So at this month's Art Teacher collaboration meeting (I teach elementary art) A middle school teacher and I were commiserating over our current state of affairs--the lack of interest and motivation in our students.
We agreed that students are increasingly coming to class with the expectation that they ought to be allowed to pass their time in social conversation about important "kid things" and doodling that will be thrown in the trash on the way out the door; and that they deeply resent our interference in thier free play time.
We do not have state standard testing in the arts as we do for reading writing and 'rithmetic. Clearly the arts are not important enough features of the educational context to be concerned with!
I suspect that this is not a universal experience and I do have students who are interested in learning and art.
It seems to me that we teach art roughly on the model of Baldassare Castiglione, count of Novilara Italian courtier, diplomat, soldier and a prominent Renaissance author.
The book for which he is most famous, The Book of the Courtier (Il Libro del Cortegiano), was published in Venice by the Aldine Press run by Andrea d'Asolo, father-in-law of Aldus Manutius. The book is based on a nostalgic recreation of Castiglione's experience at the court of Duke Guidobaldo da Montefeltro of Urbino at the turn of the sixteenth century. It describes the ideal court and courtier, going into great detail about the philosophical and cultured and lively conversations that occurred at Urbino, presided over by Elisabetta Gonzaga. Castiglione himself does not contribute to the discussion, the book is his tribute to his friendship with the participants of the discussion, all of whom went on to have important positions.
The book addresses the topic, of what constitutes an ideal Renaissance gentleman. In the Middle Ages, the perfect gentleman had been a chivalrous knight who distinguished himself by his prowess on the battlefield. Castiglione's book changed that; now the perfect gentleman had to also have a classical education in that included the the arts.
To do this, the courtier must be accomplished -- in sports, telling jokes, fighting, poetry, music, drawing, and dancing. To his personal goodness must be added the spiritual elegance conferred by familiarity with the humanities. He must excel in all without apparent effort and make everything look easy. Da Canossa explained "the mysterious source of courtly gracefulness, the quality which makes the courtier seem a natural nobleman"
Courtiers were the consummate amateurs; not the amateurs we think of today however...
As an amateur, a courtier was a person attached to a particular pursuit, study, or science, without pay and in a position to approach a subject with an open mind as well as in a financially disinterested manner.
In time the nouveaux riches
(newly rich) aped the feudal and renaissance aristocracy in dress and manners, even as they accommodated the code of the courtiers...and culture was preserved as the lubricant of business and the acquistition wealth that also served to provide something to do during lapses in the business wars.
Commercial activity cannot go smoothly without negotiation. Business negotiation cannot be separated from culture. Business negotiation is a series of actions, and culture especially is a lubricant to the process. Knowing about the other sides' culture will yield twice the result with half the effort. Also, different cultural values could bring barriers and problems in business negotiation. To understand different negotiation styles of other nationsis significant.
And in time the notion that "The best education for the few is the best education for everyone"
came into being. As educators we hare part of that democratic tradition and ideal. Certainly there is SOME truth
in MJ Adler's statement above. But it ignores the fact that those who serve lack the time and wealth to acquire deep leisure or lubricant for business and negotiations and heirarchal gaming.
So what else is art for?
Most people's identity may not be courtiers but we all still have identities.. ANd businesses understand that well. it is business then that spends the most money pursuing the understanding and developing of the arts today.
POP art told us that. And it is true. It is pop art and folk art that belong to the people.
Just what I'm thinking about today...