Tuesday , October 24 2017

Art vital part of child’s education – Creativity among top five applied skills sought by companies

Jonathan King
Jonathan King

‘The professional world is an incredibly competitive place and there is an ever growing community of brilliantly qualified graduates so it is important to become a more interesting adult who is versatile and engaging. Creativity is among the top five applied skills sought by business leaders and companies such as Google and Apple are looking for creative solutions”, said Jonathan King, Art Coordinator at British School of Kuwait, as he sat down for a Q&A session with the Arab Times to offer an insight into the teaching of Art.

“As Steve Jobs said, “Technology alone is not enough, when married with the Arts and humanities it yields results that make our hearts sing”. We are preparing our students for a world that doesn’t yet exist and I see the Visual Arts as a part of developing interesting, inquisitive young adults. It’s important for parents to understand that Art is not just about drawing and painting. You don’t have to be good at Art to love the Arts. Whether it’s Architecture, film and television, fashion, advertising or game design the possibilities to pursue a career in the arts are endless. I could go on!” he added.

As to how he integrates technology into the teaching of Art, King said the Internet is a valuable tool for exploring and researching the history of art and current practice. He added that contemporary artists invite them into their studios via websites such as YouTube and students are able to gain a valuable insight into how artists work and what influences their ideas. “The art world is constantly evolving and it is now so much easier to stay in the loop. In Fine Art and Photography, students develop their ideas and final responses using Photoshop, and Graphic Communic-ation students also develop ideas and create work in a range of software. We look to embrace technology when and where it is appropriate but also want students to experiment and develop their understanding with real materials and processes”.

Question: Tell us a bit about yourself

Answer: I was born and raised in the South of England. After spending time working as a chef, travelling and painting I graduated with a degree in Product and Packaging Design from The Surrey Institute of Art and Design. I continued to work as a commercial artist, specializing in mural painting until deciding to gain my teaching qualification from Reading University in1998. Before moving to Kuwait I taught in several state schools in the UK and then took the opportunity to live and work in Spain. I am also an examiner for the International Baccalaureate. I am now in my second year of teaching Art at the British School of Kuwait where I currently lead the Visual Arts Team. In my spare time I enjoy cycling and running. I am also an avid traveler.

Q: What is Art?

A: This is a really difficult question to answer. Art is a personal thing and takes us all on a very different journey. I believe that communication lies at its core. Mankind has been painting, dancing and creating sound for 40,000 years, it is instinctive. Art is something that cuts through cultural, social, racial and economic barriers. It both documents and comments on a moment or period in history and connects us with the past. Art also enables us to express an emotion or evoke a response from another. It often makes me angry whilst at the same time giving me so much pleasure. Our lives are dominated by the creative industry and even if you are a terrible artist you can still enjoy what it gives us.

Q: How do you find teaching Art?

A: There are days I find it frustrating and other days I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. The most enjoyable aspect of teaching Art is watching students respond to an activity understand a process or start to gain confidence in handling different materials. I am at my happiest when I am challenged. I enjoy the unpredictability the subject provides and encourage students to take risks and stretch my knowledge. I also enjoy demonstrating that art is not just about drawing and painting, but provides many other opportunities for students to present their ideas.

Q: How do you integrate technology into your teaching?

A: Obviously the Internet is a valuable tool for exploring and researching the history of art and current practice. Contemporary artists invite us into their studios via websites such as YouTube and students are able to gain a valuable insight into how artists work and what influences their ideas. The art world is constantly evolving and it is now so much easier to stay in the loop. In Fine Art and Photography, students develop their ideas and final responses using Photoshop, and Graphic Communication students also develop ideas and create work in a range of software. We look to embrace technology when and where it is appropriate but also want students to experiment and develop their understanding with real materials and processes.

Q: Describe some ways you present and display student work throughout the school and throughout the community, if you do interact with the community.

A: We are fortunate that at BSK we have a permanent gallery space so work is consistently displayed. We hold a major exhibition of work once a year and host exhibitions from other departments. We showcase individual work on the school Facebook page and enter students into the various Art competitions in Kuwait. Last year we had various winners including first place in the “Kuwait is Beautiful and Green” painting competitions, and our students always demonstrate commitment to these event and the quality of their work has been excellent. As part of our development plan this academic year we are looking to develop more links with the local community and galleries.

Q: Do you have any pictures of your work as an artist?

A: Haha! Nothing I would like to show you. I never get the time to work on my own art. I manage to maintain my own practice in the classroom and have a lot of unfinished experiments and lots of ideas rattling around in my head. I am planning to start an M.A. in Fine Art next year. The time is right, and I am excited about having a focus and a reason to work again. It would be fun to exhibit in Kuwait.

Q: Describe some of the art projects your students have loved.

A: We see engagement and enthusiasm on most days in lots of different projects. I find it most exciting when an individual student totally emerges themselves in a project and challenge my ability as both an artist and a teacher. One example is a sixth form student who worked with prisoners with a variety of mental illnesses in a facility in Seville. What started as a casual discussion turned into weeks of negotiation and culminated in a series of workshops with inmates suffering from illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. The results were brilliant and became the catalyst for a series of 12 portraits and other work exploring this theme. To witness a young woman’s determination to see a demanding project through to a conclusion is something that I will not forget.

