From: Gloria Wilson
How might mentorship through arts-based strategies affirm stories of the lived experience?
car·tog·ra·phy / kärˈtäɡrəfē/
noun. the science or practice of drawing maps.
story / ˈstôrē/
noun. an account of past events in someone's life or in the evolution of something
#tumblingbodies #academiccartographies (2016). WJB Gallery, Florida State University
"The arts are a viable means of challenging what representation means and how we, as researchers, might live in/with, make sense of, and show a mutual respect for our individual/relational stories" -The MYOA Project, 2016
For the better part of two years, I have shared a personal/professional journey alongside three women academics; significant moments along the way have required one (or more) of us to support/mentor each another through the victories and challenges associated with “tenure-track” pathways of higher education. This post focuses on the details of the first phase and evolution of our arts-based (Barone and Eisner, 2012;Cahnmann-Taylor and Siegesmund, 2013) autoethnographic research project.
Prior to transitioning into tenure-track positions at different universities, the common thread among the four of us was that we graduated from the same doctoral program in art education. Our physical movements tracked us toward four cities in the southeastern United States, and the aesthetic and "felt" embodiment of such movements emerged in our experiences.
G.Wilson (2016). #Blackademic
In the midst of inhabiting our varied academic spaces, we, as a collective of researchers/visual artists/educators began to consider the notion of “embodied cartography” as a conceptual way-finding process of shared (and individual) conceptual mapping and sense-making. The past two years found each of us provoked by our lived experiences, and through ongoing dialogues, we attuned to our varied, yet interconnected epistemological, ontological, and methodological movements while engaging with each other and with our new spaces.
Animations rendered by M. Wooten in ArcGIS (v10.1) using the
2013 TIGER/Line Shapefiles [machine-readable data files]/prepared by the U.S. Census Bureau, 2013 and GMTED2010 data available from the U.S. Geological Survey.
Our project draws upon two distinct, yet complementary qualitative methodological approaches: collaborative (collective) autoethnography and arts-based research. We imagined the potential for representation within shared scholarship through an ongoing arts-based autoethnography. Our inquiry engages this question:
How do we, a diverse collective of female, tenure-track assistant professors, map our movements individually, collectively and aesthetically through academic spaces?
By inviting cartographic inquiry to include the visual arts, the "aesthetic" becomes a living discourse and relational event that brings together maker and observer. Embodied cartography as a theoretical perspective encourages moving through, engaging in, and therefore, entangling aesthetically with our human and nonhuman world. The diversity of factors shaping our lives as women, (spatial/bodily locations across time, for instance) has resulted in different expressions of these common themes. This framework acknowledges representations of corporeality in general (Harrison, Wakeman and Ogden, 2013), and specifically, racialized and gendered bodily inscriptions. As such, an understanding of “the body” necessitates that it holds meaning and does not and cannot exist independent of the world. The body is always in the world, of the world, with the world, part of the world (Mzerleau-Ponty, 1964).
B. Hofsess (2016). #milk #heat #time
Our shared experiences as tenure-track faculty unites us in our research explorations, yet we also acknowledge how our own epistemological and ontological influences generate varied experiences within our collective. With this awareness of the difference among us, we felt it important to specify the in, of, with and parts of the world our bodies occupy.
S.S. Shields (2016). #fiveyearsandcounting
This arts informed and polyvocal methodological approach to collaborative research brings together multiple researchers through co-constructed yet ambiguous, uncertain, and sometimes contradictory perspectives of cultural experiences. Embracing a critical postmodern sensibility (Wilson, Shields, Guyotte, & Hofsess, in press), our approach preserves the individual voice while also exploring how these voices comprise a collective and dialogic process of meaning-making through the research process.
K. Guyotte (2016). #embodyingathens
Our work is informed by what becomes manifest in and through female bodies as they move through academic spaces. For our most recent representation of this work (see photos throughout this post), we turned to arts-based modes of representation to help fully realize the creative potential of our narratives.
On the tails of the representative debate, the arts have emerged as a viable means of challenging what representation means and how we, as researchers, might live in/with, make sense of, and show a mutual respect for our individual/relational stories. With the fundamental understanding of experience as an embodied encounter and embracing the visual arts ability to seek out qualitative nuances, we aim to advance empathy, give new insight and share our capacity to engage with life. Thus, our arts-based research collaboration, has awakened us to openings of transformation of self/other as we move together, aesthetically mapping our journeys in higher education—an embodiment ever finding its way.
Musings for art education:
How might mentorship provoke art educators to consider and engage with the personal stories of their students?
How might students be mentored to think critically about stories that have been submerged? To make forgotten stories visible?
Barone, T., & Eisner, E. W. (2012). Arts based research. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
Cahnmann-Taylor, M., & Siegesmund, R. (2013). Arts-based research in education: Foundations for practice. New York, NY: Routledge.
Merleau-Ponty, M. (1964). The visible and the invisible. Evanston Illinois: Northwestern University Press.
Harrison, K., Wakeman, S. & Ogden, C. A. (2013). Corporeality: The body and society. Chester, England : University of Chester Press.
Wilson, G. J., Shields, S. S., Guyotte, K., & Hofsess, B. (in press). Desirable difficulties: Toward a critical postmodern arts-based practice. The Journal of Social Theory in Art Education.