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Program Boosts Arts Offerings for Youth
The UA Wildcat Art program engages area youth in creating original works of art. An exhibition of the students' work will be on display at the UA beginning May 4.
Educators often are trained to critically consider how they teach and also to think within the context of what they want their students to learn.
In addition to those approaches, University of Arizona Wildcat Art educators work to design a supportive and collaborative learning environment for K-12 youth that encourages them to create artwork based on their own feelings and experience.
"I feel strongly that there is value in children's art and think that art making should be fostered within their educational experiences," said Shana Cinquemani, a UA graduate student studying art history and education.
Run out of the UA School of Art's Division of Art and Visual Culture Education, the semester-long program culminates this month with the 17th annual Wildcat Art Exhibition to be held at the UA Union Gallery, located on the third floor of the Student Union Memorial Center.
The exhibition opens May 4 and will remain open through May 7, the day of the closing reception, which be held 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.
Students have produced stop-motion animation, photography, experimented with the use of sewing machines, incorporated chalkboards into their work, outdoor sculptures, installation works and other art forms.
Just as the Wildcat School of Art does, Cinquemani said others should encourage children and teens in creative artistic processes, but in ways that are meaningful for the youth.
"For me, the opportunity to engage students in ideas such as sense of place and the environment through both contemporary and historical photographic practices was invaluable," Cinquemani said.
"This can often be different from the art educational experiences that they have had in the past, but due to the students who often come back year after year, one that they seem to enjoy," she added.
Part research and part training laboratory, Wildcat School of Art involves 15 UA graduate and undergraduate students who work with 80 to 120 students. While the program is offered for nine-weeks to K-12 youth, the University students are involved for a full semester.
UA students spent the first six weeks developing innovative and contemporary art curricula for the program, said Marissa McClure, an assistant professor of art who leads the program.
New this year, the program received a grant from the National Art Education Association to develop special visual models, documenting the students' process in creating art work from dynamic curriculum approaches.
The grant will allow students and faculty members to self-publish a documentary book that will become the text for the course next spring.
"Prior to this, we were using traditional curricular design that comes in a linear form. It would begin with objectives that may be tied to standards in some sort of chronological path," McClure said.
"What we are exploring is not necessarily linear in the same way because there may be multiple pathways to a particular outcome for diverse groups of learners," she said.
That way, students and educators are encouraged to participate in group interaction and conversations rather than lecture or assignment-based instruction.
"Our model more closely aligns with universal design," McClure said, adding that the UA students should be better prepared to engage multiple learners with more depth once they leave the University.
"We're hoping students are better prepared to take advantage of the possibilities that exist within the classroom and I would like for our University students to think in terms of possibilities, not constraints," McClure said.
"While it is wonderful to have well-appointed space and materials," she added. "What is important are the emotional, social and intellectual relationships you have with your students."
Angie Zimmerman, a graduate student studying art education who has been involved with the program since 2009, said she believes that art has the greatest impact on students when a strong collaboration exists between the students and the teachers.
"To me, student-centered means that teachers are just as capable of learning from students as they are in learning from us," Zimmerman said. "So, if students have ideas, we are so structured that they couldn't explore different ways of looking at them and different ways of working."
Given the variation required, teaching courses in this way is not easy, though it is still critically important to student learning and engagement.
"It's not an easy way of teaching," Zimmerman added, "but it can be more rewarding."