SECTION 1. Exploring the Nature of Art Practice and Art Learning

Art Appreciation for Inspiration and Creation

After visiting art museums with friends or family members, people often talk about the visit or topics inspired by the visit. Sometimes, they share with each other their impressions of the artwork: “The colour of Monet’s lotus flowers was so beautiful!” or “It was like an abstract painting!” Sometimes, they talk about art historical or contextual knowledge they acquired through reading museum labels: “I now understand the historical background of impressionism” or “This work opened the era of modern art”. Sometimes, they connect the visit with prior experiences: “I saw this picture in the textbook of a middle school art class. My friend made a funny joke about it”. In this chapter, we explore how museum trips might inspire visitors to do more than just talk about the visit. We are interested in how art appreciation might motivate museum visitors to create art or participate in other kinds of creative activities. Our explorations lead us to propose a new framework for art appreciation that we call Art Appreciation for Inspiration and Creation (AAIC).

Museum as Learning Environment

We live in an era when creative activities have an important role in civic and economic development (Florida, 2002). Richard Florida claimed that people belonging to the “creative class”, such as designers, scientists, and artists, are a driving force for economic growth in modern society. However, for a creative society, we need not only creative professionals who belong to this class but also other people who enjoy creative hobbies on weekends, such as painting, playing music, dancing, and participating in makers’ activities like designing and crafting (Anderson, 2012). This broader group of people can also contribute to creative society by supporting creative professionals and developing a richer, shared cultural atmosphere that embraces creativity, art, and self-expression. We think of these non-professional creatives as having “creative fluency”. They develop fluency through participating in creative activities, and they exhibit a positive attitude and high motivation toward creative activities (Agata & Okada, 2013).

We have been engaged for some time in a program of design-based- research intended to support this creative fluency in “ordinary” people (e.g., Agata Sc Okada, 2013; Okada Sc Agata, 2012). If creative fluency is acquired by engaging in creative activities and reflection, facilitating creative fluency requires a learner’s active and voluntary participation in creative activities. Although creative fluency can be developed within formal schooling, people can also cultivate creative fluency through engagement with informal, out-of-school environments. We are interested in art museums as learning environments for creative fluency and, in particular, the role of interacting with authentic artworks.

Art museums may historically be seen as places where artworks are collected and preserved; visitors’ experiences and learning have not always been emphasised as a key part of their mission. However, the potential of museums as learning environments has been a topic of much research and discussion over the past 20 years and more (e.g., Crowley, Pierroux, Sc Knutson, 2014). In step with this development, art museums have experimented with new interpretive, curatorial, and educational approaches intended to support visitors’ art experience and learning through art appreciation. Experimenting with label copy has long been popular (McLean, 1993; McManus, 1989). Devices like voice guidance and label cards for artworks offer visitors information on artworks that can be paced to their own viewing style. In addition, many art museums have been conducting guided tours in which educators offer visitors information about artworks and facilitate art appreciation (Pierroux, 2010). As described in detail in Dewitt and Storksdieck (2008) and Beh- rendt and Franklin (2014), museums have also been developing educational programs in collaboration with schools (school field trips). In such programs, visitors in small groups appreciate artworks, usually spending about an hour under the guidance of educators or volunteers.

So, what can visitors learn through engagement with, and appreciation of, authentic artworks? We divide answers to this question into three groups, distinguished by three learning goals.

The first learning goal might be to acquire various types or levels of knowledge. This includes art historical knowledge about artworks and artists (i.e., the answers to questions such as when the artwork was made, what the theme of the work is, what kind of materials were used, and how it is valued in art history. Visitors can also learn social and historical knowledge about the era when the artwork was made. We can learn about another culture through appreciation of an artwork since it often contains information about lifestyles, values, and social issues in the era it was made (Knutson Sc Crowley, 2010). To achieve this goal, it is necessary for viewers to receive support on knowledge acquisition by domain experts - viewing an artwork by itself is not enough unless the visitor already has high levels of art history knowledge. Less expert viewers (i.e., the majority of visitors to art museums) need some way to access interpretive information about the artwork before, during, or after engaging with it.

The second goal of learning through art appreciation is “meaningmaking” (e.g., Falk & Dierking, 1992; Hein, 1998; Silverman, 1995). Based on constructivism, this approach would regard learning in an art museum not as existing outside of oneself but as constructed through one’s appreciation and interaction with an artwork. This approach has advantages in the sense that even art novices without art domain knowledge can actively participate in and enjoy art appreciation. This approach encourages viewers without domain knowledge to discover something in the artwork and freely interpret it using their own knowledge. However, this approach also receives criticism because it might be taken as permission for art museums to shirk their responsibility to offer art novices a critical disciplinary lens to understand artworks in ways consistent with the art or art history (Meszaros, 2006).

The goal of the third approach is to offer viewers an opportunity to acquire generic skills of visual thinking and to participate in conversation with artworks through art appreciation (Yenawine, 2013). Such generic skills include close observation, verbalisation, and discussion and collaboration with others, as well as constructing interpretations that integrate a range of visually available evidence. This approach underlies the well- known Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) program, which was introduced to art museums all over Japan as the primary method of “art appreciation through dialogue” (Arenas, 1995).

In practice, these three approaches often overlap with each other rather than exist separately. Furthermore, they have common features that all are methods for art appreciation in the context of “learning”. However, art appreciation is not only for learning something about art but also for enjoying artistic activity itself - activity such as art making. Art appreciation and art making are deeply related, and many educational programs incorporate elements from both. In this chapter, we propose a unified theoretical framework that integrates art appreciation with inspiration and creative expression - a framework we call “Art Appreciation for Inspiration and Creation” (AAIC).

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