Art: What is and What is not an Acceptable Genre in Education

By February 16, 2016 BlogPost One Comment

I had a lot experiences in elementary school and junior high similar to those shared in class and I can relate a lot to what we’ve read. In my first grade art class I was praised for making things that ‘looked like art’ and not dissuaded, but things that looked cartoon were not commented highly on (i.e. “That’s interesting…”).

One project we did in this class was the Abstract Marble Drawing. The Abstract Marble Drawing is where you set up a box and put a blank paper inside, and then you roll marbles back and forth that have been dipped in black paint inside the box. This method makes similar dark circular lines that have high contrast with the paper, so everyone in class makes a similar ‘abstract’ template to work on. After it dries we were instructed to fill it in with pastel crayons, which have a dusty, low-concentrated application of color.

As a class, we all made something pretty similar in the end, but I got lucky with the shapes my marbles made or something, and mine went to city hall to represent my first grade class. My parents went to see it on a school night, and my dad joked, “Oh no, not an artist.” I remember feeling really bad, like an impostor, because when I saw the 4th and 5th grade work, it was realistic drawing of animals and objects, with shading and everything, and I knew when it came to representational stuff that I was really terrible. I had just been lucky with what I had made, and that I was just following a set of instructions. I couldn’t enjoy the experience of being in city hall for the first time because I didn’t deserve it.

After the 2nd grade you get more freedom with what you can make, you no longer only have to complete instructions to make ‘art.’ But really, you are expected to continue to create similar things in that genre to what you’ve been shown before. If you start to deviate into different genres, say drawing Pokémon, you get ignored by your teachers despite the fact that it teaches the ability to analyze a genre to create work in that style as well. One thing that if you lose the support of the authority figures, you can still get peer support, which can follow you outside of the classroom. One really important point in the Dyson excerpt was that the kids were using their genre analysis and formation abilities outside of the classroom, during play. To learn and create at all times and not just at work or inside a classroom is a really important thing to reinforce.

One Comment

  • Theresa B Theresa B says:


    Wow, what a bittersweet experience! The thing that got me most was your father’s comment: “Not an artist.” Why not an artist? Why does our society look down so much on artists? What is wrong with film making or being a writer? Why do we have to ascribe to a career in science or mathematics to feel financially secure? To connect it back to the class, I think it’s interesting that the same way being literate is a powerful thing, being literate in certain ways is considered better than others. As a child, you thought being artistically literate in depicting realistic things was the best form of literacy. In our education system, the best form of literacy is “standard American English.” In our jobs and careers, literacy in science and mathematics is the best and most rewarded thing. I think your observation about Dyson rings true here: to learn and create should be the important thing to reinforce, instead of giving one thing (whether it be a certain form of art, certain dialect, or specific subject aptitude) more power and importance than another.

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