PROJECTS FOR THE MISSING CURRICULUM

There is a close relationship between the Hidden Curriculum and the Missing Curriculum. Analysis of the messages embodied within the hidden curriculum often suggests underrepresented artists and ideas that ought to be researched and included. Understanding what is missing in the curriculum may also take the form of seriously considering whether important social issues related to contemporary visual culture are investigated within the art program.

At Spiral Workshop we consider four components when designing a project.
Each project should
(1) deal with an issue of developmental importance to the students,
(2) be based on a contemporary social theme,
(3) include examples of past and recent artworks that have explored these themes, and (4) teach a method (conceptual and/or technical) for constructing works of art.

Hated Body Parts* is a sculpture project developed because we recognized that though self-portraiture and drawing the human figure are both included in most art curricula, the two are usually never joined. (Students image their faces, rarely or never their own bodies.) The plethora of news reports about dieting and eating disorders suggests that the body is an important concern in contemporary culture; clearly body image is a major issue for many teens; there is much contemporary art which reconsiders the naturalness of many conceptions of the human body.

Each student chose a body part about which he or she had obsessed or felt special concern. After drawing and writing about this part of their bodies, the students created plaster carvings of their "problem area"--an amusing variation of the tradition of copying "perfect," classically formed body parts. The resulting sculptures gave interesting insights into how students related to their own bodies; many pieces were funny and ironic; some were quite poignant. The final piece was a collaborative installation of bas relief sculptures and texts in which students created a safe space to discuss feelings about their bodies.

Assigning students to make a "self-portrait" collage by gathering and arranging magazine images which "represent" themselves is a commonly used project. It would be more accurate and educational to first analyze with students the conditions under which magazine images are created and circulated and then say, "Choose from this highly preselected bank of images."

Surely a comprehensive contemporary art education must include study of the "hyperreality" of wildly proliferating images that creates the environment in which we live, work, and create.

The biggest taboo in the school art curriculum today is not nudity or eroticism. It is foregrounding that the main use of images in this culture is to turn human beings into consumers by turning everyday things (soap, shoes, stoves, cars, or whatever) into objects of desire.

Spiral Workshop created a project appropriately called Stuff ** that encourages students to explore their relationship to consumer desire. We ask students to go through magazines (and/or search the internet) and to trace and gather pictures of things they want. After looking at the book Material World that shows families from around the world standing in front of their homes with all their possessions, we ask each student to think about how he or she uses things as a component in constructing an idealized self.
Students fill out worksheets that collect stories about pleasure, desire, and disappointment. "List 3 things you wanted, but never got. List something you wanted--then you got--then you disliked. List 5 reasons why you might want something. Pick one thing you really want and explain why you want it. Tell a story of when you were jealous of something someone else got."

Students enjoy discussing past clothing and toy fads--things they wanted "way back then" that seem silly and useless now. Such discussions begin to give them perspective on the socially constructed nature of their desires.

As the project evolves students combine layers of tracings, photographic images of things, and images or drawings of themselves, as well as handwritten or found texts, creating a self-portrait that explores how identity is interwoven with possession.

The purpose of this a project is not to unilaterally condemn the pleasures of material existence, but to encourage students to explore the cultural conditions that frame questions of identity and to consider how this may be different from people’s experiences at other times and places. Most currently taught self-portrait projects rely on staring in the mirror and drawing—suggesting that the route to developing a sense of self is the same today as it was in the time of the Rembrandt. As teachers we can develop interesting projects that encourage students to neither exclude nor to glorify the products of contemporary commercial culture, but rather to see them as components In the formation of contemporary identity.

Reconsider your current curriculum. Try to see the portrait the curriculum paints of the world.

If this portrait is not as interesting, complex, and contradictory as the world in which you live--analyze, edit, contextualize, and invent projects and fresh curricular approaches.

Professors and politicians wrangle about who makes the canon and what should be in the curriculum. While they’re still talking, art teachers can design and teach the curriculum that creates tomorrow’s citizens and tomorrow’s culture.




*Hated Body Parts project was developed in the 1997 Spiral Workshop by Christine Burns, Nicole Lombardi, and Olivia Gude.
**Stuff project was developed in the 1997 Spiral Workshop by Cristie Bosch, Karen Wilberg, and Olivia Gude.



REFERENCES
Gablik, S. (1992). The Reenchantment ofArt. London: Thames and Hudson.
Nochlin, L. (1971). Why have there been no great women artists? In T.Hess & E. Baker, eds., Art and Sexual Politics (pp. 1-44). New York: Collier. Originally published in ARTnews, January 1971, pp. 22-39, 67-71.
1. Installation view of Hated Body Parts project from Spiral Workshop 1997.

2. Bolivar Ortiz decided to concentrate on his nose—distinguished or too prominent?

3.
Feet and Nose by Ted Jackle

4.
Hand? by Cindy Yau
 
1. Things of Desire by Luis Monterroso, 1997, a Stuff project

2.Stuff project by a student at Lincoln Middle School in Berwyn, 1998. Teacher Arlette Wasik

3.
Happiness Explodes by Sofia Khalil, 1997, a Stuff project