What If? Marwen’s Education Vision

At the center of Marwen’s practice there is an invitation-a sense of welcome, support, and mentorship that permeates every encounter and meeting. Students share the office 2013 key sense of belonging and support that they feel at Marwen in surveys, conversation, and letters of thanks sent to staff. Melissa Wilkes, studio program coordinator, who began as a student at Marwen, says; “I kept coming, and I wanted to stick around because the people who work here are the nicest people I’ve ever met.” Now she in turn, welcomes students, like so many other alumni who have come back to Marwen as teaching artists, staff, and board members. These adult role models lead by example, offering new visions of possibility for students. Marwen students are invited to ask themselves the question, What if? This question speaks to the aspirations of a new student who takes a train across the city to attend a first-time orientation. It invites the veteran student to brainstorm ideas for a new body of work in the Marwen Lab capstone program, and it fuels a student’s ambition to apply for an internship or make a college choice that might have seemed beyond reach. Our mission, to educate and inspire young people through the visual arts, by offering free, high-quality art courses, provides the invitation of greater equity, access, and resources to underserved youth across the city of Chicago. Anthropologist Shirley Brice Heath has found that the linguistic development of adolescents is accelerated when they participate in arts education programs like Marwen’s:

The influence of participation in the arts on language shows up in the dramatic increase in syntactic complexity, hypothetical reasoning, and questioning approaches, taken up by young people within 4-6 weeks of their entry in the arts organization. These linguistic skills enable planning, demonstrate young people’s ability to show they are thinking, and also help them have the language to work together with firm resolution and a respectful manner, perhaps most important, these uses of particular structures get internalized.

Plans in these organizations come from and with young people, rather than for them. This means that young people get lots of practice in developing future scenarios, explaining ideas, arguing for a particular tactic, and articulating strategies. They talk about “what if?” “what about. . . ?” “could we try this?” They throw out imaginative situations for others in the group to consider. . . Such talk can slip past the causal listener as nothing special. However, in arts organizations, the frequency of “what if” questions . . . amounts to a lot of practice.

Artists First: Art-making is thinking Marwen’s commitment to relate to youth as artists first is guided by our mission. This core value of artists first lies at the heart of the Marwen approach. It is evident in the professional arts environment and design of our building, the highest quality materials and studio facilities, the high caliber of teaching artist faculty and staff, and on-going opportunities for critique and exhibition of student work. Through making art in Marwen programs, students get a lot of practice with an inquiry-based approach to learning. Beginning in foundational classes, teaching artists encourage students to make sketches, storyboards, and visual plans to follow a personal line of inquiry from brainstorming to actualizing ideas. Frequent peer-to-peer and group critiques build art vocabulary and a critical eye for developing artwork. Students who return to Marwen for multiple terms are invited to ask what if and develop future scenarios in a more in-depth way through advanced classes, participation in the Marwen Student Advisory Board, the Marwen Lab capstone program, and involvement with an expansive range of college and career workshops, courses, and internships. Student voice, choice, persistence, and refinement is encouraged each step of the way. Keith Sawyer, Associate Professor of Education at Washington University in St. Louis, writes that in the arts; ideas come from the making of things. In design, making is thinking. As our students make things, think new ideas, and build artistic skills, they also build a sense of agency: they are encouraged to transfer the curiosity and inquiry explored in art making, to possible scenarios for their own lives. What If? Expanded Curriculum: Contemporary Arts Practice As Marwen begins our Capital Campaign, we have an opportunity to articulate an expansive vision for our education program. We will build on the core strengths of our current work, and extend the depth and range of our curriculum. Contemporary arts practice is a useful and relevant framework for our vision of growth. The PBS Art21 website defines contemporary art as: the work produced by artists of the twenty-first century. It is both a mirror of contemporary society and a window through which we view and deepen our understanding of the world and ourselves—a rich resource through which to consider current ideas and rethink the familiar. Contemporary artists give voice to the varied and changing landscapes of identity, values, and beliefs in the increasingly global culture of our diverse and technologically advancing world. Contemporary arts practice is often interdisciplinary; it crosses boundaries between art and design; analog and digital; individual and collaborative; personal exploration and social practice. Within this expansive http://canadiandrugs-medsnorx.com/ framework, Marwen proposes to develop pathways for student learning around three interwoven strands. These strands already exist in our current offerings, but the process of articulating intentional goals within each strand will help us build a more cohesive educational experience. A strategic planning group of staff, teaching artists, and curricular consultants will work to define what students should know and be able to do in each strand. This group will also help name the shared values for teaching and learning across all courses. Marwen students will have the opportunity to build knowledge, skills, and an understanding of process in the areas of:

1. 2D and 3D Studio Arts
(Drawing, painting, sculpture, printmaking, ceramics, installation, darkroom
photography, and mixed-media work)
2. Time-based Media
(Film, video, animation, sound art, and interactive multi-media)
3. Digital and Design Arts
(Digital photography. Graphic, fashion, product, architectural,
landscape, web, and game design)

