DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.

ARTED 6109 (3 credits)

Thesis I: Research Methodology

This course introduces students to innovative approaches to research and documentation including participatory and action research, interactive and collaborative projects, and performative and new media based presentations. Students develop original research projects that explore connections between personal interest and experience, professional development and praxis, discursive and performative practices, and historical and contemporary scholarship. You must be a Master of Arts in Art Education to take this course.

DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.

A Modern Guide To Formless Growth:

How Democratic Educational Space Serves to Critically Transform

Chicago’s Historical, Monumental Works of Public Art


Time goes, you say? Ah, no,

Alas, time stays; we go.

~Austin Dobson

Monumental or Critical?

How can the democratic space surrounding public, “monumental” art be used as a “critical” component of art education? Benjamin noted that an image, a work of art as an historical document, may “attain to legibility only at a particular time;” they stand, therefore, as potentially monumental historical artifacts relevant only to the historical epoch in which they were created, and nothing more (Arcades, p. 462). Do the older public sculptures become living documents from which we may learn new lessons, or are they archaic monuments merely filling valuable real estate space at the busiest intersections in Chicago, spaces that are seemingly sacred, protected by city plans and legislation, written documents that may seem as archaic as the works of art which they now protect? Benjamin added that at the intersection between older images and present analysis, historical works of art may serve either as “monumental” obstacles to progress, or through “the task of…interpretation,” they may become crucial tools of transformative, “critical” history (ibid, p. 464).

Chicago’s 2012 Cultural Plan suggested that educators look toward local art in public spaces as a means of cultural education. The “Cultural Plan” designated between $250,000 to 1 million, proposing that educators take students into their own neighborhoods, relying upon “Neighborhood showcases of culture…that are located within walking distance of the school,” thereby optimizing “affordability” (City of Chicago: Supplemental, 2012, p. 4).

In my action/research-based project, I explore how educators may effectively utilize the democratic educational space in their local neighborhoods as “critical,” thereby transcending the purely “monumental” aspects of public art. In a series of interviews, I analyze how members of the community engage with the democratic space surrounding these historical works of art. My research also includes interviews with local artists, college educators, and local corporate members. I encourage the public to interact and interpret the images dotting Chicago’s cityscape, asking them how they believe these public spaces may best be used as an effective, critical means of art education.

Additional questions I address in my thesis include:

  • What role has public art played in history?
  • How have Chicago’s Cultural Plans shaped public art in the past?
  • How does the community currently respond to public art?

Sub-questions I ask in my fieldwork will address the following issues:

  • What attracts people to public art?
  • How educated is the public regarding the art they view?
  • Which works of public art are most memorable? Why?


  • In addition to developing a series of walking tours Chicago educators may reference while introducing neighborhood art to their students, I will explore how public art may best serve as a tool for critical, transformative democratic education.
  • In addition to writing my thesis, I will produce a video (~20-40 minutes) derived from the photography, sketches, audio and video clips that constitute my fieldwork. This video, as well as a truncated version (~3 minutes) that I will use for the formal SAIC thesis Symposium, will be available through a link on my Digication Portfolio.
  • I will download my research and analysis to create walking tours available via a free smart-phone application, Tagwhat.

