Many educators are turning to artistic engagement to make information memorable.
In a society where technology and infotainment rule and traditional teaching practices become less effective – especially when teaching about cultural and human relations – many educators are turning to artistic engagement to make information memorable.
“Performing arts can be used as a teaching tool to be integrated into any subject matter and provide critical and wonderful ways of learning for our students and future educators,” says Karen Dade, professor of secondary education and scholar in the field of creative intelligence and cross-cultural studies, in the Woodring College of Education at Western Washington University. “Using creative modalities is especially effective for education about culture, creativity and critical pedagogy.”
Artists taking on education is also the basis of a year-long project at WWU called “Back to the Sandbox: Art and Radical Pedagogy” which includes a Western Gallery exhibit that continues through March, and was central to the Art and Radical Pedagogy International Summit in December.
“By asking radical questions, art becomes a radical pedagogy which transcends institutional boundaries and inspires mind-changing narratives,” Jaroslav Anděl, Ph.D. and international exhibition curator says.
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Pedagogy is the study of learning and the art of teaching. In “Back to the Sandbox: Art and Radical Pedagogy,” artists apply their own perspectives and skills to critique the way students learn, particularly the way they’re taught in schools. According to Dade, social justice theater genre serves as a learning process for both students and teachers to gain self-awareness through personal and collective examination. For instance, the featured “Africa to America” participatory workshop demonstrates the importance of arts in education as a tool for achieving goals of social justice and equity, and ways to integrate social justice arts across curriculum, and challenges ways of traditional thinking by offering creative alternatives.
Professor Dade is co-director of the year-long art project and director of the Black History Month Summit. She says the overall objective of the BHM Summit is to educate and celebrate with broad audience topics that include art as radical pedagogy; current challenges in the profession; learning to invest in Black art; understanding the world of Black art collectors; the social movements of Pan African artists, critical race theory and racial identity development using art, Black renaissances, and understanding culture and traditions through art pedagogy.
The Black History Month Summit includes a welcoming reception at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 9 in the Performing Arts Center Main Lobby, followed by welcoming performances, an African Diaspora Fashion Walk, and the “Africa to America” participatory performance workshop taught by Dade and company.
Dade says this type of summit through the arts has a deeper purpose, “It’s healing, teaching, learning and celebrational. When art is participatory, it creates greater understanding and empathy, and learning often becomes more memorable for all of those involved.”
Panelists for the Black History Month Summit include internationally known artists such as Knowledge Bennett; international art dealer Alitash Kebede; local art collector Edward Moore, and Nyanda Miata Donaldson, co-partner/curator of Joseph Gross Gallery, USA. In addition, there is a visual artists’ gallery walk, student talent showcase, mural painting and participatory social justice arts workshops/sessions. The Summit is co-hosted by members of the Black Student Union, African Caribbean Club, African Descent Faculty & Staff affinity group, Snohomish/Everett NAACP, and individuals from the Bellingham community.
“It makes me feel so good as a black student to know we’re doing this depth of learning experience – not just for us, but for everyone,” says Josiah Scott, WWU junior who is majoring in Communication Studies with a minor in theater.
The Black History Month Summit Art Exhibit is time-limited viewing, and will be held at the Performing Arts Center (Main Lobby) during the BHM Summit event only; evening of February 9th and from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Sat., Feb. 10, 2018.
Beyond campus, Western’s Art and Radical Pedagogy project extends to Bellingham School District. Teachers participated in professional development that looked at the role of storytelling and art in the education of children through the lens of Coast Salish tribal cultures. Next, five teaching artists will develop an arts education integrated curriculum with Bellingham teachers. K-12 students’ artwork and performances that result from the project will be part of the Children’s Art Walk in downtown Bellingham May 4.
“Back to the Sandbox: Art and Radical Pedagogy” is a partnership between Western Washington University, Bellingham School District, Western Gallery art exhibition and WWU’s Black History Month Summit. The project was initiated through a gift from the Doug Dreier Family. Additional funding was provided by the Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation and various WWU programs.