Creating Community in Arts Education

Apr 5, 2017


Recently an art educator and researcher, Stacey Salazar, visited Utah State University and Cache Valley School District to discuss various challenges in art’s education and how to improve and work on those challenges.


ROBINSON: So Salazar, could you tell me about some of the main challenges that are facing art educators today?

SALAZAR: There are a number of cultural challenges in educating artists today. Some of the obvious ones might be just education in the arts and the struggle to advocate for support, financial and otherwise. The other factors that play into educating artists today are things such as increasingly diverse undergraduate student body. According to the U.S. Census, in a couple of decades students or young people under the age of 18 will comprise 50% of the U.S. population of what will be what is now considered minority.

ROBINSON: With so many different challenges did you find yourself drawn to one challenge that you wanted to address?


SALAZAR: A challenge of community. It is very well documented in the research and education in learning and teaching that a sense of community contributes to the learning experience…. There are certain kinds of things that historically in higher [education] are pedagogical practices like the lecture. The professor does the talking and there isn’t necessarily a sense of community. In the sense that students might not know even each other’s names or much about each other, yet these are the people who will be creating the culture of tomorrow.


ROBINSON: What specifically did you talk about in your lecture about how to approach the increased diversity in students and creating community for them?


SALAZAR: There are a number of things. In my talk, I shared 6 practices that are research based… What do you do with a very diverse population and how might you engage students with drawing on their own background and opening up to others to create a community… Engage students with the big questions in whatever the subject is with self and the world… The importance of variety in the classroom experience, safety that creativity in particular involves risk taking. And to take risks you need to feel as though it’s a safe place to take risks and a perceived failure isn’t just going to ruin everything and narrative. That the professors should encourage dialog. Finding ways to build into the experience in the classroom, finding ways for the student’s to talk to each other. A big one is facilitating exploration... To have opportunities to explore things, not to know for sure for instance how clay ought to be handled but to at times put clay in front of someone and see what happens. That can be incredibly engaging and it also allows a sense of discovery for the learner. Finally, releasing control. That the professor can find ways to become a facilitator and a catalyst and not take the position of controlling the learning.


ROBINSON: You’ve shared a lot about how to help the students specifically, what would you like to see happen among art educators?


SALAZAR: Sharing what is special about visual art’s education, with those outside our field and also helping artists and designers to articulate inwards what they do that’s special. So that we can help everyone understand the value of art’s education today.