May 11, 2013 – Saturday – NVAS: Standard 4


National Visual Arts Standards – Standard 4
Understanding the visual arts in relation to art history and cultures

Frank Korb

Welcome to another weekend of thinking about the 6 OVERARCHING GOALS that my  students work toward and focus on EVERY DAY during the year in all of my art classes. These standards (Goals) are modified from the National Standards for the Visual Arts so that they make more sense to the students and parents who are working with them through their art making and other art experiences. As I use GOALS in my classroom it OPENS THE FOLDER to learning.

This is the fourth in the series and the topic is how the visual arts relate to the history it took place in and the culture that surrounded it. Again, using the national standards in visual arts as the beginning, I “unpack” them so the standards know about (declarative knowledge) them and are able to demonstrate (procedural knowledge) their understanding of them. It is important to note that, when the goals are given to the students, they are restructured (a smidgen) so that they are meaningful and pertinent to the day’s activity AND make sense to the kids. This has been, and continues to be, something that is developed and worked on so that they are stronger and more meaningful to the kids.

The National Standards for the Visual Arts are now GOALS that are clear, measurable, observable, and understandable to the students, parents, and community. The use of goals is to keep the mind open to the idea of learning and focused on the act of learning, By combining both declarative (mind) and procedural (application) knowledge the intentionality is focused on the combination of art theory and art making as well as the investigating the close relationship between the two.


Standard #4: Understanding the visual arts in relation to art history and cultures

As an art student you will demonstrate the ability to:

  • 4.1 recognize differences in historical and cultural contexts of art

Art does not happen in a bubble. Art does not come from a vacuum. The arts are born out of the historical events and societal contexts that are around them at the time. Impressionism was a reaction to Romanticism. Dada, to be overly simplified,  art that was so because the artist deemed it to be and to test the tastes of what was and was not acceptable in the world of art. None of the movements in art history were all by themselves. All things happen because of where the artists are in the world and how they are able to respond and work with what they had. Rauschenberg studied at the Black Mountain College and would never have been able to make what he did (as he essentially discovered concrete in some of his earlier works created under the stairs between his classes) had he not been where he was in the world.

  • 4.2 describe the purpose and meaning of art objects within different cultures, times, and places

It is certainly one thing to make art in a classroom because the great and mighty art teacher told you to. Why, then, did so many artists make things that nobody told them to make? What was it that drove them to create and invent the things that they did? What was the reason, the rationale that drove Picasso, Braque, and Gris to invent Cubism? What was it that the ancient Greeks were hoping to accomplish as they defined and formed the perfect specimen of human kind in their sculptures? What did the Native Americans, the artists of Asia, Russia, New Zealand  the ancients in the Caves at Lascaux  France… what were they all hoping to accomplish in the works they made?>

  • 4.3 compare relationships in visual art in terms of
    • 4.3.1 history
    • 4.3.2 aesthetics
    • 4.3.3 and culture as it relates to your own art

There is SO much more to the art than how it matches the couch and curtains in the room it is displayed. That is, for the artist, the least of their concerns. What is the relationship of the art to the history it was born from? How was “beauty” defined in 500 B.C., 400 A.D., 1500 A.D. and today? What is happening in today’s world that affects the works of art that we are able to make and stand behind? Would we have camouflage if the Cubists hadn’t broken up the picture place and displaced the flat edge of a table? Would we have the abstract architecture of Frank Ghery if the recognizable surfaces of the canvas was not broken up and changed by Wassily Kandinsky? What about the art of today? Could we look at and appreciate the work of Bill Viola if the invention of the television and the idea of performance art had not been married? What about the kids? What does the art they make have to do with them at all? How can they begin tomake art that matters to them and not art that matters to someone that is NOT them?

  • 4.4 evaluate and interpret art for relationships in
    • 4.4.1 form
    • 4.4.2 context
    • 4.4.3 meanings showing understanding of the work of various art professionals*

The fundamentals of art – Principles and Elements – Form, Balance, Repetition, Line, Color, Shape and From… all of this matters, and matters a great deal. Why is it that I have 64 crayons in my box, but I should only use the colors that have red in them? If I am creating a work of art based on the news of poverty in inner city America… why should I not use magazine pages of starving children on Africa? How are the Clement Greenberg’s, the Frida Kahlo’s, the Kasmir Malevich’s of the 21st century talking about and making works that I can relate to and find deeper meaning in?

  • 4.5 look at the qualities of art from various times and cultures to (Critique – Prezi Presentation)
    • 4.5.1 describe
    • 4.5.2 analyze
    • 4.5.3 interpret
    • 4.5.4 and judge works of art

These four aspects behind taking a word of art apart and critiquing it are essential in the development of a young (and old) artist as they are learning the ropes and deciding for themselves what they like, understand, care about, do about in the world of the arts. If we do not SLOW ourselves down enough to smell the flowers, all the tulips in all of Holland do not matter. To really get at the ideas of what art is, why art is, and if it even matters, the audience needs to approach the work of art with an open mind and a lot of questions.


Lastly, once you open the door to learning  you also need to close it.  During the last couple of minutes of my classes, we take time to reflect, to GENERALIZE the relationship to the goals and the day’s work / lessons onto what the students know or think they know about the world / practice of the arts.. This is the CLOSING THE FOLDER that allows the brain to settle down and pack away the learning, the experiences, until the following day.

You can find these (and more) in my Visual Arts Handbook HERE.

Thanks –


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