Monthly Mentor

Leslie Gates (May)
Each month, a different member and NAEA awardee is the guest writer for the NAEA Monthly Mentor Blog. Leslie Gates, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Art Education at Millersville University of Pennsylvania, where she coordinates the undergraduate and graduate art education programs. She has taught visual art at the high school and elementary levels in both urban and rural contexts. Leslie's research interests are art educator's professional learning, assessment in the arts, and feminist and choice-based pedagogies. Her research, using participatory and feminist approaches, often means she is working alongside art educators to identify problems and work towards possible solutions. Click "GO" to read her full bio.

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« Reflections on School Art Style: A Functional Analysis from Arthur Efland | Main | Why isn’t there more play in art classrooms? »

May 07, 2018

“Play is essential."

From: Leslie Gates

At the time one of my classes was reading Eland’s School Art Style (1976), another class had just watched Cindy Foley’s TEDxColumbus talk, Teaching Art or Teaching to Think Like an Artist? in which she stated, “Play is essential. Play is a sure-fire way to kick-start ideation. Artists play. They play in a number of ways. They either play with materials until ideas begin to manifest or they play with ideas until they realize what media or materials they need to bring that into reality.”

Play is emergent, sometimes ambiguous, and in its best form, self-directed. In fact, during play, children often can’t answer what it is they are doing exactly. As an art educator, you likely have had experiences as a maker in which you have played with material without a specific goal in mind. Perhaps the sheer pleasure of manipulating material was the purpose.

Sometimes through manipulating material, as Cindy Foley suggests, ideas begin to manifest. An intention for an artwork may emerge slowly through play. To think more about play as an essential part of contemporary artists’ practice, I recommend Chapter 7 of Sydney Walker’s Teaching Meaning in Artmaking (2001) and Art:21’s episode Play (2003). 

Play is an important part of artmaking and an important part of learning. So, it would make sense that play is then foundational in art education. However, play is noticeably absent from much of the art education that I observe within schools. Why? Stay tuned; I’ll provide my thoughts in the next post. Until then, what do you think?

-LG

References
Eland, A. (1976). School art style: A functional analysis. Studies in Art Education, 17(2), pp. 37-44.
Foley, C. (2014). Teaching art or teaching to think like an artist? TEDxColumbus. [video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZcFRfJb2ONk.
Sollins, S. (2003). Art:21 Season Three. Play. Public Broadcasting Service. Retrieved from www.pbs.org/art21/series/seasonthree/play.html.
Walker, S. (2001). Teaching meaning in artmaking. Worcester, MA: Davis.

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