Designing an Art & Design Curriculum Part 3 – thoughts, ramblings and useful tidbits from our journey
Having explored the beginnings of our curriculum and introduced how we used 4Es to impart theoretical, disciplinary and practical knowledge in Art & Design, in this blog I want to look at the privilege (and great responsibility) that we have in selecting the art and artists that our children EXPLORE during their time in Primary School.
I recently went to the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge (a fantastical and free way to spend a few hours) and enjoyed the various galleries. My favourite was a temporary exhibition, “Women: Makers and Muses“, that contrasted the way women saw themselves through their art from the beginning of the twentieth century to today with their representation by male artists. It was fascinating and the art was glorious, yet I wondered how different it would have been if all the art in the room had been painted by white Western males – would my joy and/or understanding have been limited? What would have been lost?
This quandary existed within our own Art & Design curriculum, it was heavily dominated by white-western-male art, narrowing the worldviews and outlooks of a subject that finds strength in its diversity. The curriculum tells us to share about great artists, craft-makers, designers and architects but doesn’t enlighten us about who these “greats” are considered to be. Our considerations for “greats” were threefold: do the artworks/artists we select reflect our wider community or widen the worldviews of our students; how do the styles/influences/mediums interact with the progression of skills we are crafting; will the artworks/artists we select inspire the children in creating their own works?
Our initial staff meeting on art had outlined four clear unit areas for our curriculum – masterclass (a clear focus on a practical skill such as drawing perspectives or brushstrokes), linked (the chance to look at art linked to humanities topics the children are studying), making (a 3D art based unit with sculpture, architecture and collage at its core) and portrait week (giving children the opportunity to annually study a “great” and then make their own portraits to display in our school gallery). This structure, along with our artwork/artist requirements, meant that we quickly drafted the gallery we wanted children in our school to walk through.
We shared our galleries with staff and some of the friends helping us along with the curriculum and gathered some feedback before firming up our choices. I am really proud of the work done on these and love that the staff can see so many of their suggestions here. I’m also excited as we move onto our “alpha phase” and we EXPLORE these artists/artworks with our children.