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Art and Social Awareness

The Role of the Artist in Society
By Jessie G. Saclo III
Art and Social Awareness

Brainstorm cloud (Photo source: Author) 

The Middle Years Programme (MYP) acknowledges the arts as a universal form of human expression engaging learners in unique ways of knowing through imaginative and productive processes and activities. Visual art as a medium of communication allows students to explore their identity and individuality, and through inquiry and acquisition of skills, students develop self-confidence in utilizing techniques and methods that are essential in art production. Such opportunities provide learners a framework for the holistic development of their social, emotional, and personal intelligence. And by equipping learners with the latitude to cultivate their potential to function as artists, as well as learners of the arts, they begin to naturally develop a sense of curiosity, about themselves, others, and the world. Thus, engaging them to become effective learners, inquirers, and creative thinkers.

Grade 8 students of Cebu International School explored the function of art in society and the role of the artist as an observer. To establish depth in understanding, in the unit’s statement of inquiry, Art has the potential to create global influence, students channeled their perspectives through the global context of fairness and development, and the consequences of our common humanity. Focusing on this context, discussions ensued that explored topics on rights and equality, finite resources, civic responsibility, and the public sphere. Identifying “change” as a key concept added breadth to the inquiry, engaging students to explore the changing function of art through periods in history and realizing the value it contributes to society.

Exposing students to the realities of art activism unlatched a fresh perspective in learning about the function of art in society. Providing them with a window to examine the artistic intentions of artists such as Picasso, Banksy, and Ai Weiwei allowed them to appreciate artworks that depict social and political subjects that have impacted audiences globally. Such engaging provocations challenged students to think critically of issues about their identity, individuality, culture, and community; leading them to frame questions that further drove the inquiry.

  • How can we communicate global issues through art?
  • Can art completely change someone's perspective on a problem or issue?
  • In what ways can we deliver multiple meanings through one artwork?
  • What happens when someone interprets the view of the artist differently than what is being portrayed in the piece?

Gradually channeling into an artist observer, the Grade 8 students started identifying social issues within their immediate environment. It was also at this point students explored art styles, techniques, and artist-activists to use as inspiration in developing their art-making skills. To help visualize their ideas, students utilized visible-thinking strategies that ushered them to see multiple and new perspectives. Using such tools triggered their creative thinking skills, aiding them to develop original ideas and compositions. With guidance from the MYP visual arts criteria and feedback from their peers and teacher, students created artworks that featured their exploration of techniques, perspectives, social issues, and personal artistic responses.

To appreciate their work and ideas visit our gallery.

Jessie G Saclo III is an art teacher of 16 years. Currently teaching MYP and DP visual arts at Cebu International School. Jessie is also a lecturer at the University of the Philippines Cebu.

FB: Jessie G Saclo III
Twitter: @SacloJessie

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