What I do all day? I play around with art materials on my own or with my students - infant, toddler, preschool, and graduate students. I run the art program at an early childhood center that is an on-campus lab school for Columbia University in NYC. I also teach graduate students in art & art education at Columbia's Teachers College.
Some of my grad students are art students and in class we discuss young children's artistic explorations and discuss development. I also supervise their student teaching in K-12 (kindergarten to 12th grade) art rooms. Others are K-12 teachers and other professionals in various disciplines (for example chemistry, occupational therapy, brain development or psychology) and I help them to consider how they might bring art making to their professional practices in meaningful ways.
Personally, I like to play around with glass. I'm in love with the cold shop where you work cold and solid glass with power tools. I spend some time flame working and kill forming too. I also work with metal and mixed media. Most of my stuff is wearable art.
All of this comes together in an art exhibition I currently have going on in a Columbia University art gallery. I am the curator of this - it is a show of my young students’ artwork, not mine. I curate this exhibit with works by my infant, toddler, and preschooler students and bring my graduate students to visit as a platform for further discussion and inspiration for their own explorations with materials.
One of the things I use as a curatorial tool is Augmented Reality (AR). This is something I’ve been thinking about and writing on for a while. Here is an excerpt of a recent article:
“The use of digital media is often seen as something with its own intrinsic value, which will bring advantages simply by virtue of its own use. It is not unusual that we focus on “the gadget,” showcasing it as something worth celebrating per se and to which everything else is subservient. These media, although fairly mainstream today, are often still regarded as novelties in some art educational contexts: “new technologies” or “fancy materials.” However, digital media may also be seen as just another “traditional” art material, valued for their properties and the learning and exploring possibilities they allow for.
Regarded in this way, as unexceptional tools with their own characteristics, possibilities, and limitations, digital media can be explored as part of artmaking and used in ways that may promote artistic and social engagement. If materials are a crucial part of art education and exploring them a way of learning and thinking in which teaching should be based, explorations with digital materials can be seen as part of the curriculum like any other.
Recent studies in 3D design and printing, suggest that young children engage with digital materials in similar ways to clay, paint, and other more familiar and traditional art materials. Though adult educators may show concern about “preparing” the children for non-traditional media, children themselves raise no distinction between them. They can engage with 3D design and printing, for example, in similar exploratory ways that they do with sketchbooks and markers, or clay and its tools. With digital media, children tend to focus on the materials’ own characteristics and specificities, and the possibilities they offer for them to explore their ideas and tell their stories.
This echoes the explorations we see with commonplace artmaking materials. For example, as young artists discover that colors in paint can be mixed together to create new colors, or that glue lets them combine different objects in layers, they begin to realize that each material can be used to create narratives in special ways, just as they discover that Augmented Reality software allows them to make their photos come to life in videos, that QR codes can stand in for photos, or that 3D printing can be used to create objects designed by combining various shapes on a screen.
In this way, the use of digital materials is not about technological novelty, nor is it dependent on gadgets that might not be common in many schools. On the contrary, exploring digital and less traditional art materials becomes about creating new storytelling possibilities, and expanding the range of media used to grapple with ideas – to make sense of the world and our place in it. […]
Used in ways that support thoughtful curatorial decisions and meaningful artistic and social engagement, digital materials like QR codes and Augmented Reality can be useful tools to engage artists and visitors in art exhibitions. If the use of large amounts of written text next to each artwork providing context may distract visitors from engaging with the work itself, its absence (or shielded presence) may have a more productive result: by allowing visitors to focus on the pieces but still providing contextual information when needed, the use of digital tools may allow for the exhibition to be both comprehensive and easy to navigate. Focusing on the artworks exhibited but providing enough extra information and allowing visitors to proceed at their own pace and will, visitors may design their experience of the gallery according to their own personal preferences.
Besides curatorial devices, digital materials can also be educational tools, providing platforms for young artists to engage with their audiences in meaningful ways. When materials are used to express ideas, young artists may take advantage of the specific characteristics of each material, using them for the possibilities they offer for their personal and individual explorations. With and through materials, children may explore the world and their ideas about it, and these explorations may then be shown to others in meaningful interactions. Like they often do when bringing visitors to see their work.
In the gallery, as they guide visitors through the exhibition, the preschoolers often engage in physical responses to artist statements. For example as they play an artist statement in which one of the boys claims and exemplifies his flying skills, others join in “flying” around the gallery, carefully moving through the space swinging their arms open but being careful not to knock anything down. Following the lead of the tour-guide and of the artist in his statement, visitors imagine different “artist-powers” that they have. Instead of keeping each child in their own world, sitting down motionless glued to a flat screen (a concern commonly shared by parents and educators), this instance of Augmented Reality use generates a spontaneous burst of joyful play, filled with movement and storytelling.
Through this material, artist and tour-guide got their guests to engage in artistic reflections about his work and pretend flying through the gallery. Helping them share their stories was, after all, the gadget’s job.”
(Cabral, M. Story, not Gadget. Digital Media as Art Materials and Curatorial Tools in Early Childhood Art Education. International Journal for Infonomics (IJI), Volume 8, Issue 4, December 2015.
This week at WeTheHumanities I'd like to discuss some of these aspects, but most of all, I want to hear from colleagues thinking about similar issues. These are some of the topics I'm planning to bring to the table:
• What about art? Child art?
• Is there a value to exhibit student art? What makes art exhibitions a thing of importance? Is this relevant contingent to the objects shown?
• How can curation be a tool for teaching and learning?
• How can student learning be evaluated and displayed?
• What is helpful feedback in art and academia?