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An interview with Kent Anderson.

An interview with Kent Anderson

"SCHOOL ARTS has always been there, hasn't it?" For Kent Anderson, a 36-year veteran of art education, SCHOOL ARTS has always been there. From the inner city junior high classroom where he began his teaching career in the early fifties, to the windowed office in his home where he now does the bulk of his work, SCHOOL ARTS has accompanied Anderson, giving him, as he says, "a window into effective art education practice." Now, as he is about to take over as the magazine's ninth editor, Anderson gives us a glimpse of what brought him to this point in his career, where he might go from here, and how the journey will affect SCHOOL ARTS.

Anderson comes from--and has spent much of his life teaching in--a city that has had a long and fruitful association with art. Milwaukee, Wisconsin has had a city art director since 1873, and has listed a curriculum in art since 1866. For fifty years the Milwaukee Area Teachers of Art, a professional organization, has fostered unity and pride among area art teachers, encouraging them to exhibit their own work and keeping them in touch with their colleagues. "We feel good about ourselves," says Anderson, "and we're always striving for political action at both city and state levels."

That's not to say there haven't been challenges, of course. Anderson was chair of the art department at South Division High School in Milwaukee when Sputnik was launched, and he remembers it as an important turning point for the field, nationwide. "Sputnik represented the first threat to art programs--that was when the major science and math emphasis began," he explains. He stood before Milwaukee's school board (and in those days, Anderson says, "you just didn't do that") to protest cuts in the art budget. The board listened that time, and restored half the instructional time they'd cut, but the next decade was a difficult one.

In the sixties Anderson served as one of six elementary art supervisors for Milwaukee, trying to promote a sound curriculum and rewarding art experiences for the city's school population of roughly 120,000. "Motivating teachers to motivate children" in art, when the culture's main interest was technology, and when "back to basics" was the educational system's guiding philosophy, proved difficult--but Anderson thinks it strengthened the discipline.

"At first," he says, "we were reacting to one threat after another, nationally as well as locally." By the early seventies, however, "we became proactive instead of reactive, and for six years in a row we established one stellar program after another, as well as maintaining all our other programs. And now, years later," says Anderson, "all these programs are still continuing. That's a source of great satisfaction."

During Anderson's twenty-two years as art supervisor and curriculum specialist for the Milwaukee public schools (1962-1984) his involvement in the field broadened and deepened. He taught college classes in painting, printmaking, design and film, both inside and outside Wisconsin. He was art director and exhibit designer for a Milwaukee gallery. For one of America's first art education telecasts, Anderson served as producer and presenter. He served on art-related committees and boards at both local and state levels.

Anderson is enthusiastic about his tenure as president of the NAEA (1979-1981). "It is a great forum, providing opportunities to represent the needs of art teachers and state organizations while helping to develop the broad political and philosophical base that NAEA continues to promote successfully."

Also rewarding, Anderson says, was his involvement with the National Committee on the Arts for the Handicapped. As chair of one of the first "Very Special Arts Festivals" in Milwaukee in 1977, he says he "gained personally from working with the handicapped in that context." His recent tenure as director of a university art museum has provided additional insights about museum art education. Anderson continues his active involvement in art education, teaching in the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee art department and at Marquette University.

Throughout his career, Anderson has watched changes taking place in SCHOOL ARTS, many brought about by the style and interests of particular editors. While John Cataldo expressed through the magazine his interest in graphic design, and Kenneth Winebrenner his fondness for crafts, Anderson "generally felt that SCHOOL ARTS interpreted for me what was happening nationwide. Just as the magazine served me as a teacher, it still lets us know of threats to the profession, and of the good news. Nine times a year SCHOOL ARTS brings timely and significant examples of successful art teaching."

Anderson doesn't see that role changing during his editorship. "SCHOOL ARTS will continue, as it has always done, to draw upon this amazingly rich field, and to represent the best of what goes on in art education. We will continue to share the ideas of teachers from all levels to build curriculum or extend the curriculum we already have. We'll continue to focus on successful teaching practices, but we also want to give readers the bigger issues: why we teach, what art does for children and for society. We want to provide state-of-the-art images of what's happening nationally and internationally -- nourishment for the mind."
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Title Annotation:high school art education professional
Author:Golding, Claire Mowbray
Publication:School Arts
Article Type:Interview
Date:Apr 1, 1989
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