The purpose of my project was to find ways to enable students to take time to observe the artmaking process. I invited students to explore the meaning of artistic process through their lived experiences. The following questions guided my study: How will students respond to an artmaking practice with an emphasis placed on process, product and movement? What happens when students’ unique paths taken to and from school become a context for making art? What occurs when an art teacher looks to the aesthetic strategies of contemporary artists for teaching strategies?
My research took place over the course of seven weeks in a public high school located on the northeast side of Chicago. Participants included students enrolled in a Fine Arts Magnet program within the larger school, as well as students in an Art 1 class.
Students helped to shape and participated in projects inspired by contemporary artists. For example, students created layered paintings through a process of walking and taking photographs; they used their whole bodies to make drawing experiments; and, they created collaborative sculptures out of painted found objects. The artwork produced in all three projects as well as written reflections, discussions, and field notes provided a wide range of research data.
In my study, students were positioned as artists and researchers, capable of making complex decisions on their own. Although the freedom to decide their next steps was not always met with enthusiasm by the students, they became more motivated to work when they were able to take ownership of their projects. This sense of ownership not only helped students produce artwork they were proud of but helped them to find value in the process of making it.
I began this process interested in learning how students would respond to projects that were designed to move forward with the aid of their input. This project challenged me to hold back on telling students what to do and provide feedback through many small conversations to students working at different stages in the process. I was surprised and excited to realize that while students were learning to make art in a very process oriented way-inspired by the methods of contemporary artists-, they were also, simultaneously, teaching me about the process of learning to teach.