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Jennifer Furr

February 20, 2015

Reading Review #5
Vincent Lanier Aesthetic Advocate and Pusher
Vincent Lanier was considered a radical art educator during his hay day, which
would appear to be the decades of the 1960s and 1970s. Some of his important ideas
included the value of aestheticism, the power of teaching through motion pictures and
photography, and fitting curriculum to the student. The idea that would be most relevant
to todays art education would be to fit the curriculum to your individual students. There
were several specific insights and considerations given by Lanier that stood out as
historically significant. In his What Will Be section of Tiptoe through the Tea Leaves,
Lanier said that in the future, art education would promote visual literacy, creative selfexpression, and environmental awareness (Lanier, 1976, p.13). He also thought that art
education should be focused on aesthetics, and increasing the experiences involved
with them. He was a huge advocate of visual aesthetic learning and appreciation. It was
Laniers belief that students were already enjoying aesthetic experiences a long time
before they ever started school. He believed that art education should involve more than
just looking at oil paintings at museums, and that studio art production was not the
absolute best way to increase aesthetic experiences. He thought that you had to be
really informed about the nature of aesthetic experience to easily increase the scope
and quality of that experience (Lanier, 1976, p.30).
Lanier strongly felt that photography, television, and movies all had qualities that
made them a good choice for reaching both aesthetic and social insights. He also
believed that there was no one particular curriculum that should be used to teach art.
He said that Curricula should be as numerous and as different as the groups from
which they are used (Lanier, 1974, p.15). Lanier believed that response to art was not a
simple process, and that most of what was being done in the secondary schools at that
point was useless. He thought the use of art in films and photography would be the
most effective way to teach, rather than studio work.
Which of his ideas are still relevant today? Well, Lanier stated that By the year
2000, every art teacher should have immediate access to every existing art-related

visual image (Lanier, 1976, p.13). That idea is definitely relevant. We are all able to
access images at the touch of a button with Internet magic. Laniers idea that art
education needs a strong central concept also seems to be relevant today. There is the
everlasting controversy of art for arts sake vs. arts integration, which seems to
scream aloud that art education is missing a strong central concept. The point that
Lanier made that resonated the most strongly with me, as far as still being relevant
today, was his idea that there is no one size fits all curriculum. We should adjust our
teaching style and content as needed, to fit the needs of different students and classes.
I am constantly changing the same lesson to fit the learning style of different classes. I
think it is an easy and effective method of differentiation.
Lanier perceived the primary aim of art education being the teaching of visual
aestheticism. The preeminent concern of the art teacher should be development within
the domain of visual aesthetic transactions (Lanier, 1975, p.30). Lanier thought that art
educators needed to help people experience art, and not necessarily produce it. He also
believed that studio art programs were time-consuming, expensive, and had many other
negative connotations, and that students should guide us as far as choosing what would
be good content for the classroom. In theory, thats a great concept, but if I let all my
elementary students guide me in what would be good content to teach them, Id be in a
lot of trouble. I do think you can incorporate their interests to a certain degree, but
certain blanket statements like this, Lanier did not give enough details on to further my
comprehension. Or perhaps he did, and I just could not concentrate on it since his
writing was so incredibly hard to get through.
Aesthetic education seemed to be the buzz word of the 1970s. Late 1973,
dominant theory among the theoreticians and in the literature appears to be aesthetic
education in its several varietiesThe rest of the idea makers involved in teacher
education are as fragmented and argumentative in their beliefs as politics in France
used to be (Lanier, 1974, p.13). Even though the picture study movement had lost its
power in the swing of the education pendulum, the same principles basically applied to
the notion of aesthetic education. Lanier and like-minded educators placed more
emphasis on students studying images than actually creating their own.
Laniers Magic 8 Ball Predictions

One of Laniers predictions for the future of art education said that by the year
2000, art education will probably see itself as promoting visual literacy, creative selfexpression, and environmental awareness (Lanier, 1976, p.13). Id say that prediction
was pretty spot-on. Art education in current times definitely promotes visual literacy, and
there is nothing wrong with that. Students should have knowledge of classic artists and
their masterpieces, and even contemporary artists. The main problem I saw with
Laniers philosophy was that he wanted to leave studio art out of the equation. I think
there needs to be a balance between learning and having hands-on time to create art.
Just like any other subject, we learn the most by doing. His idea of motion pictures
being the solution to everything in art education was pretty much wishful thinking on his
part. Film is great for teaching a mini-lesson or concept, but it should not be the be-all,
end-all focus of art education, unless your program is titled Film & Media Arts or
something to that effect.
Another one of Laniers predictions for art education said that by the year 2000,
art education will have survived its none-too-brief excursion into what became known as
creative competency (Lanier, 1976, p.14). Its hard to say if art education has survived
that period, or if it still exists in that state. If you take a look at Etsy, Pinterest, Craft
Gawker, or any number of social media arts and crafts websites, you will see they are
jam-packed full of creative competency. Sure, you will find a real gem now and again,
but you mostly see a lot of copycats and not a lot of originality. Skill is not really a strong
emphasis anymore, since moneymaking seems to be everyones agenda. What does
this have to do with art education, you ask? Well, if students are taught early on in their
art education to have pride in their work, to do their absolute best, to practice and
practice before they feel they are good enough to show their work to the public, then
there would probably be higher quality work shown online, more master artists, and less
creative competency.
Last but not least, Lanier said that art education needs a strong central concept.
This is highly debatable, but of course his idea of that strong central concept was the
notion of aestheticism. Thus, the strong central concept presently needed by art
education might be stated simply as: increasing the scope and quality of visual aesthetic
experience (Lanier, 1975, p.28). I do agree that the scope and quality of the pictures

we show should be top notch. However, I think that studio art and hands-on art making
are incredibly important to the whole art education experience as well.
I Beg to Differ, Mr. Lanier
I think aesthetics and their quality is very important when selecting which works
to show students, but I think you need to have an equal balance of studio time along
with the aesthetic learning. I do not believe that you can teach everything through film in
art education. I think it is a valuable resource, as photography is, too, and technology,
but I think there are so many other facets of a good quality art education program, that
you cannot just focus on teaching through videos on a consistent basis. My elementary
students would grow to hate art, and me, too, if my primary focus was videos,
photographs, and pictures. The first thing they ask me when they walk through the door
is What are we going to make today? It is so important for them to have the ability and
outlet to create. I think that Lanier was right to say that art appreciation is important, but
it should not trump hands-on experiences, which to me, is what art is all about. You
learn how others did it before you, and then you do it yourself, your own way, develop
your own style, pass on your knowledge to others, and the circle continues.
Lanier, V. (1976). The future of art education or tiptoe through the tea leaves. Art Education, 29(3), 12-14.
Lanier, V. (1975). Returning the art to art education. Art Education, 28(3), 28-33.
Lanier, V. (1974). A plague on all your houses: The tragedy of art education. Art Education, 27(3), 12-15.