Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Aesthetic Education

The Old Guitarist by Pablo Picasso
with words from Wallace Stevens'
The Man with the Blue Guitar
It was my great privilege yesterday to attend a workshop at Lincoln Center with the legendary Maxine Greene.  She is Philosopher Emeritus of Lincoln Center Education and founder of The Maxine Greene Center for Aesthetic Education and Social Imagination.

At 96, Dr. Greene is still an active force readily inspiring those around her.  She spoke of the tenets of John Dewey's work and how an electrifying connection with a work of art can help "open up new experiential possibilities".

During her presentation and in our conversation afterwards, I was struck by her genuine interest in education and in those of us who teach.  She repeatedly expressed a desire to foster a dialogue so her own understanding would continue to evolve.

Never satisfied, she encouraged us to push against the boundaries of what is comfortable and to live in the question (I am not sure exactly what that means but I suspect it is that childlike place of wonder coupled with an adult sensibility of reflection).

In her 2001 publication Variations on a Blue Guitar she writes about art, "The attention we offer, the rapt attention--taking time, being quiet--is very different from a practical, utilitarian, consumerist approach, one taken far too often in the presence of works of art.  I am sure you know what I mean; the going to ballet because good, sophisticated, prosperous New Yorkers go to the ballet so that, in some sense, they can tell themselves they have had the ballet, the way some people say they have done Paris. I am sure there are people who look at paintings and try to figure out what they cost or if they will fit over the living-room couch.  Again, we do not want to use or to classify or to consume works of art.  We want to encounter them and to realize, when doing so, that it is a free act. Only as a free act does an encounter have the possibility of becoming what we would call aesthetic".

The day was designed to deepen our understanding and allow us to see how we can incorporate aesthetic education into our daily practice despite the current educational climate of conformity and blankness.

I already happily dance in this space, somewhat, but accept the challenge to bring more beauty, wonder and connection to my students though art in all its forms.

Thank you to The Academy for Teachers for hosting an incredible day of discovery.

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