In 2015, seven Singapore-based artists mentored at least 50 primary, secondary and junior college art teachers to produce artworks in a variety of media or to learn about curatorial practices. These artists, experts in their art forms or domains of knowledge, were greatly appreciated by our teachers. These artists were: Yap Kun Rong, a young and established illustrator working with digital painting; Tamae Iwazaki, an experienced printmaker specializing in many techniques; Boedi Widjaja, a multi-disciplinary artist who uses drawing extensively in his works; award-wining sculptor Yeo Chee Kiong, known for his uniquely playful works with unexpected juxtapositions; filmmaker and video-artist and art educator, Liao Jiekai, who has won numerous awards for his narrative films and documentaries; Ang Song Nian, an artist working with photographic documentations and installations with an interest in found materials and traces of human behaviours made visible within landscapes; and Jason Wee, an artist, curator and writer who founded Grey Projects, an independent arts platform for publication, curatorial and exchange activities.
In addition to these artist-helmed workshops, STAR’s Outstanding-Educator-in-Residence (OEIR) Professor Julia Marshall from San Francisco State University, ran a workshop for art teachers on idea generation in art through concept-mapping, or map of associations. Professor Marshall, whose scholarship lies in arts integration, creativity and learning, and arts-based research, also reached out to at least 120 art educators in a special lecture titled The Value of Contemporary Art in which she presented the importance of bringing contemporary art into the classroom and how it can be integrated into the school curriculum.
Artistic practices around the world reflect the new tools, materials, source materials, and working methods now availed to artists today. We can value contemporary art for different reasons. First, artists respond to contemporary issues that relate to the world we live in, and therefore an interpretation of contemporary artists’ works allow us to question what we know, and how we know. Contemporary art often tries to lead viewers to think critically about contemporary issues. Despite this, multiple interpretations of contemporary artworks often assure us that we value and respect differences. Second, artists often appropriate tools and working methods from other disciplines or fields, which allows us to value knowledge, and appreciate what we do with that knowledge. Third, contemporary art practices usually express an artist’s ideas in multiple ways, in different modes and forms, through different artworks over time. When students are guided to generate ideas and solve visual problems in different ways, just as how contemporary art practices have done so, it might give them some assurance that it is possible to innovate and create value, and they can solve future challenges where the solution is not simple or direct.
For the teaching of art to stay relevant, compelling and engaging, contemporary art practices have a special place in our art curriculum today. We can expose students to contemporary art practices by adopting inquiry-based strategies, and by using new tools, materials, source materials, and working methods availed to artists today. CAPS! Is but one platform where artistic practices become organic, lived pedagogies that teachers can use to engage students with art learning