What are art teachers needed for, Marja Rastas? The world contains a void in art education, says Lecturer of Visual Arts Pedagogy. Text: Krista Kinnunen, Paula Haikarainen Photo: Jaakko Kahilaniemi
Aalto University trains art teachers, who go on to work in comprehensive and secondary schools as well as art schools. Is there enough work for them? About thirty students are accepted each year, and the aim is for the same amount to graduate annually. Changes in the standing of the visual arts subject in the comprehensive and secondary school curricula directly affect the number of jobs available in the teaching sector. Our graduates work quite diversely in art education positions or as experts and researchers. Some graduates are self-employed in various art and art education positions. They combine teaching, development, socio-cultural art projects and their own artistic work, which can result in interesting new practices. It looks like the world has a void that art education can fill: our graduates are in ever increasing demand in various sectors of society. A good example is the arrival of art educators at libraries and early childhood education. In other words, we are training art education professionals with lifelong and all-round learning in mind. Why should visual arts be taught in schools—aren’t they more of a hobby? And what if you just can’t draw at all? As a school subject, visual arts is much more than just drawing. It encompasses artistic thinking, exploring and critically examining phenomena in visual culture, challenging your own thoughts through art as well as learning different methods of communication, interaction and influencing. These are things that affect all of us, whoever you may be. And if you think that you can’t draw at all, it could be you’ve failed to notice how multi-faceted a tool drawing is. A skilled 48 / AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 24
teacher can instruct you in a way that leads you to notice you can do something you thought was beyond you.
I haven’t worked as a school teacher, although I have performed other teaching duties related to the visual arts since I was a student in the mid-1980s. I started with children and young people, after In 2017, the Ministry of Education published a report on the role of the which I worked in adult education for creative industries in strengthening a long time. My own doctoral studies led me to become a teacher at my alma mater. the economy and employment in Finland. According to it, cultural Working on curriculum planning, the development of teaching, is my passion. sectors generate 3.6% of GDP, i.e. more than, for example, forestry. In my former job, I worked as the head Still, it feels like they aren’t taken teacher of a visual communications programme for almost 15 years. It was my seriously. What can be done about this? ‘pedagogic laboratory’. During that time, I started studying for a doctorate and As an educator of art teachers, I would say that we need to look after the arts adopted the attitude of a researching subjects by arguing for them persistently, teacher. This experience made it easy to loudly and with sophistication. Providing transfer to Aalto for work. a growing person with an in-depth founIn my present job, our fantastic studation in the arts early fosters a personal dents make sure that my thinking doesn’t relationship with art and, ideally, insight stagnate. into the broader significance of art and Who is your favourite artist? culture. I agree with philosopher Martha I can’t give you an individual name, but there are artists who have affected my Nussbaum, who calls for the teaching of art and the humanities to be made own thinking, even quite radically. One part of the curricula of all universities. such example is the composer John Cage. His concert, in which he used She says art develops the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes—it is rocks, conifer cones and other natural objects he had gathered as instruments, directly linked to the development of ethical thinking and eco-social justice. obliterated all divisions in how a young Here at Aalto, we have a unit that me perceived art. On the other hand, there are contemprovides art education to all students. University-Wide Art Studies (UWAS) is porary artists and artworks that open fresh perspectives on the world. An an excellent example of how this can be carried out in practice. example was Outi Pieski’s recent exhibition Čuolmmadit at the Espoo Museum of Modern Art EMMA. The exhibition What got you into the field? Visuality has been important to me since dealt with the cultural heritage of the Sámi people and their relationship with childhood. My home was encouraging and supportive of my interests. At first, nature in a sensually impressive way. I studied Finnish, literature, theatre At the same time, it made a powerful political declaration about the rights of studies and art history, but wound up, almost by chance, in the art education a minority culture. The artist succeeded in touching me—not through preaching, department at what was then the Uni versity of Art and Design Helsinki. but by asking questions. •