We Need A New Definition Of “Artist”

When I started teaching, I was petrified of teaching Visual Arts. I struggle so much with drawing that I had no idea how I was ever going to teach someone else to do it well. Karen Wilkins, our Board’s fantastic Visual Arts Consultant, helped me see things differently. The Arts is about expressing yourself creatively, and this is something that everybody can do! So this year, I was thrilled that I got to teach my own Art.

My fantastic student teacher, Yakira Smeltzer, took on the job of planning our current Art unit. She connected this unit with Data Management, and she’s going to have students create two- and three-dimensional works of art and complete design challenges, as they make a very creative mural that represents our school community. Students designed the survey questions to ask students, staff, and parents, and they’re going to interpret and analyze the data, and then apply their learning through the mural creation.

As we were planning together on Friday, we thought of focusing on the Elements of Design as part of this process. Students are actually going to co-create Success Criteria based on some of these Elements of Design. Then they’re going to self-assess their work, and set next steps, based on this Success Criteria. To help the students understand the Elements of Design more, Yakira created open-ended, inquiry-based activity centres, where students could look at the concepts of line, texture, colour, and shape. Students decided where they went and when they rotated, but before they moved to a new centre, they needed to share what they learned.

I don’t think that I’ve ever had more fun in the classroom, and I love school! 🙂 Everyone was engaged. Students were problem solving together. They were eager to try new things. They were happily reflecting on their learning, and taking the time to discuss it and/or write about it. With very little teacher direction, students developed a great understanding of the different Elements of Design, and now they’re ready to share what they know in our mural.

As the teachers during this time, our job was to inspire thinking and provoke creativity with our large choices of tools and materials (from paint and playdough to blocks, toys, and plastic forks). It’s funny, as when I was looking at the collection of materials, I anticipated that students would do things differently. It was great to have my own thinking challenged … and by Grade 5 students! Remember: “art” is a process. Embrace your inner artist!

How do you encourage creativity in the classroom? How do you get students to inquire about Art? I’d love to know your thoughts!


Author’s Note: My vice principal’s blog post comment (see below) caused me to re-think things this morning. I love that! I actually changed the title of my post and a few sentences in it because of what she said. Thanks for pushing my thinking, Kristi!

2 thoughts on “We Need A New Definition Of “Artist”

  1. Thanks for sharing this Aviva (and Yakira). These lessons that are multidisciplinary allow students to enhance multiple skills at once. Awesome. I only disagree with you on one point. You claim that you don’t have to be an artist to do art…I see students who are creatively expressing themselves and affecting others. They are all artists!

    • Thanks for the comment, Kristi! You have me really deep in thought now. The thing is that I saw all of them as artists, but I can’t see myself as one. I wonder why. I think I need to reconsider the definition of the term.

      Thanks for pushing my thinking (even at 4:00 in the morning :))!


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