Adult Arts Learning Essay

2226 words - 9 pages

Adult Arts Learning

The motivations and objectives of both providers and participants in adult arts learning are diverse. Adult educators seeking to foster transformative learning invoke the role of imagination in developing new perspectives; they view the arts as a way of engaging adults in imaginative exploration of themselves and their relationship to the world (Dirkx 2000; Kazemek and Rigg 1997). In adult literacy education, analysis of paintings and poems can be a means of developing visual and linguistic acuity, critical thinking, and aesthetic judgment (Dreybus 2000; Kazemek and Rigg 1997). Greene (in Elias, Jones, and Normie 1995) speaks of aesthetic education as a form of critical literacy to empower people to read and name their world.

For prison inmates, the arts can be a route to reconnecting with learning, developing interpersonal and reasoning skills, and exploring different value systems. For example, drama workshops in a prison literacy program draw on learners' experiences, involving them in role playing to reinforce literacy practices and helping them reinterpret their experiences metaphorically (Kett 2001). Another approach to the arts as experiential learning is the Duke University business school's Leadership and the Arts course (Alburty 1999). The program equates leaders and artists in that both know how to coach, encourage, take risks, innovate, inspire, and express a vision; both use the capacities of emotional observation and critical judgment.

Intergenerational arts projects foster the development of communication and reflection skills and formation of new perspectives about oneself and others. Apol and Kambour (1999) used dance and writing with elders and adolescents to engage both verbal and nonverbal ways of knowing and help them express "the complex physical, social, and psychological issues in their lives" (p. 107). Such therapeutic benefits of creative activity are often an important motivation for arts participation. In Bardsley and Soskice's (1998) survey, one-third of adult arts learners sought job-related skills, but the majority were motivated by increased confidence, maintenance of physical and mental abilities, and recovery from loss or illness. Similarly, in a music appreciation course, two-thirds of adult participants cited therapeutic motivations such as coping with stress (Buell in Jones, McConnell, and Normie 1996).

These examples involve different providers: adult educators (Dirkx, Dreybus, Kazemek and Rigg), artists/arts educators working with adults (Apol and Kambour, Buell), and educators using the arts in other subject areas (Alburty). In addition, a great deal of adult arts learning takes place formally and informally in museums, parks, galleries, theatres, and similar venues, organizations that may not view their role as primarily educative (Chadwick and Stannett 2000). With many different providers, there are multiple, sometimes competing, purposes for adult arts education. Is it...

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