Intro to the Arts

So my Intro to the Arts (not its real name, but you get the idea) is almost over. We’ve done all the substantive work we’re going to, and now we’re preparing for the final. I have to say I’m very glad to be almost finished teaching this class for the first time; it went very well and I had a great group of students, but teaching it for the first time required a lot of preparation and was a little nerve-wracking. It will be easier next time around.

My students have been doing presentations on their creative project. They were supposed to create some kind of art work in any medium they wanted to, and then present it to the class and talk about what their creative process was like — where they got their idea, how it developed, wrong turns they took, difficulties they encountered, the number of attempts they made before they got it right, etc. It’s been a huge pleasure to see what the students produced and to hear them talk about it. I don’t think I should describe any of their projects in detail, as that seems like an invasion of privacy, but I got some paintings, some poems, some photography, and some projects that don’t fit any traditional category. Those uncategorizable ones were among the most interesting, as those students seemed to be creating something that related to their lives and came out of their experiences in a very direct and genuine way. I could feel the energy in the room as they talked about their work and as the rest of the class asked them question after question about how they created what they did and where they got the idea from.

It was fun listening to the students talk about what they learned. Many students discovered that creating art isn’t as easy as they thought it was going to be. Many of the students who chose photography had that experience — they thought, what’s so hard about taking pictures? But then they got out and tried it and realized that it’s a more complicated endeavor than they realized.

My students also had to go out and have some kind of arts experience — visit a museum, see a dance, go to a concert, etc.. I was reading their papers about the experience today and noticed that quite a few of them had tried something they had never done before; a few of them mentioned, for example, that they had never gone to an art museum as an adult. It’s a little sad that so many people have so little interaction with the arts, and I’m glad the course requires them to get out and see some art because at least it gives them a taste and they might want to go back and see more. The students wrote very well about how exciting and new their experience was and how much they enjoyed it. (They could, of course, just be trying to make me happy, but what they wrote seemed genuine.) We covered so much about various art forms in such a short period of time, but they seemed to have gained some confidence in their ability to understand and appreciate art. Even if they don’t remember any of the vocabulary we learned, I hope they keep that sense of confidence.

8 Comments

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8 responses to “Intro to the Arts

  1. What fun! It sounds like the class learned a lot and gained a new appreciation for art and what it means to create it. And hopefully their new experiences will turn into a life long enjoyment! Will you be teaching the class again next semester?

  2. I so wish I could have taken part in this program – it sounds wonderful. And I also wish I could at least have been a fly on the wall when the students were presenting their projects. I am fascinated by the process of creativity. Great post!

  3. I’d love to be able to share the experience of your students’ projects! I’m glad that in spite of the work, the class was a success!

  4. This sounds fabulous. I bet it was so great to go through the projects and to read the thought process about what led them to that. I’m always fascinated by how artists’ create.

  5. That sounds like such a great class to take and I bet it was fun to teach, rewarding in the end despite all the preparation and work. It really is exciting to think that a new world might (hopefully) been opened up to the students. Were they mostly younger? Will you be teaching it again?

  6. I love the notion of the students being supported in trying some new arts experience. As a drama student in the late 60s I was taken with the rest of my group down to London to see a series of plays in the West End. We had one night when we left to our own devices to choose what we wanted to go to and I opted to go to the Opera. I’d seen four plays already, had Stratford on my door at home for good theatre, but didn’t know when I might get the chance to see world class Opera again. I was roasted!

  7. I still wish I could have taken your class! Abstract art and installations elude me, as does post-modern anything, but I’d like to understand it.

    My parents aren’t museum people, so my only experiences with the arts were when teachers/professors took classes to exhibits, shows, concerts, and the like. A few years ago, I found myself missing those experiences, and have made a point to try to visit more often. I’m sure your students, now that they have gotten a taste of the arts from you, will feel the same.

  8. Stefanie — yes, I will be teaching the class next semester, and probably many semesters after that, if I want to keep teaching it. It will be a fun course to return to again and again. I may be able to teach it over the summer too.

    Litlove — it was great fun to hear them talk about how they tried out ideas and came up with new ones. Many of them talked about how much harder it is to produce art than they thought — maybe they have learned a new respect for the hard work artists do!

    Jenclair — thank you! Yes, it was a success, helped out a lot by the fact that I had a great bunch of students.

    Iliana — creativity is such a mysterious process, isn’t it? It’s wonderful to see the different ways it works with different students.

    Danielle — yeah, I’ll be teaching it regularly. I was teaching the class in the evening, so it had more older students than my other classes tend to. I had a mix of people in their twenties on up to people probably in their fifties. I do like teaching adults!

    Ann — good for you for going to see the opera! Definitely students should have the chance to break out of the familiar and try something completely new. I’m sure you never regretted your choice.

    Debby — I hope they feel the same! I went to museums as a kid, but most often they were science and history museums. I’m glad I had an art professor who made me visit the Art Institute in Chicago. And we should go visit some museums together — wouldn’t that be fun?

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