Is Teaching Art Becoming One Big Paint and Wine Party?

Ok. Well, someone has to talk about it, right?  The internet is blasted with this…and these.  And, because I have not attended one of these ‘girls’ nights out’, I have no idea just how much a person learns at these events.  I am thinking that this option might remove a lot of fear and mystery around paint and provide something really different to do for fun.  That part, I get.

Paint Parties

On the internet…22 more pages of links just like this one.

Paint Parties 2 However, what I am wondering…is this an option when we are teaching art, whether from our studios OR in the classroom?  I just want to get the wheels spinning…and maybe a conversation opening up.

I grabbed my 1943 Art in the Classroom textbook off of my bookshelf and snapped some quick pics.  Take a look.  I picked out a seasonal activity that someone might wish to ‘pin’.  I also liked the ‘Empire Day’ activity because it is very innovative and contains four options. (very cutting edge and YES!  I’m being horribly sarcastic.)

DSC_0694 DSC_0693 DSC_0692 DSC_0691 DSC_0690Does any of this leave possibility for ‘Happy’ mistakes?  I would really like to hear your thoughts about what you see as important elements of a positive art education.  I know from my end, I have very strong opinions about what is required.


A reading list:

Some things by Elliot W. Eisner

1. The Arts and the Creation of Mind by Elliot W. Eisner (Sep 10, 2004)
2. The Educational Imagination: On the Design and Evaluation of School Programs (3rd Edition) by Elliot W. Eisner (Aug 5, 2001)
3. Cognition and Curriculum Reconsidered by Elliot W. Eisner (Mar 1, 1994)
4. The Enlightened Eye: Qualitative Inquiry and the Enhancement of Educational Practice by Elliot W. Eisner (Jul 24, 1997)
5. The Kind of Schools We Need: Personal Essays by Elliot W Eisner (Aug 24, 1998)
6. Reimagining Schools: The Selected Works of Elliot W. Eisner (World Library of Educationalists) by Elliot W. Eisner (Nov 9, 2005)
7. The Role of Discipline-based Art Education in America’s Schools by Elliot W. Eisner (Aug 17, 1989)

Look at the Getty Foundation

Read this by Eric Oddleifson, Chairman of John Hopkins University School of Education



7 thoughts on “Is Teaching Art Becoming One Big Paint and Wine Party?

  1. From my experience, learning art is continuous practice with techniques… working hard, until you can’t any more. And at the same time studying how others dealt with challenges in the field, and which challenges they were attracted to. But it’s good to have a party now and then… I would say, once every two weeks seemed enough for me most of my time. And drinking wine can go well with both work and practice…

    • Yours is my favourite comment so far! Life is a blend of experiences, isn’t it? The moment we think there is only ‘one way’ or a ‘single direction’, we loose touch with our humanity. Thanks for your thoughts, Shimon.

