Scholars Make a Case For Artistic Values
THE INTELLIGENT EYE: LEARNING TO THINK BY LOOKING AT ART
By David N. Perkins
95 pp., $10
ART EDUCATION AND HUMAN DEVELOPMENT
By Howard Gardner
63 pp., $10
THOUGHTS ON ART EDUCATION
By Rudolf Arnheim
61 pp., $10
Advocating and supporting arts education are integral pieces to the J. Paul Getty Trust's mission. One need only turn to the publications catalog of the Getty Center for Education in the Arts to see how widespread their efforts are in aiding educators and spotlighting scholars.
One of the center's concentrations has been its "Occasional Papers" series. Here, the Getty mines the thoughts of eminent scholars and practitioners in arts education and related fields, such as human development, art criticism, art history, and aesthetics.
The intent is to present ideas that will illuminate the theory and practice of discipline-based art education, says Leilani Lattin Duke, director of the Getty Center for Education in the Arts. "It is our hope that this series will add to the understanding of art and its significance in our lives."
While the material tends to be geared for arts educators and often has a scholarly tone, it will appeal to general readers looking for further exploration into the nature of how people learn about and experience art.
Three of the "papers" the Getty is offering this year are by Harvard University scholars.
In "The Intelligent Eye: Learning to Think by Looking at Art," David Perkins, a founding member of Project Zero at Harvard's Graduate School of Education, explores two different brushstrokes: the importance of art and imagery in education and the importance of art as an opportunity to foster good habits in thinking.
"Visual expression is a conspicuous part of any person's life and times," he writes. Looking at art provides an opportunity to cultivate what Perkins refers to as "thinking dispositions." By disposition, Perkins means "a felt tendency, commitment, and enthusiasm" - keys to helping learners mobilize their mental might.
Through examples of artworks, from Claes Oldenburg's gigantic "Clothespin" to Vincent van Gogh's "The Starry Night," Perkins encourages readers to "give looking time," "give thinking time," to expand perceptions, allow for reflection, and hone analytical skills. One of his favorite questions is, "What's surprising here?" He also cautions readers about "intelligence traps" - the narrow, hasty, fuzzy, and sprawling thinking that can rob one of progress. The result is an encouraging jumpstart to make better use of of spending time with art. "We need to exercise persistent, adventurous, deep, and organized thinking," Perkins admonishes.
Perkins's colleague, distinguished education professor Howard Gardner, has written on "Art Education and Human Development." By reviewing the work of scientists and discussing contemporary findings, Gardner sets out to offer insight into the function of art in human development.
Empirical research, theory, and personal thoughts form the basis of Gardner's discussion. He explores findings about children's development of perception, conceptualization, and production in art, at one point comparing students in China with those in the West.
"In general, researchers working in the last two decades have found that even young children can display sensitivity to aesthetic aspects of works of art. Just like style, aspects of expression, composition, metaphor, texture, and balance can be apprehended even by relatively untutored youngsters...." Gardner writes.
In "Thoughts on Art Education," Rudolf Arnheim, professor emeritus of the psychology of art at Harvard, offers insights about art education, factoring in his study of visual perception skills in children.
Through short essays, ranging from "Intuition and the Intellect" to "Can Art Be Taught?" Arnheim relates art to the world at large. He contends that the cultivation of intuition is the main contribution art makes to the human experience. In concluding, he says, "In the arts as well as elsewhere in education, the best teacher is not the one who deals out all he knows or who withholds all he could give, but the one who, with the wisdom of a good gardener, watches, judges, and helps out when help is needed."
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