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
- 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
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
Whole Community Involvement in Art Education
While the "Contemporary" piece of the CCC projects title
was clearly present in all aspects of the projects 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 CCCs
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.
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
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
1) Teachers had a greater sense of community with each other and the CCC
2) Teachers felt a keener sense of the importance of their social role
as art educators.