  2. I had to take a lot of deep breaths and count to ten many times before replying to this post, hence it’s late arrival. I worked in art education for over thirty years and it’s still a subject dear to my heart. Like you Kathleen I have strong opinions. I had no idea that ‘art parties’ of this nature were so wide spread so I explored further….I don’t want to disparage this concept or appear elitist, neither do I want to write a didactic essay on what art is and isn’t, but I probably will. When I look at the images of the ‘art’ being held up by the people in the posted photos my first thought is ‘Paint by Numbers’…I see little difference between each painting, no personal expression but only a followed formula. I’m happy for the obvious joy, entertainment and fun involved in this activity but for me, to call this ‘art’ is sad and misleading. As a party activity incorporating paint, sure, why not but please, in the name of every culture’s creative history, not ‘art’ . However, we must separate this from art education, and you asked about art education. To close, and I apologize for the length of this comment, I include some extracts from a manifesto I wrote for the high school art department I worked in:
    “Our emphasis on studio process is used as a springboard to enter the areas of the cognitive and conceptual aspects of Art. Techniques and theories, combined with creative imagination, result in a flexible balance between what can be taught and what must be discovered.
    We believe that the teacher is a resource, a catalyst, and a stimulant to self-discovery. The true finding; however, is in the student.
    Our courses reflect our belief that the Arts are vital to a quality of life and cultural well being for all. At its most basic level, Art is about the communication of ideas and emotions, the inevitability of change, and the power of the imagination. Art represents a synthesis of tradition and innovation in order to express fundamental truths about the present. These truths are conveyed in a language of metaphor and symbol that stimulate us to think in new ways, and to make connections-or to find answers-that we had not considered before.
    Art is about freedom, risk-taking and the natural diversity of ideas in our contemporary society. Works of art provide new perspectives on familiar things, while encouraging us to expand our awareness by seeing through the eyes of others.
    Education through Visual Art is a multi-faceted process that involves all learning styles and meets the creative, perceptual, emotional, and intellectual needs of students. As emerging members of our society students are encouraged to think for themselves, make their own informed decisions and express themselves through the development of a personal aesthetic and an individual visual language.
    Visual Art is a journey of exploration into the ‘inner world’ as well as the ‘outer’. It is an awakening or rediscovery of the imagination and the senses, which are rapidly fading dimensions of our twenty-first century lives. Our children need to know the Arts, not just as entertainment, but experientially, as a participatory alternative to the passive absorption of commercial mediocrity. Through their explorations of the creative process students develop the confidence to express their own ideas and feelings, to think in new and challenging ways, and to extend and vivify the human experience.”

    • This reply gave me a sense of what your teaching must have been like, John. I wished I had had a chance to observe. I think that we share a common philosophy about most things; now it is so much more apparent. I tried not to show my bias in my post, but now as I look back, it almost smacks of sarcasm. When I left art education, I knew that I had given my all through the years…but, for now, no one can know the direction it will take or how and why society decides to value it. I just know that it has always been my passion.

  3. Being in your classroom, I gained an appreciation for colour and for exploration into myself (not just through your art teaching, but in having you teach Language Arts as well). While I’ve only been teaching for a few years, I’ve always remembered being in your room and feeling free to try things. While these art parties are a nice way for people to do something communal and together – the chance to explore and make mistakes, and create together is somewhat lost in the cookie cutter, paint by number product. I feel like these “parties” need some tweaking and should focus more on just getting together and playing, then trying to follow the set guidelines of one person’s vision for a painting.

    • Dearest Sara(h), it is so wonderful to learn that you are teaching. I think, generally, I was viewed as a ‘weird’ teacher. I spent a lot of time on ‘life lessons’, knowing full well that in Junior High, these could not be honoured, but some time down the line, however distantly, the TRUE curriculum would come to light. Know that I am very proud of you because teaching is not just a job, or even a career, but it is a mission. While society does not truly value good teachers, day care workers, nurses or those who work with our aging generation (as measured by its financial offerings and its public vocalizations), it is a beautiful occupation…to inspire and guide the youth, especially in these present times. The students that you have seated before you, for the most part, are plugged into devices. This presents a new challenge to you. About paint parties…I agree…they need some tweaking. I think they choose a particular image because I think people DO want to BE an artist for a night. Art, for many, is a mystery. However, I don’t wish for the clients to actually assume that there is a recipe that one can follow and ‘be an artist’…it is so much more than that. We should chill out together one day. Come over to the studio. I’m getting toooooo blah blah blah in this response! Big hugs to you and yours.

  4. Thank you, I will try to make it to the studio someday to visit. While you may have been viewed as the “weird” teacher, I find myself constantly inspired by the lessons and the talks you gave us. Many are still fresh in my mind. I have so enjoyed being able to be around young people who look up to me, and who thrive on creativity and love trying new things, and trust me to provide them with a valuable experience in those new things. Thanks for reaching me when I was young, and hope to see you soon!

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