Society places certain expectations on those of us who choose to become educators. Whether those expectations are fair or reasonable is a very sensitive topic. Some expectations are, in my opinion, reasonable - but those tend to fall into the category of being a generally decent human being and nothing that goes into an individual's personal life.
Lately, I feel like society wants to judge me for my beliefs and activities as an artist. There are people who cannot understand that an art educator is still an artist, and thus may participate in activities that are not always mainstream. For instance, figurative drawing; despite the historical evidence supporting the role of figure drawing/painting in the study of art, the thought that a "teacher" would draw from a nude model horrifies some individuals. The broad association of nudity with sexuality taints this traditional part of artistic study for society, causing many to get their panties in a bunch over the thought of a person who teaches children participating in such practice. And heaven forbid the art teacher participate in the act of modeling for a studio of artists!
Another topic that ruffles the feathers of society is the study of anatomy and the use of carcasses to do so. I cannot tell you how many of my fellow educators have questioned me about the appropriateness of my recent work - still life paintings containing dead rabbits. "What you are doing is just so gross." "Why are you so morbid?" "How is that art?" I'm on the defensive at all times, armed with the names and dates of artists who used dead animals as part of their still life compositions.
You might ask, how do these people even know about the work? And I would say, SOCIAL MEDIA. What a mess! I made a FaceBook page linking to my personal/professional website to showcase my work and hopefully make some meaningful connections - both for professional development as an artist and for potential marketing of my work to galleries and curators. Friends start to "like" my page, and then their friends "like" the page, and before you know it through "likes" and "shares", the uber traditional folks see the work. Lovely. Just what I wanted; exposure - but this exposure wasn't quite what I had in mind.
I'm left wondering, would society prefer that its teachers are uninvolved in the subject they teach? Should I stop painting because I am a teacher? Should I not try to market my work as an artist because I am a teacher? Should I only explore work that is socially neutral and safe? Should I lose my passion for art and become just like "them"? Is this what would make society accept me? And really, do I even care if I fit society's norms?
I believe that an art educator should be a person who makes art. I believe that to be an art educator one MUST be passionate about art, whatever that art may be. I believe that all art educators should be encouraged, not discouraged, to pursue activities that tie him or her to the professional art world. These ties give the art educator opportunities to connect his or her classroom to the real world - and isn't that what teaching is all about? Aren't we supposed to make learning applicable and relevant to the life of the student?
If you are an art educator and you make art that is socially acceptable, great! If you don't, WHY IS THAT WRONG? Don't misunderstand me, there are boundaries in the classroom. I don't believe in sharing "inappropriate" art with students. But what I do in my free time, as a professional, as an artist has nothing to do with my classroom or with my ability to share my passion for art with students.
Oh, and one last thing... WHAT I DO IS NOT INAPPROPRIATE!
Middle School Art Educator. Adjunct Art Education Professor. Non-Profit Arts Organization Board Member. Artist. Arts Advocate. Dog-Mom. CrossFit Enthusiast.
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