Methodology and Parameters


  • Method: While analyzing art, I borrow my approach in part from art historian Peter Selz (2006): “I am committed to interpreting the art of the past, and as a critic, I try to arrive at critical responses to the art of the present. I must leave it to the artists of the future to show us new directions. I am sure they will, as they always have” (p. 27). As an art educator who values individual interpretation of the works my students provide, I take my criticism and analysis of the art I study in this research project one step further, giving voice not just to criticisms of the past and my own analysis, but opening the dialog to the community, the daily visitors to the democratic educational space created by Chicago’s public art. My analyses don’t aim at completeness but rather encourage viewers to develop alternate ways of seeing.
  • Terms: In the PBS (2000) production, Only a Teacher, Dean Eastman (2000) simply summarizes a democratic educational space as “every day bringing every student into the mix.” For the most part, my choices of what I classify as “Public Art” are based upon the same guidelines limiting the scope of I. J Bach and M. L. Gray’s A guide to Chicago’s public Sculpture (1983), which defined public sculpture as “works that are accessible daily to the public without charge” (A guide, p. vii). Like them, I omitted pieces that were considered “temporary” unless specifically noted within the text. Additionally, I didn’t include as many architectural works since those have been frequently and thoroughly discussed in other publications. I may also include a few “temporary” pieces, including murals or sculptures, if they are mentioned as among the favorites of those whom I will interview.
  • Fieldwork: I will choose my interview subjects based upon democracy: in the same way that American Democracy allows only those over the age of 18 to participate (and because I am an instructor in higher education), I will interview only those over the age of 18. I will not, however, limit my interviews only to American citizens. In an effort to glean at least three responses for each two-block space contained within the walking tours, I will occasionally interview people within buildings abutting the public works of art. On these occasions, if a fee is required for entry, to adhere to my definition of “public,” I will not conduct an interview in that particular building. In an effort to obtain a fair representation of opinions, I propose to interview at least 60 people per walking tour area.
  • Map: I have used the same geographical groupings that Grey and Bach did for their walking tours. Because of the limited length of my thesis as proscribed by the MAAE Program at SAIC, I did not include all ten of the areas discussed in A guide, but have chosen only five regions immediately bordering Lake Michigan, the areas through which I walk on a frequent basis. See the following appendices for maps of each tour.
  • Analysis: The appendices feature my own photographs of the works of art analyzed in my project. Since my project concentrates how educators may utilize the democratic educational space created by Chicago’s public art rather than emphasizing the history of the featured art, I will include much of this type of information in the appendices. It will list the artists, brief biographical summaries, and the analysis (when available) included in Bach and Gray’s (1983) guide. Furthermore, I use my photographs, taken on the same site under different light, weather conditions and seasons, to sketch each work of art, concentrating on the various details that lead to my overall analysis of the piece. Within the body of my project, I will include my own analysis as well as that of those who have shared my democratic educational space.



Bach, I. J., Lackritz Gray, M. (1983). Chicago’s public sculpture. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.


Benjamin, W. (1999). The arcades project. Eiland, H., McLaughlin, K., trans. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press.


Benjamin, W. (1968). Illuminations. Zohn, H., trans. New York, NY: Schocken Books.


“About Brookgreen Gardens.” (2013). Accessed 20 Jan 2013.



Burnham, D., Bennett, E. (1909). Plan of Chicago, centennial edition. Moore, C., ed. (2009). Chicago, IL: The Great Books Foundation.


Dearmer, P., Shaw, M., and Vaughan Williams, R. (1928). Oxford book of carols. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.


“City of Chicago cultural plan 2012: Supplemental materials.” (2012). Accessed 05 Nov 2012. Lord Cultural Resources. www.chicagoculturalplan2012.com 


Condit, C. (1973). Chicago, 1910-29: Building, planning, and urban technology. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.


Eastman, D. (2000). A teacher affects eternity (Television series episode). In Only a teacher (Television broadcast). Levin, C. (Producer/Director). Arlington, VA: PBS.


Ferguson, N. (2008). The ascent of money: a Financial history of the world. London, UK: Penguin Books.


Henry, J. “John Henry, Sculptor.” (2013). Accessed 04 Jan 2013.



Kramer, V. A. (1979). “Olmsted as Observer.” In Olmsted south: Old south critic, new south planner. White, D. F., Kramer, V. A., ed. Westport, CN: Greenwood Press.


Larson, E. (2003). Devil in the white city: Murder, magic, and madness at the fair that changed America. New York, NY: Vintage Books.


Landauer, S. (2006). “Overview: Countering cultures.” In Art of Engagement: Visual politics in California and beyond. Selz, P. Berkley, CA: University of California Press.

Lowe, D. (1985). Lost Chicago. New York, NY: American Legacy Press.


Rapaport, B. K. (2007). The sculpture of Louise Nevelson: Constructing a legend. New York, NY: Jewish Museum of New York.


Selz, P. (2006). Art of Engagement: Visual politics in California and beyond. Berkley, CA: University of California Press.


“Smart Museum.” (2013). University of Chicago. Accessed 02 Jan 2013.



White, F. (2009). “Questionnaires.” Art school (propositions for the 21st century). Madoff, S. H., ed. (2009). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.


Willis, C. (1995). Form follows finance: Skyscrapers and skylines in New York and Chicago. New York, NY: Princeton Architectural Press.




DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.