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James Rees (May)
A widely-known champion of the arts, James Rees is a passionate advocate for art education that balances theory, research, and practice. With more than 24 years of teaching experience, James currently teaches full-time at Provo High School, but he has also taught undergraduate and graduate courses in art and art education at Brigham Young University, Utah Valley University, and Westminster College. James was recently elected by his peers to become Vice President-elect for the Pacific Region of the National Art Education Association after serving as the Pacific Region Secondary Representative. He is a Fulbright Memorial Scholar, a Teachers Institute of Contemporary Art Fellow, and an Art21 Fellow. James has served as reviewer for the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities as well as the National Endowment for the Arts. He currently serves on the board of directors for the Utah Arts Festival, providing guidance on community outreach and educational initiatives.

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« It’s Youth Art Month! | Main | Visual Culture - Part 2 »

March 04, 2013

Visual Culture

The second path I want to journey down is my passion for Visual Culture and how that ties into our classrooms.

Let’s kick off with a little about my passion for Visual Culture. It was probably always lurking in the background, but it came to light with beginning to pin down a topic for my MA thesis at the University of Northern Iowa in 2008. Christopher Schulte* was there pushing me to dig deep into what drove me, to find a passion for a topic. I shared a story with him about a recent article I had read titled “50 Works of Art You Should See Before You Die” and a television commercial I had seen while watching football with my family of boys. The middle of the commercial for Sprint® featuring Peyton Manning (then quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts) flashed a few second likeness to M. C. Escher’s “Relativity.” I immediately caught the likeness, but no one else did. With the wonders of DVR, I backed the commercial up and asked my three boys (husband and two sons, ages 14 and 8 at the time) if they recognized any likeness of a work of art in the commercial. They didn’t. I grabbed the laptop and pulled up Escher’s work and they could then recognize the likeness. (Go ahead, search youtube for the “Manning’s Mind” commercial. You know you want to.)

This made me wonder if I was teaching my students to recognize the subtleties in today’s world where famous works of art were being infused all around us. The moment clicked. I had found my passion … Visual Culture.

*Now Dr. Christopher Schulte is an Assistant Professor at Lamar Dodd School of Art, University of Georgia after receiving his doctorate at Penn State University. Dr. Schulte is also a 2013 Elliot Eisner Doctoral Research Award in Art Education Runner-Up.

—Ronda Sternhagen   

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