Adult Art Education Issue || Art in Action: The Wisconsin Idea

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    Art in Action: The Wisconsin IdeaAuthor(s): James A. SchwalbachSource: Art Education, Vol. 15, No. 8, Adult Art Education Issue (Nov., 1962), pp. 4-7Published by: National Art Education AssociationStable URL: .Accessed: 14/06/2014 18:56

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    Art in action - the Wisconsin idea

    Widespread flourishing of the arts in any region is contingent upon the development of what might be termed a "cultural atmosphere" . . . a popular appre- ciation of the creative impulse as an enriching and fruitful activity for both individuals and communi- ties. This "cultural atmosphere" can best be attained by merging all forces available for the stimulation and encouragement of the arts into an integrated program of common objectives.

    Early in the history of Wisconsin, President Van Hise of the state university conceived the "Wisconsin Idea." It states simply that "the boundaries of the campus are the boundaries of the state." This concept was realized in the field of art in 1936 when John Stewart Curry was appointed the University's first artist-in-residence, interestingly enough as a staff member of the College of Agriculture.

    From this beginning a Department of Art Educa-

    tion, attached to the Agricultural Extension Service and the University Extension Division, has developed in scope to its present staff of three full-time members, in addition to many part-time teachers and graduate assistants in teaching and research. Currently, Mr. Aaron Bohrod is artist-in-residence.

    The Extension Art Education Department is respon- sible for a broadly integrated arts program, aimed at

    creating this favorable "cultural atmosphere" through- out the state of Wisconsin. It reaches out to the boundaries of the state through its staff of University Extension field organizers and County Agricultural Extension agents, who are located in every county seat in Wisconsin. This gives it an invaluable grass- roots contact.

    Since this department has now served the state for over sixteen years, a description of specific problems encountered and programs initiated in Wisconsin to solve them may prove helpful to other states interested in a similar broad-based approach. The problems are

    James A. Schwalbach is Director of Extension Art Programs, University of Wisconsin.


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  • not peculiar to Wisconsin but are fairly universal. Problem 1-Providing for Adult Participation Granted that all people have a desire and need to

    participate in some kind of creative activity, for many reasons they are not content with their own abilities and are more inclined to be satisfied with non- creative, highly derivative art forms of very low

    quality. It is very difficult to encourage people, es-

    pecially adults, to use their own individual talent and freshness of expression. And it is equally difficult to impress adults with the importance of their own experiences as sources of creative inspiration. The ordinary and obvious technical problem of "how-to- do-it" are too often paramount. Programs aimed at this situation include:

    1. The organization of regional arts and crafts exhibitions and workshops-Twelve have been scheduled each year plus a final state-wide exhibit of selections from the regional shows. Professional artists and art teachers of the state publicly judge and criticize the work and give illustrated lectures and demonstrations. During the past fifteen years, there have been over two hundred of these exhibitions and workshops. Two or more shows have been held in every county in the state.

    2. The presentation of a large and comprehensive annual Festival of the Arts at the Wisconsin State Fair-This reaches over 180,000 people each year, bringing them in contact with the best in the state and nation in the fields of the fine arts, crafts, art education, architecture, and photography.

    3. Making available throughout the state credit and non-credit classes in art-Last year over 90 were offered, most of them located in remote areas where there are no other adult education agencies. The average length of the courses is ten two-hour sessions, although several are one- week residential-type workshops. Instructors are recruited from the University, the state colleges and high schools.

    4. The use of radio as a means of reaching all areas of the state-A weekly radio program, consisting of thirty-one lessons, is broadcast each year over a state-owned educational net- work of 10 stations blanketing the entire state. This program, now in its twenty-sixth year of consecutive broadcasting, reaches over 100,000 registered listeners in public and private schools. It supplements and reinforces the work of the regular classroom teacher and art supervisor. In


    NOVEMBER 1962 5

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    addition, one or two shorter television series are broadcast annually.

    5. The availability and frequent use of a wide

    range of visual aids-The department has de-

    veloped several 16 mm movies of its own (Work- ing with Watercolor, Design in Crafts, etc.) and five sets of kodachrome slides with accompany- ing recorded commentary. It has a continuing program of developing aids especially suited to this type of audience. Art groups of all kinds are encouraged to tap the rather large resources of such material through the various distribut- ing agencies in Wisconsin.

    6. The administration of correspondence study courses in art-At present six are being offered. One of these courses carries college credit at the

    University of Wisconsin. Three of these are used by high school administrators to give stu- dents in smaller schools an art experience for

    high school credit or to further challenge a talented art student who has outstripped the

    offerings of the local system. All six are taken

    by many people as general interest, non-credit courses. Through an arrangement with the United States Armed Forces Institute, the de-

    partment also conducts a correspondence course in techniques of commercial art for army per- sonnel stationed throughout the globe.

    Problem 2-Bringing Art into the Community The development of this "Cultural Atmosphere"

    is dependent on the momentum resulting from many quality activities and programs already in operation throughout the state. Programs to stimulate these in- clude:

    1. The organization and sponsorship of a state- wide association of amateur artists and crafts-

    men.-Independently, they sponsor meetings, workshops, a quarterly publication, artists' calendar, etc.