Q: How can you make the most of a small budget for art supplies?

A: I haven’t had to worry about that since leaving the UK. I am very lucky at BSK as the Senior Leadership Team understand what I am trying to achieve and provide me with the appropriate budget to achieve this. It enables us to provide an interesting and varied Arts Education for the students and means I can put the students needs first when planning the curriculum. The access to materials and equipment is good and we are consistently looking to develop the already generous space the Art Team occupies. I feel we have the support to do this.

Q: How do you meet the needs of special education students with respect to Art?

A: This doesn’t manifest itself in Art in the same way as some other subjects. We are always dealing with a range of abilities but it is much easier for them to all work in the same class. Within each project the tasks are differentiated to allow all students to work at their own level. I like teaching mixed ability classes as I feel they have a positive effect on the attitudes of all students regardless of their ability. Also a student who excels in painting for example may not be as strong in sculpture or printing. Some students who struggle with the handling of materials may be fantastic at analyzing and discussing the work of other artists.

Q: How do you communicate with parents with respect to their wards interest in Art?

A: One of the key times this happens is during the Year 9 options period or when students are deciding on their A Level choices. I am passionate about this subject and the creative industry, and believe that creativity should play an important part in all children’s education. The professional world is an incredibly competitive place and there is an ever growing community of brilliantly qualified graduates so it is important to become a more interesting adult who is versatile and engaging. Creativity is among the top five applied skills sought by business leaders and companies such as Google and Apple are looking for creative solutions. As Steve Jobs said, “ Technology alone is not enough, when married with the Arts and humanities it yields results that make our hearts sing”. We are preparing our students for a world that doesn’t yet exist and I see the Visual arts as a part of developing interesting, inquisitive young adults. Its important for parents to understand that Art is not just about drawing and painting. You don’t have to be good at Art to love the Arts. Whether its Architecture, film and television, fashion, advertising or game design the possibilities to pursue a career in the arts are endless. I could go on!

Q: How can you connect your activities in the art room into lessons taught within other subject areas?

A: Genuine cross curricular projects are notoriously difficult to carry off. Finding the time to liaise with other teams and then coordinating timetables projects is tricky. Having said this when things naturally come together and you are able to build a relationship with another subject area the results can be worthwhile and interesting. I have always enjoyed working with history and remember a great monsters project that involved English, Music, Art and Drama.

Q: Why do you think art is an important part of a child’s education?

A: I touched on this earlier. Its not important, it’s a vital part of a child’s education. The Arts provide an environment where mistakes are encouraged and play is an important part of the development process. It also allows children to disconnect from the physical world, giving them a vehicle for self expression and a sense of place. It encourages creative thinking, problem solving and reflective thought. Students can explore personal themes that exist outside the normal curriculum understand the need for independent learning.

Q: Art teachers have a unique set of classroom management challenges because you see so many kids for such a short time. What would you do when a student is off task, unmotivated or not participating in a lesson?

A: Of course we would love to have more time with the students. I find the continuity frustrating but am realistic about timetabling constraints. We are fortunate that we are able to teach appropriately sized classes that enable us to build positive relationships with individuals and encourage more detached students in a supportive environment. We strive to find avenues for success with all our students and hope to model good practice so all students have the best opportunity to create something worthwhile. I will always look to include all students in a lesson and when they step into the art studio they must share our enthusiasm for the subject, or pretend to!

Q: Art is an elective, which means you’ll have to promote student interest in your courses. How do you do this?

A: We hope that the curriculum builds the students understanding and in turn promotes the possibilities at IGCSE and A Level. Younger students will see work around the Art space and we hope the exhibitions and other displays encourage their participation further up the school. As we discussed earlier I feel it is important to promote the creative industry and allow students to make the right choices.

Q: Which days have been your best and worst since you started teaching art?

A: That’s an impossible question to answer. We all have good and bad days. An example of a bad day is teaching a child who would only respond in farmyard animal noises. A good day was watching a student collect first prize in a regional fashion show by creating a collection made entirely of newspaper and PVA glue. But to be honest most days thinking and talking about art are pretty good.

Biography

Jonathan King was born and raised in the South of England. After spending time working as a chef, travelling and painting he graduated with a degree in Product and Packaging Design from The Surrey Institute of Art and Design. He continued to work as a commercial artist, specialising in mural painting until deciding to gain his teaching qualification from Reading University in 1998.

Before moving to Kuwait Jonathan taught in several state schools in the UK and then took the opportunity to live and work in Spain. He is also an examiner for the International Baccala-ureate.

Jonathan is now in his second year of teaching Art at the British School of Kuwait where he currently leads the Visual Arts Team. In his spare time Jonathan enjoys cycling and running. He is also an avid traveller.

By Iddris Seidu

Arab Times Staff

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