© David Velasco 2018

Philosophy of Art Education

As an artist, I have found myself creating my strongest work when I’m stepping out of my comfort zone creatively and delving deeper into my own personal narrative conceptually. As a photographer, I tried to expand on the medium in ways that challenged its definition; the traditional methods of capture did not fully encompass what photography meant to me. Similarly, I find that art in the classroom has an ever-changing definition and students play an important role in shaping what art can be. As an arts educator, my primary goal is to create an environment where experimentation, collaboration, and reflection can thrive. With positive instructional support, students are fully capable of creating incredible work while still maintaining their autonomy.

In my fieldwork experience, I encouraged my middle school students to share their personal stories through their art; we made collages and comics where students took more authority in their conceptual development, combining writing, drawing, and photography to share their hopes, dreams, and cherished memories. What resulted was a collection of work that was honest, daring, complex, and unique to this group of students. Not only did they love having their ideas heard, they loved seeing how they influenced their classmates and our discussions. This same notion carried over when I had the opportunity to teach elementary art; I saw students who loved sharing their thoughts, and knew that their ideas could have impact on lessons.

These moments of clarity from students are one of my greatest motivators; I love seeing their “a-ha!” moments, when their thoughts become validated, and a new sense of pride emerges in them. Further, the more students talk about their work and become comfortable with art vocabulary, the more these moments surface. I believe that artists at any age are capable of having these positive experiences, and the art classroom is the ideal space to foster this type of thinking. Given the proper supports, students could develop their own artist community within the classroom. While technical instruction is still important at every stage of a student’s artistic development, I would argue that this personal and conceptual development is equally as important. Balancing both requires patience, trust, and perseverance from both student and teachers. In my experience, teaching has been about building relationships and fostering personal growth, and the art classroom is a perfect venue to achieve this.