What is participatory
art pedagogy informed by feminist principles? Is it content, process,
or both? In what ways does art teaching informed by feminist principles
positively impact personal and professional growth as an artist? The work
and career of artists and art students who have participated in Judy Chicago’s
projects have advanced in significant ways.
Can others learn Chicago/Woodman’s art teaching approach? How is it transferred and translated in different contexts (i.e., differences in gender, race, status, and institutional configurations). These questions are also explored in this website from Keifer-Boyd’s study of The Envisioning the Future project in which others learn and apply Chicago/Woodman’s organic, non-prescriptive teaching methodology. Eight facilitators and 62 participants in The Envisioning the Future (ETF) project, which occurred throughout the fall of 2003 and culminated in a two-month exhibition at six exhibition sites in Pomona and Claremont, California in 2004, share their experience in translating and adapting Chicago/Woodman’s Participatory Art Pedagogy Informed by Feminist Principles.
list above and animation on the website presents the Chicago/Woodman Participatory
Art Pedagogy. The term participatory used to describe the teaching methodology
is rooted in democratic practices that provide a space for each to speak
and a community
support structure in which different views are encouraged
to be expressed and argued without retaliation from the group. The animation
symbolizes the methodology. It is an organic process brought to full-bloom
by the people participating in the art project. The coming together into
a circle is both symbolic of the group generating energy to sustain and
support the creation of powerful artworks, and a literal approach to including
and listening to all who comprise the circle of the group.
PREPARATION: The sharing of readings, research, and self ignites the power of the art created by the group. The dynamics of the group motivates the individual to search deeply and set significant artmaking goals.
PROCESS: The process continues with discussions between facilitator and participants about individual choices of work mode, media, and format. A difficult stage is to change the ideal to the real by navigating limits of time, space, and resources. It involves transformation of personal experience and researched content into a tangible visual form. A support structure develops from meeting these challenges together and sharing individual experiences and goals.
Photo to Left: Two ETF participants, Denise Duffield and Snezana Petrovic, present their puppet performance concept along with media and format plans to the performance facilitator, Gayle Fekete, and to the performance group, and to Judy Chicago and Donald Woodman on December 5, 2003.
|ARTMAKING: The process would not work if the participants were not selected for their commitment to discovery. Artmaking moves from material samples, sketches, and models to creating the artforms. The facilitator has the difficult task of providing both support and guidance. The participant often struggles at this stage to accept some of the challenges that arise from the content-based critiques. Judy Chicago suggests that the problem for some of the artists is to create something with a clear vision. The issue of audience is essential to consider in order to create art that sustains viewers’ attention to the work and the issues informed by it. The audience response is one element in the evaluation of the worth of the work.|
|Above Photos (left to right): Donald Woodman, Julie Kornblum, and Judy Chicago discuss Julie's tapestry design. Rachel Grynberg shows a small boat form to Judy Chicago as she describes her intentions for an installation. Hilda Piedeahita is asked by Judy Chicago to explain the meaning behind her model of a proposed installation. Photographs taken by Karen Keifer-Boyd on Oct. 20, 2003 at an ETF installation group session.|
of Chicago/Woodman’s Participatory Art Pedagogy to
pedagogy, sometimes referred to as
“feminist liberatory education,”
places issues of power as a central theme. Power is implicated in teacher-student
relationships, in access to opportunities, and in self-realization. Many
feminist pedagogues (e.g., Kimmel, hooks) emphasize social responsibility,
taking ideas into action, and political struggle as important aspects
of feminist pedagogy. Feminist art pedagogues seek to empower students
to create societal knowledge through self-representations that confront
gender, race, economics, age, health, and education as mediating conditions
art teaching approaches experienced previously by the 70 participants and
8 facilitators in The Envisioning the Future project are typical of the
range of adult art education. The participants ranged in age from 25 to
78 years and also differed in cultural backgrounds.
A few were either self-taught or learned through apprenticeship situations. Most had earned undergraduate or graduate degrees in art, or had taken some university studio courses. Self-taught approaches were also commonly used by those in university art programs that were “experimental, liberal, and encouraged exploration.” These participants learned from reading about and looking at art and from attending presentations by visiting artists.
Some participants described very hierarchical situations in which the students were “expected to kneel at the master teacher’s feet who adamantly opposed feminist and conceptual art.” Or the teacher discussed the work rather than asking students to discuss their goals in the work. Several mentioned teaching approaches in which students were told what to do and how to do it.
Many described that their art education consisted of emphasis “on technique without reference to subject” or requests for the student to use specific media and subject matter such as drawing from the nude without specifying the context or concern for what the work communicated.
Others noted that self-expression was not encouraged; yet some were encouraged to create from their interests and passions. The typical teaching approach in studio courses involved teacher demonstrations of techniques and faculty critiques to the whole class about the visual form of each student’s work. The critiques emphasized color theory and composition.
Other teaching approaches experienced included emphasis on concept development, class-wide collaborations, or students were required to create several works based on a single theme.
The Chicago/Woodman methodology is an entirely different model. “It’s a model where the teacher helps to first make each student feel valued. By listening to what the students have to say, communicates the fact that what the students have to say is important. And that their experience is worthy of examination. And next, that in their experience is potential content for artmaking, which also makes their experience important. If you can turn your experience into artmaking, then it validates your experience. It really is a very simple process, but sometimes implementing the process is not so simple. It has to do with going around in a circle, giving everybody a time and space.
The expectation for excellence is communicated in a number of ways; urging the participants to become informed on the subject in which they are interested, learning about previous work on the subject, and through what might be described as a feminist version of the Socratic method, e.g., probing, questioning, and asking the participant to think more deeply about their intentions. Also, by doing research that forces the students to actually look at a level of accomplishment, a bar is established, which helps to raise the level as well as the expectations of excellence. At the same time as they are being supported there is also the insistence that they aspire to excellence” (Judy Chicago, 11/23/2002, interview).
Web presentation of Judy Chicago’s feminist art pedagogy by ©
Karen Keifer-Boyd 2003, assisted by Wei-Chung Chang in the animation
presentation of the Chicago/Woodman teaching approach, and based upon
the participatory art pedagogical methodology © Judy Chicago 2003,
and used with
Appreciation to Wei-Chung Chang for designing the exhibition poster, CD-ROM label and cover, and the Web site address card with Hui-Chun Hsiao; and to Jason Christman and Donald Woodman for printing the posters used at the Envisioning the Future exhibition sites for the premiere of the Participatory Art Pedagogy Web site.
Thank you to Kumar Desai for placing the Web site on the Through the Flower server.
I express my greatest appreciation to Judy Chicago for sharing her teaching methodology and reviewing the contents of the Web site throughout its development.