Evaluator's Report
Contemporary Community Curriculum Initiative

Dalida Maria Benfield

- Director, Master of Arts in Art Education Program, School of the Art Institute of Chicago
- Education Coordinator, Video Machete
- Independent Video Artist
- Educator
- Media Education Consultant


This summary evaluation is based on the viewing of the CCC project exhibition at Gallery 400, UIC, and participation in the evaluation discussion on July 28, 2000. However, it is important to note that I also participated in the CCC symposium at the MCA. While this evaluation takes into account the goals as stated in the evaluation discussion on July 28, it also poses additional questions that may infer goals that are beyond the articulated scope of the project. In this way, it is my hope that this summary might evoke critical thinking and discussion outside of the limits of the project, while also addressing the key points of the internal evaluation plan.

Goals, assumptions and rationale

There was much information provided at the evaluation discussion and at the MCA symposium on the goals, rationale, and assumptions of the CCC. This information highlights two areas: 1) the development of innovative curriculum projects and 2) creating a new model of teacher in-service training. The goal of the development of innovative curriculum projects focuses on using contemporary art as a vehicle for the expansion of curriculum content to include contemporary art practices, social issues, and student and teacher life experiences. The new model of teacher in-service training was focused on the empowerment of teachers as innovators of curriculum, community members who are connected to each other and to new informational resources, and who are self-identified as life-long learners.

Evaluation of goals and rationale:
The overall vision of the program is an excellent response to the current predicament and stasis of art education, as articulated in the CCC materials. In particular, shifting the content area of curriculum is an effective and economic method of introducing new paradigms of art education. While the specifics of the program in regards to curriculum and teacher development will be discussed below, it is clear that the program resulted in success in these areas, its main areas of implementation. In addition, the program succeeded in addressing areas that were not clearly stated as goals, and would perhaps benefit by clearly articulating these areas as important pieces of the overall vision. While these goals may be implied by the overall vision, their more detailed articulation would result in a more specific plan for implementation.

These areas are student empowerment and whole community involvement in art education.

Student Empowerment
Student empowerment is clearly at the heart of a project focused on innovative curriculum that expands content and methods of art education in middle and high school. The project provided important venues for student self-expression and creative innovation, as was clearly evidenced by the quality of artwork in the culminating exhibition. It is important, however, that this be overtly articulated and implemented as a goal. If it is not articulated as a goal, then the students’ voices and visions may not be felt throughout the project. The CCC project included at least one student, in the evaluation discussion, and may have included others in the infrastructure of the project. The involvement of students as key players in the planning, implementation, and evaluation would be an objective if student empowerment were to be taken on as a goal. Additionally, student empowerment, via such discourses in education as critical pedagogy and popular education, could be included as an element of the teacher training discussion. As I stated in the evaluation discussion, in this era of increasing criminalization and political marginalization of youth perspectives, it is imperative that projects targeting youth reflect a process of youth empowerment and participation.

Whole Community Involvement in Art Education
While the "Contemporary" piece of the CCC project’s title was clearly present in all aspects of the project’s objectives and implementation, the "Community" portion of the title was less present. Perhaps this is simply a question of definition. Indeed, the community of the project may have been defined as the community that was created by the project - the community of teachers, artists, and students that were involved in the project and who clearly established new relationships of support and new paradigms of knowledge together. However, it is important that the project also consider wider communities of involvement. These might include; the wider community of the participating schools, including administrators and other teachers (which would also serve to break the discipline-borders of the institution); the families, friends, and other communities of support of the students and teachers; and the general public. The idea of creating an alternative, citywide student art exhibition seemed to steer the project in this direction, which created a lot of enthusiasm among the participants. It is clear that the website will serve to inform art educators and other interested parties about the curriculum projects – how it might serve to include other communities would be interesting to explore as well. Another aspect of the "whole community" that could be more carefully considered is artists themselves; while clearly the artists involved in the CCC had an educational and transformative experience, the experience might have been more carefully constructed as an important site for the training of artists-as-educators or artists as social change agents.

The development of innovative curriculum, "that could not have been taught 75, 50, or even 25 years ago" is a clearly stated goal of the CCC. This development of curriculum is a key component of the CCC’s overall vision. The strategy developed by the CCC focused on placing contemporary artwork as core content and using the mechanism of artist-teacher liaisons, trainings, and mentoring in curriculum design and implementation.

Evaluation of Curriculum
Curriculum development is the area in which I believe the CCC project has achieved its most complicated success. The document, "Searching for Curriculum Themes" reflected an enormously complex process of critique and reflection upon which were built alternative curriculum ideas during the project. It is clear from this and other documents, the testimony of teachers at the evaluation discussion, and the evidence of the artwork, that a wide range of curriculum ideas were developed and implemented. These projects included a close examination of the work of diverse contemporary artists whose work explores important social themes and a reflection of the aesthetic strategies and social content of the work in the students’ own art work.
Areas in which the project might consider future work include:

1. The broadening of definitions of art to include more folk art and other marginalized cultural forms.
2. The inclusion of popular culture, such as radio, television, cinema, and music as curriculum content.
3. The inclusion of local community culture as curriculum content.
4. The development of inter-disciplinary projects across the whole school.

The inclusion of these areas of content would further the goals of "paradigm-shifting" the traditional curriculum to include areas that push content, form and method to new terrains of experimentation and knowledge-generation.

Teacher Development

The CCC goals for teacher development included eight central goals: Teachers will be excited and motivated to make art; Teachers will see their own artmaking as a process of self-expression and investigation; Teachers will write curriculum which encourages self-expression and critical investigation; Teachers will increase their knowledge of contemporary art practices; Teachers will express confidence in their ability to develop curriculum which is not solely a formal, media-based approach to structuring art education; Teachers will express interest in incorporating more complex, interdisciplinary projects into their future teaching; Teachers are interested to pursue an investigation of how changes in the paradigm for high quality and interesting art projects will effect the structuring of the entire art curriculum.

Evaluation of Teacher Development
Based on testimony of the teachers at the evaluation discussion, the evidence of the art work displayed in the culminating exhibition, evaluation comments made by participants in the CCC symposium, and the curriculum examples made available at the culminating exhibition, it is clear that the CCC project was highly successful on each of the eight goals.

In addition, the effect of the project on the teachers seems to exceed the stated goals. I observed the following additional effects in the evaluation discussion:

1) Teachers had a greater sense of community with each other and the CCC artists.
2) Teachers felt a keener sense of the importance of their social role as art educators.