From Joanna Black
Canadian Society for Education through Art
Overview of Art Education in Canada
The Canadian Society for Education through Art is the national art education association representing art educators within Canada. It is a voluntary association founded in Quebec City in 1955, and is the only Canadian national organization that brings together visual art educators, gallery educators and others with similar interests and concerns. Membership represents all levels of education: elementary, secondary, college/university, ministries of education, art galleries/museums, and community education.
1. Description of Visual Arts Education in Canada
Canada, a country located in North America, is comprised of thirteen provinces and territories including Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland/Labrador, Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Nunavut, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Saskatchewan, and the Yukon. It has a population of approximately 33 million people and is a bilingual country (English and French) in terms of its political laws, policies, and constitution. Visual arts education within the public school system falls within the purveyance of the Canadian provinces and territories.
The school system has many levels: (1) numerous young children enter an early optional childhood education program at the nursery level. Students enter the system at the primary level and it is mandatory that they remain in school until they reach the age of 16. Canadian citizens (2) receive early childhood education (approximately ages 5-8); middle yearseducation (from about ages 9-13); and secondary education (ages range from 14-18 or 19 years old). Within this structure visual art education is primarily taught in the early years and middle years by generalists although it is advocated that specialists teach at the higher level. During the senior years visual arts are for the most part taught by specialists. The provinces and territories have curricula specific to their populations in visual arts education at the early, middle and senior year levels.
Some Canadian students specialize at the secondary level in visual art education and move on to study at art schools within faculties and departments of education in a wide variety of programs ranging from traditional visual arts, and graphic arts, to new media arts. Postsecondary education at the university and college levels is optional throughout the country and students must pay for their education at universities and colleges.
2. Role of Art Education (Quoted from The CSEA National Policy pages 26-27).
“The National Policy of for art education in Canada established by the Canadian Society for Education through Art advocates a number of steps to create and maintain educational programs which have integrity and are accountable to their clientele. Therefore, the National Policy provides a foundation for the development of specific guidelines. The following guideline addresses the issue of teaching art…”
“Instruction in art at the primary level should be the responsibility of the regular classroom teacher. There may be times however, when visiting teachers or artists could provide art instruction. Although individual teacher may choose to allocate definite periods of time to instruction in art, teachers should be encouraged to provide extended periods of time for large art projects. All art teachers should know the art education guidelines or programs of study required by law to be taught in their jurisdiction. Recognizing this, careful attention should be given to instruction of visual art concepts and skills appropriate for the primary child. In order to provide adequate art instruction at this level, teachers should have a basic background knowledge in visual arts and in appropriate art education methodology…”
“Instruction in art at the upper elementary level should be taught by an art specialist who may or may not be the regular classroom teacher. This is necessary if the art program is to have integrity as a discipline. Teachers will need to be concerned with theory related to history, criticism, and aesthetics, while also providing expert instruction in a variety of studio activities. To determine the substantive nature of curriculum content for each grade level, teachers should follow the provincial art education guidelines. Whenever possible, at least one hour of discipline specific art instruction should be given weekly. In order to provide quality art instruction at this level, teachers should have the equivalent of a Bachelor in Fine Arts or a Bachelor of Education degree with a major in art education…”
“Instruction in art at the secondary level should be taught by an art specialist who has the equivalent of a Bachelor in Fine Art or a Bachelor of Education degree with a major in art education. Teachers should teach from the provincial and local art education guidelines while making sure that recommendations made in the National Policy are followed. In this way, authentic art content will be taught. Although local guidelines will likely prescribe the amount of time for art instruction, ideally 60 to 90 consecutive minutes should be allowed for studio production and art history. …”
“Teachers and their school-based administration should invite practicing artists to share and discuss their art with students. Provincially developed artist-in-residence programs should be used whenever possible in order to enhance the school program. School staff or parent-teacher organizations should also consider purchasing original works of student or professional art to hang in the school. Students need to be exposed to original art whenever possible…School-based and district-level administrators should actively encourage art teachers to attend local, provincial, and national conferences in art education in order to be kept informed of current developments in art education. Local boards of education should be strongly encouraged to appoint local supervisors or consultants of art who would assist the classroom or specialist art teacher in the organization of the art program, broadening the scope and knowledge of teachers through workshops, seminars, visits, demonstration lessons and other in-service activities. “
“At all levels of public school education, teachers should be granted preparation time to display art, research issues and ideas, prepare lessons, consult with artists and craftspersons, and evaluation the curriculum. In this way, the teacher will be involved in lifelong learning and ongoing professional activities necessary for the implementation of a quality art programs.”
Canadian art educators recognize art education as a fundamental part of human development and growth. Art educators focus on international, national, regional and local content. We are a multicultural country in which art educators examine national concerns that have relevance for specific cultural communities. We promote mutual knowledge, appreciation and respect between cultures and their art forms. In this country we offer a diversity of visual art programs that follow curricula written by the provincial jurisdictions from coast to coast. These vary in terms of emphasis on a variety of different forms of production, art historical content, critical content, and appreciation.
Canada is a vast nation with wide expanses of land. This results in some isolation between people. Sometimes it is difficult to hire trained visual art educators in remote country schools. Furthermore, as a result of art education being under the juristication of provinces and territories, it is not as unified as ones created and controlled on a national level.
5. Approaches and Content: Traditional and Contemporary, Manual and Conceptual in Canadian Art
Art educators teach a wide range of art practices from traditional drawing and painting embodied in works like the Italian Renaissance masters to Installation Art and Performance Art.
Canadian art teachers are expected to teach about a wide range of artists and art historical periods. These range from Prehistoric Art and the Gothic Era to Impressionists, and the 20th and 21st century art movements. Conceptual Art is also part of the curricula regarding art education in Canada. Art educators teach about such past luminaries as Marcel Duchamp and his creations, “readymades”. They include newer movements as well, incorporating ideas from, for example, such video works made by artists like the Nam June Paik to contemporary digital artists like Christian Marclay.
Overall Canadian art educators embrace the past while including and connecting this to present art movements, artists, and concepts. Art educators are expected to teach children about the diversity of art ranging from a variety of cultural contexts and international art historical movements. We address diversity in terms of culture and in terms of gender (art education is inclusive of female artists). Moreover, we teach about hegemony in relation to political structures and how they affect art worlds, art production and artists. Lastly, Canadian art educators teach art education within an international context.
In Canada many students graduate from secondary school, train in arts at the postsecondary level, and follow successful international, national and local art careers. Examples of respected visual artists who are internationally recognized are Michael Snow, the Toronto artist who works in traditional art and media arts; Jeff Wall, the innovative photographer from Vancouver; and new media arts Janet Cardiff and her partner Georges Bures, located in the Canadian Prairies. Others pursue art related careers in diverse disciplines. An example is the renowned filmmaker James Cameron, creator of Titanic and Avatar who is now working in Los Angeles. Canadian artists have made an impact internationally in terms of traditional and nontraditional visual arts and its related fields such as documentary films and animation. In the future, we see opportunity for development in all aspects of visual arts education ranging from training students in traditional arts to new media productions and from art history to further developing our youth’s appreciation in the visual arts field.