Entry Four: Issues Based Art Education

Art education can be seen as a way for educators to bring in topics of social justice into the classroom for education on these topics but to also promote action for the class. There are many different causes and issues that can be brought out through social justice. One that I would like to bring forth would be how can art education be used to promote racial justice education? This question is especially important right now with the popularity of the Black Lives Matter movement. I found that the Ontario curriculum incorporates and supports this type of learning through the critical analysis process. Issues-based art education is also a way that educators can use art to promote racial justice education. According to Atkinson’s 2004 study, issues-based art education is a pedagogy and practice that allows students to explore social, cultural, and personal issues through art (as cited in Li, 2018). In this way of art, it is bigger than just inside the classroom, but it has a place in the surrounding community and world.

Issues-based art education uses big ideas and art as a medium to express and connects to student’s lives and promotes critical thinking abilities (Li, 2018). In this way, racial justice can be discussed in art education as it can provide students with opportunities to learn about and talk about social issues. Additionally, critical race theory can be integrated into art education. This theory promotes a critical lens on the current issues of race starting off with the issue that racism is normal in our current society (Li, 2018). It takes a deeper look into the current systemic issues regarding race and how legislation primarily benefits white peoples. An activity that really stood out to me was a crayon box activity where students were shown the box of reality where an artist critiqued and redesigned a box of Crayola crayons to discuss racial issues (Li, 2018). Through this activity, students were able to see that though the colours were different, they were all crayons, so even though humans have different skin tones, we are all a part of the same human race. Through this initial activity, students were able to dive into a critical analysis of the artwork and into issues regarding systemic racism and issues around this topic (Li, 2018). I think that this activity would be a great introduction to this issue for students who are younger but can also be adapted for older children.

A great website that support issues-based art education is https://csea-scea.ca/2020/06/09/talking-with-students-about-race-and-social-justice-through-art/. This website provides a variety of tools and resources for educators to learn more about what issues-based art education is through academic journals and links to various other resources educators to learn how to better teach art education. Though these links predominantly lead to scholarly articles, it is important for educators to know the research that supports this type of education before coming up with their own lesson plans and ways to teach their students. However, this website does provide links to pre-designed lesson plans that educators can adapt for their own students. This is a great way for educators to start when embarking on a journey to issues-based art education.

Li, D. (2018). Using issues-based art education to facilitate middle school students’ learning in racial issues. International Journal of Education & the Arts, 19(12). Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.18113/P8ijea1912

Ontario Ministry of Education (2009). Curriculum Guidelines: The Arts.

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