Defining "Art"


Defining "Art"

We started the teaching portion of the class at a very basic level because we were unsure how familiar and confident students were talking about art. We wanted to establish that each person has a slightly different definition of art, and with that there are not right or wrong answers. The first day of class, we had planned an activity that involved students creating a definition of Art, and they were required to rank how different pieces fit that definition from the most applicable to the least. The objects we used for this activity were; Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, Victor David Brenner’s Mary Schenley Memorial/ A Song to Nature, Marcel Duchamp’s The Fountain, a penny, an apple, and an Eiffel Tower keychain. These objects were specifically selected to provoke discussion about what materials and imagery constitutes Art. Students worked in small groups to create a definition that they then shared with the class to form one large definition. As teaching mentors we constantly provided students with the opportunity to work in small groups because group work is particularly effective for encouraging students to “think deeply about what they are learning while they are honing the social skills needed to exchange ideas with others” (Frey, Fisher, Allen 74).

This was the collaborative definition of art created by our class:

Art is a way to express emotions and opinions in a variety of ways. It is also highly interpretive and relies upon the level of effort and location.

Based on the individual and class definitions, we observed that each student had a slightly different way to describe art as an abstract concept, but they came together to form an extensive definition. These students recognized that art can take many different forms, and that it can be interpreted differently based on the viewer. This concept was a major goal with the project’s overarching learning objectives. The syllabus created for the undergraduates explicitly states “students will learn how artists, and they as observers, become actors, agents and makers of place, recognizing the role public space plays in articulating identity and social difference” (HAA 1909 Syllabus).

  • Encounters
  • Undergraduate Work