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Exploring the Sacred Places in Our Communities: A Precis of an Article by Mark A. Graham

This is an article that is worth taking the time to find and read.  It is interesting and there are more than a few smiles related….

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Article:  Exploring Special Places: Connecting Secondary Art Students to Their Island Community

Author:  Mark A. Graham

Source:  Art Education, Vol. 60, No. 3 (May, 2007), pp. 12-18.

Published by: National Art Education Association.

Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/27696211

My copy was downloaded on October 1, 2014.

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My Precis

Expanding personal and sacred place to include community, through art, can break down barriers and lead to the type of experiences and understanding that brings about responsibility and social change.

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My Precis Expanded (a summary of the original article):

Research suggests that art education must have a compelling personal and cultural context if it is to succeed in creating new ways of thinking, knowing and representing. Artmaking in the classroom provides an opportunity to give form to the transformation and reshaping of ideas, experiences and materials into meaningful representations. This article describes the efforts that one group of students made to understand their community and history through art.  Our lives are often led within a fractured world that has become a place to be taken for granted, owned, used up, and discarded. Place-based education aims to bring together nature and communities by breaking down isolation and emphasizing responsibility.

Life is about possibilities and art connects life through associations.  Transcendent art can be filled with sacred images or images that the artist held sacred, thereby attaching meaning and revealing aspects of nature and reverence without religion. By making ecology of place the focus of their work, many contemporary artists are attempting to connect community and the preservation of the natural environment.  The aim of exploring and learning about the ocean, animals and trees that we share in our communities is to cultivate a thoughtful awareness and a sense of reverence towards our homes.

In a museum, detailed images are constructed and places depicted in order to build a vocabulary to further help us in the exploration of another’s place. To define sacred place through experience and memory, students were asked to share details of personal spaces that they considered sacred. In the area surrounding the school there is an 18th century graveyard as well as abandoned excavation sites, parkland and shoreline. Armed with sketchbooks and cameras to record nature’s resistance to America’s consumer culture, the students appeared in the classroom each Monday with a collection of images and questions. These questions facilitated discussions about home and homelessness and about our place in this world and our responsibility to others.

The students began a collage with photographs they had taken.  The photographs  were soon joined together into paintings as images of rocks, ocean, trees and street formed various personal meanings within the larger images. Borders that both connected and displaced became a theme and, as confidence grew, one student added family to her paintings and eliminated some of the isolation of displacement. A photographic collage of Main Street not only contained the sophistication of adolescent conversation caught up in music, fashion and identity, it was a reminder to us that a street is a panorama of architecture, trees and water connecting a small area (community) to the greater community of city, state and country. Bridges joined communities and in a collage, a bridge can also work to manipulate time by joining together the past and present.

The conversations and images came together in the final exhibition. Each student prepared and displayed a written commentary about their work. Each piece was mounted and hung in a sequence that included preliminary plans, sketches, studies, and final paintings.  The exhibition introduced other members of the community to our newly discovered sense of place and it was a success because it connected the artists (the students) with their environment (their home) on a level that brought awareness not only to them but to the community.

In order to understand our history we must learn it. Personal history can be found in our communities and in special places that help or have helped to shape our identities. Sharing, or teaching, is often referred to as the best way to learn and in this instance, visual art precipitated the sharing of personal interaction with sacred place.

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I found the original article through a journal search using JSTOR. This one was a bit tricky to find. My copy came from here: http://www.jstor.org.ezproxy.kwantlen.ca:2080/stable/10.2307/3981182?origin=api

JSTOR is in the process of ‘freeing up’ some of their journals so that we can borrow the older articles to read. I am hoping that this might soon be one of those journals….. If you have any trouble locating the article please contact me or, call your local college or university library for assistance.

About TheMorningTomatoReport

Just a normal person: - mother - daughter - sister - aunt - university student - concerned citizen - ticketed tradesman - salesperson - entrepreneur. There is a bumper sticker I have seen a few times: If you aren't outraged, you aren't paying attention! The "outraged" part is getting stronger. This is why I am here!

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