Concordia’s community art education students are at a crossroads
Teaching is everywhere. Whether cultural, from one generation to the next, or through academic pathways, teaching is present in all aspects of life and in every field.
Following a curriculum of practicum-based lecture and studio classes, Concordia art education students learn how to teach, how to be taught, and where art fits into all this. These student artists are interested not only in teaching art, but in using art to teach any school subject and about all aspects of life. Two years into their degree, each student must decide whether to specialize or major in the field, a choice that determines whether or not they will work as a teacher in primary and secondary schools or in the community.
Students who choose the community pathway must take ARTE 432: Theory and Practice in Community Art Education. This semester, the course was taught by grad student Arianna Garcia Fialdini, a former teaching assistant and first-time professor at Concordia. Fialdini’s goal with this course was to bridge her students’ personal art practice and their teaching practices with an exhibition.
Constellat(i)ons, curated by the entire class, served to define who the students are as artists as well as teachers. The work exhibited was a result of the students reflecting on their sense of identity and emotions regarding their position in and concerns about belonging in the art world.
Avery Walker, Emily Sirota and Sylvia Erlichman-Gross are three of the 18 exhibiting student-teachers. Sirota is an independent student and a working performance artist interested in the idea of teaching and learning as a performative act. During the vernissage on Nov. 16, she performed Incommensurate Things, a piece exploring the anatomy of a breakup using controlled projections of dispersed vignettes.
Abstract painters Walker and Erlichman-Gross have similar yet distinct perceptions of themselves as artists and student-teachers. Erlichman-Gross aspires to be an art therapist and is interested in the intersection of art and psychology. Whereas Walker is interested in collaborative learning in community settings and merging her artistic practice with the teaching practice.
Erlichman-Gross’ painting, A gift to my mother, explores the intersection between art and psychology, in conjunction with aspects of home and identity. The piece is a work in progress throughout the artist’s bachelor’s degree and documents her journey as a student. Walker’s Serendipity was made with leftover paint from one of her painting-without-brushes lessons taught as a part of her practicum.
Other pieces in the exhibition included fibre work as a form of therapy, beading and using recycled materials as a form of cultural education and social resistance, as well as a series of audio-visual and print installations exploring aspects of the individual students’ identities.
According to the students, teaching is many things, and teaching about art or using art as a means of teaching expands upon even more. It can transform fears, anxieties and vulnerabilities into love and encouragement. It requires awareness of one’s identity and the ability to be flexible and open to other perceptions of art and ways of sharing skills. It is a continuous battle, learning from and finding meaning within all realms of experience and connecting them with single threads.
“We are part of a series of networks, just like stars are parts of constellations,” Walker wrote in her artist statement. The class exhibition meant something different to each student but really focused on giving them practical experience not only as teachers but as professional artists.