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Art evolution

Breaking the mold with art education
Kentucky School Advocate
May 2017
By Matt McCarty
Staff writer 
Embedded Image for:  (201742882320104_image.jpg) McCracken County High School senior Travis Cope said he isn’t the best drawer or painter, but he has found an art class that “is something I can do and work with that I actually enjoy.”

Cope said his jewelry and metalsmithing class gives him artistic freedom and is a fun experience. “It’s just something completely different.”

Kentucky adopted the National Core Arts Standards as part of the state’s arts and humanities standards in 2013. In doing so, an emphasis was placed on kids doing hands-on arts in class as opposed to studying specific content.

Robert Duncan, a visual and performing arts consultant for the Kentucky Department of Education, said the approach emphasizes asking students what they would like to learn in the arts.

“How can we make it more different? How can we make it more interesting for you so it’s a little bit stronger education and really lasts with the child as opposed to something that, ‘I got out of that course and I’ll probably never touch it again,’” Duncan said.
McCracken County High School senior Madeline Jones
works on a project during her jewelry and metalsmithing class. 

With that outlook, more schools are incorporating new classes or concepts in their arts classes.

“I’m seeing (innovative arts programs) all over the state,” said Jeff Jamner, senior director of education and community arts for KCPA. “I think there are just so many creative, passionate teachers that are looking for more ways to engage their students, and they’re hungry for it.”

Judy Sizemore, a writer and arts consultant who has worked for 15 years with Kentucky public schools through the Kentucky Arts Council, said “There seems to be more emphasis on trying to nurture the creativity of students rather than just teaching them specific skills and technique and content.”

She said that is “crucial” for developing artists.

“Even if they’re not going to become professional artists, just having them understand that creative process I think is huge,” she said. “It’s the same process you’re going to use in science, or the same process that you’re going to use in business – that idea of not just brainstorming it, but refining that and experimenting and trying this approach, evaluating how that worked and thinking about what you might change.”

Along those lines, she said, teachers are beginning to let their students risk failure through innovation.

Duncan said the arts can help students with creative and critical thought while working collaboratively and with being able to adapt and use other 21st-century skills. “It’s not to say you can’t be creative in other academic content areas, but the arts bring it in a different manner.”

He said KDE does emphasize that arts teachers “look for these natural connections between the arts and other academic content areas, but in the same light we’re not teaching arts solely to support better math scores on a test or doing better in other academic courses. It’s just the natural flow of studying the arts.”
Embedded Image for:  (20174288261164_image.jpg) McCracken County High School arts teacher Shand Stamper, who teaches Cope’s jewelry and metalsmithing class, agrees that teachers have to train students to take risks and think differently.

“(Students) have so many opportunities to do poorly, especially with standardized testing, things that sort of decrease their confidence level or make them feel less than. I have so many that talk to me about being worried about college or what they’re going to do or not really knowing their way,” she said. “But to come in (to the arts class) and say, ‘I figured out this really hard (project) and I made it look really awesome.’ It’s a big deal.”

Stamper said it’s a misconception that a student needs to be artistic to take an art class.

“Any class that you take you should take with the idea that you know nothing, you’ll be taught everything you need to know,” she said. “Same with drawing. A lot of them will say, ‘Oh, I’m not creative, I can’t do anything.’ Well, if you can follow basic instructions, you’re going to be fine.”

While other schools use metalsmithing components in their classes, Stamper said she isn’t aware of any other Kentucky high school that offers a dedicated course to the art form. “If there is, I’d love to know,” she said.
McCracken County arts teacher Shand Stamper, right, helps Hannah Jones
with a project during Stamper’s jewelry and metalsmithing class.

Students in the class complete several projects, including key chains, pendants and rings.

“The coolest thing for me is when they make their first key chain and they say, ‘This is so hard. Now I understand why things cost what they do,’” Stamper said.

Senior Madeline Jones, who plans to be an art teacher, is taking four art classes this year, including metalsmithing. “It’s really nice having a whole bunch of diverse art classes.”

She said she likes to paint and draw more than working with 3D art materials, but took the class because “I thought it would be cool to get out of my comfort zone.”

Noah Hopkins, also a senior, said taking art classes has helped him in other subjects. “It really helps with problem solving because with art you’re making everything.”

He said he likes the freedom the metalsmithing class gives him to experiment.

“There’s a lot of things you can do with 3D that you can’t do with 2D,” Hopkins said. “With 3D you can do more captures of light and then use the shadows to make art.”
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