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Michael Mize Art Blog

What is Art?

by mize , January 21, 2008—12:00 AM

Topics: art education, defining art, teaching art

TALES FROM THE ART SIDE (no. 1) Random Thoughts from a High School Art Teacher

Each semester I teach anywhere from three to five sections of the introductory art class which my school has dubbed, ___Art Experiences___. Now something to note about teaching kids art is that most art teachers seem to view the intro courses with a sort of reserved contempt. They will admit that the beginning classes are a curricular necessity, but they want nothing to do with them. Intro classes are very much the grunt work of the profession.

I, however, have always enjoyed teaching the introductory art classes. I very much like being one of the first faces new art students see in the department. For me, the opportunity to potentially ___turn on___ a student who might not have otherwise been interested in art, inspires me with each new class. And I have such a passion for my subject, I take pride in the fact that if a student is interested in pursuing one of the advance courses, they must first go through me.

One of the first questions I pose to my new students each semester is to try and define what exactly is art. It__™s always fun to hear the variations, and more often than not, in a room of twenty students we end up with twenty definitions. This is something to not just gloss over though, it is, in fact, one of the coolest aspects of the subject. How many other disciplines can boast the fact that they are effectively indefinable. How many other disciplines would want to brag on that?

After isolating the common themes, we put together a working definition and see if we can all agree. Usually we come up with something along the lines of , ___handmade objects created to express an idea or feeling and/or elicit an emotional response from the viewer___. This is a ___definition___ we can then revisit in the future when debates arise as students try to decide for themselves if a certain piece can be considered art or not.

It is then that I let the students know what I think is perhaps the best thing about art in general. There are, essentially, no wrong answers. The only wrong answer to an problem, is to not answer at all. Outside of that, students are challenged to try and come up with as many answers, or solutions, to each creative problem that I present them. Some answers will be better than others, but there are no wrong responses. Furthermore, for all practical purposes, there are no rules. Even if I__™ve told them specifically not to do something, I encourage them to try and find a way around this restriction. There are loop holes everywhere for the creative problem solver. Exploit them!

In the end, we might not ever be able to come up with a definition for art that would please everyone. However, there is one fact, undeniable to me, that I hope we could all agree on. Art is an opportunity. Art is a vehicle for expression that is accessible to absolutely anyone. Pure art is not elitist. Real art is not exclusionary. True art is something to be embraced and celebrated.

Image credit: Rene Magritte, La condition humaine




  Sunshine ( homepage )

12/31/2011 * 21:59:24

God help me, I put aside a whole afternoon to firgue this out.


  Moon ( homepage )

12/30/2011 * 08:57:30

Thanks for spending time on the computer (writing) so ohetrs don't have to.


  Zenani Hayles

07/08/2011 * 10:31:44

Hi Mize,

I agree with you 100% and do share your insight to teaching Art. I also took this approach when teaching Art and it always produced greater appreciation of the subject for students who thought Art is boring. Mostly in any given project it’s amazing to see how each child interpret and execute an idea even a drawing using his/her own style.

Keep up the good work.



  college papers ( homepage )

04/02/2011 * 02:10:47

Excellent Blog. I really want to admire the quality of this post.
I like the way of your presenting ideas,views and valuable content. No doubt you are doing great work. I’llbe waiting for your next article. Thanks .Keep it up!


  kells mooty ( homepage )

02/25/2008 * 08:32:19

Bravo, and thank you for being an art teacher. Your job has got to be the most rewarding of any field. To teach, to bring interest to these fresh young minds, would be the apex of a career, in my opinion.
Well said and again, thanks.


  Dai Wynn ( homepage )

01/22/2008 * 17:43:51

Congratulations Michael on a superbly crafted article. Your artistic creativity is stunning, and that's saying something from someone who rarely resonates with abstractions. Your writing skills are formidable -- may I use your "working definition" of art in my ramblings? Finally, but most importantly, your ability to enthuse young creative minds is a fantastic gift to society.

Well done.

Dai Wynn


  Caroline Henry ( homepage )

01/22/2008 * 17:32:39

I love what you have said here.You may be teaching the most important course in the visual arts curriculum. Some kids will discover themselves as artists in your class, some will discover a creativity which blossoms in other areas, and many others will go away simply more "art friendly" than they might have been. Many buyers in our community art organizations gallery have told me about their happy memories from their art class in high school.


  Betsy Davison ( homepage )

01/22/2008 * 13:03:46

Well Said! Your 'definitions' of art.... if as you say there ever could be just one... ring true for me. You have managed to verbalize the vision for our business. If art is an opportunity, a vehicle for expression accessible to absolutely anyone, pure without elitism, not exclusionary and something to be embraced ...then an Internet artist/art community is a natural progression for celebrating art beyond the classroom, gallery or brings art to life on a global scale. I very much enjoyed your first featured blog post. Looking forward to your next one!

president artid

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