This week I went to my first board meeting at the Oakland Museum of California (OMCA). I was thrilled to get a sneak peak of their current exhibit Fertile Ground: Art and Community in California, which has all the attributes of a classic OMCA exhibit: a strong community and multicultural perspective, interactive spaces, digital lounges, and really thoughtful curation. I took my daughter to the board meeting with me and she walked through the exhibit at her own pace. We both stopped at the last exhibit, which is three tin cans that have clearly been chewed up and were placed in a glass case, carefully laid out like all of the other pieces in the exhibit (including a Jackson Pollack, a Richard Diebenkorn and more than a few portraits of Diego Rivera and Frida Khalo). As we stopped and read the note, we both laughed.
“About the artist Redbone: Redbone (b. 1997) works in mixed media with mostly found and recycled materials. These works are his self-portraits taken from his tin can period (2002-2005) where he had an astounding output of 25 tin can pieces. Unfortunately, he had to stop working with this medium due to flattened teeth.”
The artist, Fox Redbone, is a dog!
When I asked my daughter to explain to me what she thought those tin cans meant and why they had chosen to include them in the exhibit she said: “Art is voice. That is someone’s voice!”
It was a nice reminder of the importance of art to make children stop, pause, reflect and find their voice.
Art education often gets overlooked, despite its richness, because it gives children something that is often difficult to measure or count. Last week I was also introduced to Project Zero . I think what they have done with their Studio Thinking Project is to try to demystify some of the skills and habits of mind in arts education. The work at Harvard is largely funded by the J. Paul Getty Trust and is giving both students and teachers a lens through with to view and assess their work. The Studio Habits of Mind also provide a common language for both arts and non-arts teachers.
After I read through the Habits of Mind, I could not help but think, these are not habits of mind for arts education—these are college-ready habits of mind that all students should experience and pursue:
- Stretch and explore
- Develop craft
- Understand community
- Engage and persist
So the next time you get an image of college readiness in your mind, make room for the arts. The Studio Thinking Habits of Mind are actually very well aligned to the Common Core in many ways. If only we could figure out how to create a both/and for students.