do not display it so to damage private property ie shop owners walls etc. I agree with their ideas of displaying their art for all to see...and for free, which helps make a city culturally aesthetic. I however don't understand how they could part with their art so freely? As artists we value our work, protect it, and not just give it out. And that is what they do. Each and to their own.

Please bare in mind, the text is my opinion in relation to my knowledge about graffiti and street art, and paraphrasing information from an artist talk I attended. I do not pertain that the information in my article is a correct recount of the artist's opinions. I have to the best of my knowledge and understanding interpreted the artist's talk into my own meaning.