Let’s Talk About Art…silently!

According to Nancy Hous’s article “Using Critiques in the K-12 Classroom,” she  focuses on critiques as a useful component in the art classroom because it serves as an evaluation of student artwork, which can be a useful teaching tool for any age group studying the visual arts. The article discusses a method for conducting critiques, and explores the role of the teacher and students in a successful art critique.

My question falls under the role of the teacher, “What about your silent students?” I, myself, was silent during critiques during my graduate program.
I had insights, suggestions, and criticisms on artwork that personally offended me. However, I was always silent. Why? Would it be anxiety? Fear of judgement? Fear of confrontation? Or was it a personality trait of shyness? Whatever the case may be, I decided to facilitate a silent critique with my CCNY Into to Art Education class.

The first step is to place a blank sheet of paper next to each student artwork. Students are then instructed to do a “silent gallery walk” in which they carry a pencil and comment on every single artwork in the room…silently. The comments may be anonymous, and they are encouraged to write, sugesstions, positive feedback, constructive criticism, and questions.  After 20 minutes, students had the opportunity to talk openly and share. Four students, who are usually reserved with their comments, spoke out openly about their appreciation for this critique. It allowed them to make comments freely without judgement. Other students who are usually open with their thoughts enjoyed the fact that they could comment on artwork without the artist’s statement or intention. In this way, it offers them a chance to receive feedback and see if their artwork can “stand alone” without an artist statement. Adding to this point, it mimics the museum and gallery space in which most artwork is meant to stand alone.

By Brenda Zamora
CCNY Adjunct Lecturer

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