The Director of JESS, Dubai argues why secondary schools need Art departments that push boundaries, particularly when it comes to using new technologies… MARK S. STEED
chool Art departments always have a special atmosphere. This may be because school rules usually do not apply there – uniform rules are relaxed, pupils wander around the studio in search of materials, and teachers rarely stand in front of the class – or it may simply be because the whole environment is so visually stimulating. They are busy places where creativity and self-expression are the driving forces. It is these departments that are the epitome of a teaching philosophy that allows students to discover universal truths through exploration of their own ideas. The very best examples are testimony to what might described as “ordered anarchy”. School Art has come a long way. When I was at school, some thirty years ago, it was the preserve of a minority who were gifted enough to be able to draw. Today, while those fine art skills are still highly valued, schools are also embracing modern art and thus democratising art by allowing the Jackson Pollock in us all to find its voice. Art is, by its very nature, challenging. It makes us view the world differently. Art also provides an important outlet for the artist and that is why it is so important in schools. It is not surprising that Art chimes with teenagers. Creativity seems to come easily at that age, when fostered in the right
A great example of this process in action was the outstanding IB portfolio produced by Zena Ezz Eidin, a Syrian pupil at JESS, Dubai. Some of her work highlighted the plight of Syrian refugees, by reworking classical masterpieces for a relevant, 21st-century context. Zena’s work took a new direction when, having secured a place to study Fine Art at Columbia University in New York City, she was initially refused a visa under the terms of President Trump’s travel ban. Her final IB pieces were an outpouring of satirical work by way of protest against the visa restrictions imposed on her and her
“When I was at school art was the preserve of a minority who were gifted enough to be able to draw” environment. Furthermore, as they progress through the formative years of adolescence, they need ways to express themselves as part of the process of testing out their understanding of the world around them.
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