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Art as communication.

The role that communication plays in art and art education is often more cause for argument than agreement. Last month, we celebrated expression as a primary purpose for artmaking, a view that wins support from most art educators. Acknowledging the importance of expression, however, does not rule out the many other purposes and outcomes of the art experience. We might also view art as a means create and transfer meaning, an attempt to exchange thoughts, to shape an idea, an effort to impart a feeling, or to share a perceived insight. From these vantage points, the concept of communication begins to proclaim itself.

Communication theory often limits itself to the means by which a sender transmits a message to a receiver. Within the art context, concepts of communication assume much broader and richer meanings. From Stone-Age symbols to space-age cybernetics ... or from charcoal to computers ... children and other artists encode and decode ideas and perceptions in a multitude of means and media. We humans, of course, do our communicating in varied ways. These include gestures, cries, body language, facial expression (there's that word again), hairstyles and shoelace-less shoes to mention but a few. We also use twenty-six agreed-upon symbols to pen poems, write editorials, etcetera. Even the verbal aspect of communication has strong art implications. We find exquisite aesthetic qualities in Egyptian hieroglyphics, medieval illuminations, Asian calligraphy, contemporary graphics, and occasionally in offensive graffiti. We might even venture to state that all art is an instrument for communication as well as expression, and to think of the students in our classrooms as individuals attempting to be understood and accepted by others, as well as young artists engaged in creating images or forms.

In viewing the child as communicator, we might view his or her drawings, from scribbles to silverpoint, as the richest and most direct form of communications. While perceiving our role as that of an enabler who provides an optimal environment for creating and communicating, we are also building skills and imparting knowledge.

Another view of the role of communication in art teaching relates to the ways in which we engage in talking about art. Whether this takes the form of an open discussion with students about their art expression, or as a more formal exercise in art criticism, we are employing oral or verbal communication modes, and the importance of our knowledge and/or enthusiasm for the art object being discussed is also clearly being communicated to our students ... for good or bad. The next time you observe that student in your last-period class drawing a significant line, ask yourself: Is he or she expressing or communicating ... or both? In this issue of School Arts, you will note many articles and references that involve communication at one level or another. Whether viewing the symbolic iconography and noting the use of metaphor in Kiefer's sculpture, or exploring the related areas of publishing, printing (monotypes), calligraphy and computer images, connections between communication and art are evident. The term "calligraphy," incidentally, comes from two Greek words, kallos, meaning beautiful, and graphos, meaning writing, so aesthetics is also a part of this communications assemblage.

Between Art Is and Verso, each issue of SchoolArts presents numerous statements by artists about art. This month's Verso introduces our first Advo-Quote wherein, each month we will feature a quotation by an important person from fields other than art (CEO's, politicians, administrators, parents and others) who reinforce the importance of art education. These may become part of an advocacy arsenal for promoting your program.

Speaking of communicating, our writer's guidelines are available to help you develop and prepare an article for publication in Schoolarts. For your copy, simply send a note to: Kent Anderson, Editor/SchoolArts, 11298 Bridget Lane, Hales Corners, WI 53130.
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Article Details
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Author:Anderson, Kent
Publication:School Arts
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Mar 1, 1993
Previous Article:Time Line: A Historical Look at Art Concepts.
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