    2. The support of a state-wide association known as the "Wisconsin Arts Foundation and Coun- cil."-WAFC is a group composed of both pro- fessional and lay people interested in fostering a sympathetic atmosphere for all of the arts. The association publishes a quarterly arts events calendar, conducts a weekly radio program de-

    signed to make the public more knowledgeable in its understanding of current art activities, assists communities in using art as a part of

    community-wide festivals and celebrations, plans significant discussion sessions on the arts, etc.

    3. The aiding and implementing of many of the state-wide activities sponsored by the Wisconsin Art Education Association.

    4. The preparation of eight to ten annual exhibits that are loaned (for costs of production and

    transportation) to small galleries, schools, libraries, and clubs for the enrichment of their own programs.

    5. The assisting of ten to fifteen communities each

    year in setting up local art shows, exhibitions, demonstrations or festivals.

    Problem 3-Improving Community Art

    Daily we are bombarded with "visual garbage." True art has not been of aesthetic or even economic

    significance in the average lives of most people. Ap- proaches to this problem include:

    1. Promoting the purchase of original art work by contemporary state artists for display in private and public buildings in Wisconsin.

    2. The initiation of a state-wide production and sales craft cooperative (similar to those in the Scandinavian countries)-This is done not only for the purpose of raising the economic level of craftsmen in Wisconsin but also to improve the quality of crafts produced and sold in the state.

    3. Attempts at more aesthetic community planning -With the help of Ford Foundation funds, a total study of community planning and redevel- opment is under way. A part of this plan calls for the reconstruction of an area of fringe urban


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  • housing with minimum destruction and maxi- mum use of existing potentials, taking into con- sideration both convenience and aesthetic values. It is hoped that this plan will be put into action as a demonstration of what can be accomplished in this most difficult field.

    Problem 4-Coordination of effort There is a need for many public and private groups,

    agencies and institutions to re-evaluate their present use of art. Furthermore, many who do not now have such a program would find this type of activity ex- tremely valuable in making their own work more effective. Programs devised to help these groups include:

    1. Assistance to government agents wherever

    possible, for instance, services to the Bureau of Indian Affairs in helping Indians develop their native skills and use their cultural heritage in the production of craft objects.

    2. Instruction to both the inmates and staff of the state's penal and mental institutions in the use of art as a form of mental rehabilitation.

    3. Setting up special institutes for church officials and the personnel of various groups such as the YMCA, YWCA, business, etc., as an aid to dis- covering what sort of art programs might sup- plement their own purposes.

    4. Organization of two national conferences for teachers of Related Art in colleges and univer- sities to study problems related to their field.

    5. Reorganization of many of the arts and crafts exhibits in the numerous local and regional agricultural fairs and expositions.

    Problem 5-instructing the advanced adult student People interested in the arts, whose tastes have

    become more professional and sophisticated due to their exposure to the many art activities in the state, are constantly demanding broader and more challeng- ing types of artistic experience. Programs devised to meet this need include:

    1. One- and two-day institutes have been organized around more abstract topics, such as "The Function of the Artist in His Society" and "Art and World Tensions."

    2. Opportunities for people who can benefit from a more profound approach to art to mingle easily and to participate in activities sponsored by professional artists and craftsmen in Wis- consin.

    3. Group and classes organized for study with new and more challenging teachers instead of con- tinuing for years with the same instructor.

    4. Courses offered in some of the more difficult and advanced processes and techniques.

    Problem 6-Guideposts for teaching amateurs There are no guideposts for teaching the amateur.

    Most teachers "play this by ear." Limited research has been conducted in this area because so few teach- ers have devoted their professional careers to this kind of specialization. Four research projects have been completed, however, among them "An Analysis of the Characteristics of 1100 Amateur Painters." Most of them have been financed by Rockefeller Foun- dation Funds. It is hoped that at least one new re- search project will begin each year. Work is being carried on to formulate printed material which will offer some direction in this new and heterogeneous field.


    Adult art education-Pasadena city schools Adult education in the Pasadena City Schools is

    regarded as an integral part of the total curriculum. This program had its beginning in 1915 when the Pasadena Board of Education established the first classes for adults. These classes were limited and were organized for the purpose of meeting several specific needs. Like similar programs throughout the country, the goals centered around citizenship educa- tion and courses appropriate for adults desiring to complete their high school diploma requirements.

    The early years of adult education in Pasadena were

    not unlike those of the average American community. The program was administered by an evening school principal. While using the facilities of the high school, the curriculum itself was separate and unrelated to the regular program.

    In 1936 a significant change took place in Pasadena which revolutionized the entire concept of adult edu- cation and provided a sound basis for a program based upon community needs. By this time our junior college had grown both in size and importance. The college had come to be regarded as a community col- lege; and, as such, its purpose was defined in terms of meeting the needs of both young people as well as adults. This kind of thinking motivated the develop-

    Dr. Youldon C. Howell is Coordinator of Art Education Pasadena City Schools.

    NOVEMBER 1962 7

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    Article Contentsp.4p.5p.6p.7

    Issue Table of ContentsArt Education, Vol. 15, No. 8, Adult Art Education Issue (Nov., 1962), pp. 1-31Front Matter [pp.1-3]Art in Action: The Wisconsin Idea [pp.4-7]Adult Art Education: Pasadena City Schools [pp....