By Aliyah N.C. Teaching artist and arts writer alynaomie.com
I, for one, am no stranger to starting over. Whenever given the chance, I have always loved to experiment and try new things, but as anyone who has had to move across borders or face a changing job market will tell you, starting over and trying something new is not easy and isn’t always necessarily a matter of choice.
Oftentimes we can do everything right and still be failed by the very systems put in place for us to succeed. Taught to specialize early on in school, it can be easy to overlook the breadth of knowledge that only comes from having trekked along the more scenic, albeit not so conventional route. Nobody likes to start at the bottom, but being willing to experiment and go back to the beginning is crucial to disrupting old ways of seeing that simply aren’t working anymore and for developing newer forms of knowledge.
For Uruguayan artist and educator Luis Camnitzer, the arts and humanities serve as powerful tools to prepare us for the unknown, the unpredictable, the unforeseeable, the… well, the future. “School is set up to transmit what is known; it is an institution rooted in the past. Art is precisely what allows you to work with the future.” This is because art is better primed to facilitate our ability to make connections across disciplines, a framework, he argues, is precisely what allows us to be better adapted in the long-run. And a framework, I’d argue, looks a lot more like the world we live in: artificial intelligence, NFTs, cryptocurrencies, virtual realities and all. (Oh, and then there’s the fact that our personalities change, too?)
Anyway, Camnitzer explains, there are three ways* of understanding art. The first is as a way to visualize and resolve problems. A second way, plays around with new and old cultural meanings, and the third is as a roadmap that acts as a point of entry to broader frames of knowledge. This last point is where the role of art education and the transdisciplinary comes in, offering us a pathway forward to envision and explore new and improved realities. A starting point that challenges us to make connections where we were previously told there were none.
No one knows what the future holds, it’s true, but studying complex calculations, prefabricated curriculums and age-old formulas alone isn’t going to get us there. Dealing with change and failure, learning to improvise and adapt, heck, just staying afloat and all while maintaining a certain level of honesty and integrity—that’s an important skillset, too. The educators of the internationally funded 2012 documentary La Educación Prohibida agree. “Children have to learn to work in groups, to listen to others, to accept different ideas, even when they don’t agree and not use force, to resolve conflicts, to agree and make decisions as a group,” says Vicky Colbert, founder of Fundación Escuela Nueva in Colombia.
Another artist, Miguel Braceli, also an educator, an architect and Fulbright scholar based in New York, believes our schools are the most intuitive spaces for students to explore and make mistakes. The problem is the world is changing a lot faster than our schools can keep up. The good news is we already have all the tools we need to succeed but it means we need to get a whole lot better at working together towards embracing change.
*Not mutually exclusive
- Alvarado Hoffmeister, Marlon. “El sistema de enseñanza, el pensamiento divergente y la creatividad. La contradicción.” LinkedIn. September 13, 2018. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/el-sistema-de-ense%C3%B1anza-pensamiento-divergente-y-la-marlon/?trackingId=14/a1BL1QsCn5TzZoRlXAQ==
- Braceli, Miguel. “La Escuela Desnuda.” La Escuela. March 21, 2022. https://laescuela.art/es/campus/library/essays/la-escuela-desnuda-miguel-braceli
- Camnitzer, Luis. “Arte y educación se enriquecen si asumen responsabilidades.” By Miguel Braceli. La Escuela, July 6, 2022. https://laescuela.art/es/campus/library/conversaciones/luis-camnitzer-arte-y-educacion-se-enriquecen-si-asumen-responsabilidades
- Camnitzer, Luis. “El currículo deshilvanado.” La Escuela. June 22, 2022. https://laescuela.art/es/campus/auditorium/auditorium-luis-camnitzer
- Doin, German, dir. La Educación Prohibida. 2012; Argentina: Eulam Producciones. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-1Y9OqSJKCc
- Epstein, David. “David Epstein in Conversation with Malcolm Gladwell.” By Malcolm Gladwell. The 92nd Street Y, New York. May 30, 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jd6QQBP3rO8
- Epstein, David. “Why specializing early doesn’t always mean career success.” TED Talk. February 2020. Manchester, England. Video. 14:00, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B6lBtiQZSho.
- Gabriel, Aidan. “Is It Better to Be a Specialist or a Generalist?” Greater Good Magazine. Berkeley. September 20, 2019. https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/is_it_better_to_be_a_specialist_or_a_generalist#thank-influence
- Peart, Rob. “Why Design is Not Problem Solving + Design Thinking Isn’t Always the Answer.” Eye On Design. Aiga. January 19, 2017. https://eyeondesign.aiga.org/why-design-is-not-problem-solving-design-thinking-isnt-always-the-answer/