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 Art Education: The Global View

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Photo: Anne Lindström (top row, far right) with art education students in Duluth in April 2011. Back row: (l-r) Sara Strother, Claire Johnson, Katie Caswell, and Associate Professor Alison Aune. Front row: Sophie Gray, Sara Miller, UMD administrator Cheryl Reitan, and Mady Sandon.
UMD Art Education Students in Sweden, Estonia, and Finland

During May Session, May 16-June 2, 2011, six art education majors and one studio art major from the University of Minnesota Duluth traveled to Sweden, Estonia, and Finland to study international perspectives in art education with UMD leaders Alison Aune, associate professor and area chair of art education/museum education, and Cheryl Reitan, interim director of public relations and marketing.

It was an 18-day intensive course for students to investigate the cross-cultural goals of art education, socially constructed national design aesthetics, pedagogical issues related to art and the environment, visual culture, sustaining traditional folk arts, and the dynamic innovations of our Nordic-Baltic colleagues. The students were given pre-trip assignments, and they presented specialized tours on site. They also prepared individual journals filled with creative writing, reflective and critical writing, materials gathered on the trip, and their own art work.

Växjö, Sweden

Aune first traveled to Sweden in 1981 as an art exchange student. Since that time, she has continued her interests in Scandinavia art as a painter and educator. In 2009, she spent her sabbatical as a Fulbright Scholar at Växjö University, now Linnaeus University, teaching and doing research on the socio-aesthetic goals of art education in Sweden and exhibiting her Dekorglädje (Decoration Happiness) paintings.

Lars Palm, artist-educator at Ringersbergskolan and Linneaus University, in Växjö
Eva Cronquist discusses introducing conceptual art to children with Claire Johnson.
On the first full day in Växjö, the group received bicycles from the Duluth-Växjö Sister City office and rode to the university, where they spent two days in workshops with art education faculty members Eva Cronquist, Margareta Wallin-Wictorin, and Anne Olbergs Croal and education faculty member Kajsa Higgins. The Linneaus University faculty provided in-depth workshops on historic, contemporary, and international art education movements in Sweden, and the group met art education and international students.

The central themes that were to be repeated throughout the Sweden trip were the concepts that “art is for a democratic society,” “art is for all,” and “art is a language.” The group had many discussions about art education’s role in our globalized culture and why children need the arts as a central part of their education. Students engaged in discussions about how all students need to receive meaningful art experiences and how the teachers can guide learners to explore art as a language for communication.

During a visit to an area school, teacher Lars Palm gave a lecture on his views of art and education and demonstrated how his school integrates art into every subject. He also shared a strategy for promoting positive art critiques with children. He created a method he called “two stars and a wish.” Each child shares two things that they like about their work, and one thing that they wish they had done better.

Museum educator, Filippa de Vos, at the municipal art museum, Konsthall, echoed the theme of socially-directed pedagogy or “art for everyone.” For each exhibition, she creates space for youth of all ages to explore samtidskonst (contemporary art) through guided discussions and by responding to art through creating their own art in the gallery studio. There is no charge for this, and schools are encouraged to be regular participants.

Before leaving Växjö, the group visited UMD alumnus David Newkummet and his wife, Inga-Lill, at Kathedral High School where Newkummet is a nationally recognized choirmaster.

Stockholm, Sweden

In Stockholm, the group received behind-the-scenes access to museum education programs at the National Museum of Art and Moderna Museet, the premier art institutes in Sweden. These experiences were great sources of inspiration for integrating historic and contemporary art and design into the school curriculum.

embassy maria ulf
Visiting Chris Dunnett, Public Affairs Counselor, at the American Embassy in Stockholm. Museum Educator Marika Bogren, gives a tour of the Scandinavian Design collection at the National Museum Ulf Eriksson, curator of art and learning, speaks to the group about the founding of Zone Moderna, a center for teens at Moderna Museet.
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A Queer Tour at the National Museum with art historian and independent curator Patrick Steorn. Moderna Museet Art Education Director Maria Taube believes that the children’s art workshop should be at the heart of the art museum Nina Blom, Moderna Museet, at the Sunday Family Workshop, an inquiry-based tour which is followed by making art.

Ekperimenta, Tallinn, Estonia
Alison Aune at the Barbie installation at Ekperimenta which includes mirrors for audience participation
Mira Kallio Tavin, Aalto University School of Art and Design
In Helsinki, UMD alumnus Timo Rahkola met the group. Back row: Timo, Mady Sandon, Sara Strother, and Claire Johnson. Front row: Sara Miller, Sophie Gray, Cheryl Reitan, Kory Rudenberg (studio art major), and Katie Caswell.

Tartu and Tallinn, Estonia

While most of the visit to Estonia involved art education in the city of Tallin, the group did visit the city of Tartu. There they met with faculty at the Art Education Department at the University Tartu and visited the art studios of Professor Rauno Thomas Moss.

UMD's connection to Estonia comes from Anne Lindström. She is an art educator in two countries. In Helsinki, she teaches art to young school children and in Tallinn, she is a professor at the Estonian Academy of Arts. Her talks on Finnish and Estonian art education were part of the April 2011 UMD School of Fine Arts Visual Culture Lecture Series, UMD’s art studio open house, and an Art Educators of Minnesota event for Northeastern Minnesota art educators. Estonia and Finland were added to the Swedish trip because of Lindström’s activity in the field of art education.

In Tallinn, Lindström’s art education graduate students presented a lecture-workshop that involved an investigation into the symbolism of traditional textile patterns and fabric printing. Later at the art cooperative Loovala, UMD students received two workshops by artist-educators who shared their work with Eastern-inspired art methods and creative strategies. The UMD group also visited the afterschool program for pre-school to adults named Sally Stuudio.

The visit to the Contemporary Art Triennial for School Students Eksperimenta! was a trip highlight. The exhibit showcased the power of youth art and the importance of making youth voices heard. It was the first international art exhibition by 14-19 year olds, and it was installed in three full floors on the grounds of the historic Song Festival Park. The park is where the Estonian Singing Revolution took place 20 years ago. The focus of the art teachers and curators was to promote sustainable changes in art education for youth and to authentically give youth freedom of expression.

The final Tallinn visit was at Pelgulinna High School, where students receive 10 hours of art a week. The art teachers shared their experiences about living through difficult times during the Soviet occupation, which lasted from 1940-1991. Today this country, which only recently became independent, boasts a dedicated arts community, open to sharing their culture and firm in the belief that art education is a way to build a better society.


In Helsinki, Mira Kallio Tavin, art education faculty member at Aalto University School of Art and Design, presented an in-depth look at their 100-year-old art teacher training program. She presented an overview of their many research innovations in contemporary art education, visual culture, museum education, and art-based environmental education. For the group’s final activity, Anne Lindström gave a tour of the substantial art facilities at the grade school she teaches at in Helsinki.

The group agreed that some of the contemporary Swedish, Estonian, and Finnish approaches to art education and teacher training mirrored American concerns, such as the current theoretical debates between Discipline-Based Art Education versus Visual Culture. However, the specific cultural paradigms that the group observed provided new perspectives and offered possible solutions to deficiencies in approaches to theory and practice in art education, teacher training, and museum education in Minnesota.

Aune and several art education students who participated in the Sweden, Estonia, and Finland trip will give a visual presentation about their travels at the Art Educators of Minnesota Conference on Friday, November 4.

— written by Alison Aune, edited by Cheryl Reitan and Kathleen McQuillan-Hofmann, 7/20/2011

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