Jennifer Gardiner, Secondary Visual Arts Teacher
Fear is a difficult topic. 2020 has been a time of fear on many levels and this article isn’t about the pandemic; it is about living with courage and opening our eyes to the ways God works through fallen people. Educationally, the art room is generally not a place we associate with fear. However, I am aware that students face fear with art over and over again.
In Visual Arts we are called to learn art-making skills and interpret and critically analyse ideas. Often, with individual interpretation and the pressure of making it ‘look’ a certain way, students bring fearful thoughts to their art-making. A class test is one thing, but putting an artwork on display is another. How do you react if your work is misinterpreted or criticised? In John 4:18 we read that love can cast out fear, and there is another quote that I like to lean into.
Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.Scott Adams
Recently, students in the Stage 5 Elective Visual Arts (Years 9 & 10) made clay vessels using slab forms and designs they developed in class. The surface was embossed with textures and the forms were assembled using stiff side slabs. It was a specific process that meant decisions needed to be made along the way. It could also be fraught with fearful possibilities as students manipulated the clay to create the ideas they envisaged. Students encouraged each other to work through the process, and all vessels were completed with great results.
Robyn Ewing is a Professor Emerita in teacher education and the Arts at the University of Sydney, and has undertaken extensive research on education, the Arts and creativity. She says this current season gives us the opportunity to make long-needed changes to the way we approach education. The research is unequivocal: the Arts are central to our emotional and social wellbeing as humans. Further, embedding quality creative arts processes and experiences in our curriculum enables learners to engage in deep learning where they develop their own identity and grow in understanding and compassion for the way others see the world.
Art is a form of play, rejoicing before the face of God.Hans Rookmaaker
As a teacher and an artist I think of ‘play’ as being purposeful, as we seek to reflect the way God has made us in his image; creative beings. Making art is a form of worship. I am the person God made me and I glorify Him by expressing myself that way.
With creativity, it is often just a matter of getting started. Beginning a task means marking a fresh blank page. It involves facing the fear of making a mistake that others will see. Here at Kuyper Christian School, we celebrate learning through the words of Abraham Kuyper, who said “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!” Christ’s sovereignty includes the mistakes that we find so fearful. Mistakes move us to look beyond our human view of judging and measuring against preconceived standards, and to simply rejoice in the process of being creative.
Art can also challenge us and give us a platform to wrestle with what it means to exist in a world torn and broken. Year 8 recently looked at artists who challenge viewers to care more for issues that hurt the world. As art-makers, they created a series of artworks that both glorified Creation and challenged others to care for it more dutifully. Many of the ideas that were discussed involved fear about the way the world is suffering. However it is important to remember the words of Jesus.
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.John 16:33
So what can we do with the fear in our lives, beyond the classroom? Seek God and our worth in Him. When I see my life as a reflection of His glory, then everything, including art in the classroom, is separated from fear.
The motive of art comes to us not from what exists, but from the notion that there is something higher, something nobler, something richer, and that what exists corresponds only partially to all of this.Abraham Kuyper