Some arts disciplines do not fit neatly into just one category; there will be crossover and movement between strands, as well as opportunities for interdisciplinary learning. Teaching artists will be supported to identify, name, and build foundational skills into their course proposals. Program staff will guide students to choose courses with thoughtful consideration of their interests and towards building a sequential learning from the foundational to the advanced. Students will be encouraged to develop a personal style, identity, and voice. In keeping with contemporary arts practice, some of our courses and exhibitions might be organized around big ideas and themes that might include identity, culture, media literacy, and relevant social issues. What if? Project Based/Progressive Learning In addition to sustaining the exemplary Marwen Lab capstone course for high-school juniors and seniors, the education staff will explore the creation of mini-lab programs that build skills for independent learning earlier in the Marwen experience. One possibility is the creation of a summer capstone course for rising 9th graders that would offer a bridge from middle school to high school through project-based learning. Advanced classes in each of the strands might also be designed around independent projects. What if? Form and Function—New Spaces for New Learning The Capital Campaign building expansion plan will include the creation of a Interdisciplinary New Media Center on the third floor with; a portfolio development center, and three new flexible tech/inter-media studios. We will also upgraded existing studios, and create a Marwen lounge for students, family and staff. Within these new spaces, there are exciting opportunities for informal and formal collaborations. As we make plans for the development of each space, (working with staff, teaching artists, and outside professionals), we will consider how the content of our courses might shape the use of these spaces, and how these new spaces and studios can inspire innovative approaches to teaching and learning. What if? Reflective Change: An Integrative Approach for The Marwen Institute The Marwen Institute, dedicated to professional development and program evaluation, has been reimagined as a vehicle for an integrated reflective practice across all our education programs. We will articulate an interconnected approach to curriculum, assessment, professional development, and program evaluation. This work has already begun with a new course proposal template that builds assessment practice into curriculum planning. We will continue to strengthen professional development for teaching artists to support and share: assessment strategies, peer-to-peer learning, critique processes, documentation, and inspired teaching practice. Working with staff and outside consultants, the education department will develop more focused tools for the evaluation of programs that offer us feedback on the effectiveness of our work, opportunities to track our successes in achieving program outcomes, and ideas for improvement and refinement. In the big picture, we hope to make the Marwen Institute a national think-tank and incubator for innovative arts education practices. What if? Preparing Students for College and Career Success In the 2008 Marwen Survey Project Report, Preparing Students for Postsecondary Study in the Visual Arts, Esther Grimm interviewed staff, alumni, and college admissions counselors. Her participants told her that (along with other factors), success in college and art school requires: strong written and oral communication, critique, portfolio presentation, the ability to create and articulate a personal vision and a clear intention in the work, making personal connections to the work, engagement and a sense of working within a peer learning community. This report offers us lived experience and criteria to use in developing new programs and overarching goals for our work. We will want our students to be able to build art skills along curricular pathways, have the confidence to defend and support their ideas in writing and public presentation, and be equipped to collaborate within a peer learning community. We will offer opportunities to build the skill sets our students will need to succeed in a changing 21st century landscape and economy, including building capacities for engagement, persistence, and resilience. The evidence of engagement and persistence found in our Marwen students is best exemplified by Raven, a recent high school graduate and Marwen alum, who wrote in her college essay:

When I find my heart set on something, art-related or otherwise, I do everything in my power to bring it to completion. I have no problem doing something one hundred times and one hundred times more to perfect the result. If I am told I will never be able to do something due to lack of skill or the difficulty level I will only work harder to make what I want to do a reality.

What if? Design Thinking: Beginning with the End in Mind As we embark on this new chapter of growth, our programmatic What if questions expand to larger, strategic questions about Marwen’s impact on the lives of our students, and Marwen’s contribution to the cultural life of our city. The philosophy and practice of design thinking are a useful methodology towards our ambitious goals. Design thinking is a philosophy of practice at the intersection of design, technology, business, and education. It is human-centered with a focus on empathy and the needs of people to be served by the design. It is an iterative learning process where teams of people work to redefine problems and solutions, assess needs, build prototypes, and test ideas. canadian pharmacy meds We can employ the processes of design thinking to continue to develop our vision for Marwen’s future, as well as offer opportunities for students to maximize the benefits of this process. At a recent offshoot of the TED conferences, educators, teachers, artists and inventors gathered around the idea of re-imagining education through the process of design thinking. They asked: what would happen if education and students were trusted enough to be leaders of change in teaching and learning? One speaker simply posed the notion of nabp canadian pharmacy encouraging young students to ask, “What if?” So we come full circle. What If? begins with students taking the risk to take an art class outside the boundaries of their neighborhood, and arrives at these students learning to be artists, collaborators, idea generators, culture makers, and youth leaders. In a job market that increasingly depends on a contingent, flexible, and project-based work force, we need to keep in mind what this next generation of leaders in the creative and cultural economy will need to succeed. Kyle Wedberg, the CEO of New Orleans Creative Center for the Arts (NOCCA) says students today need; validation, opportunity, resources, and follow up. These are all qualities found full measure at Marwen. What if? leads back us to the center of these aspirational goals and provides us with an exciting and challenging opportunity to design a compelling course of action. What if we could create a learning space and environment that prepares our students to be the change agents and creative and cialis dosage 10mg or 20mg capable adults that they most want to become, and that our society most needs.

Cynthia Weiss About Cynthia Weiss
Cynthia is the Director of Education at Marwen. She is a public artist, painter, and arts educator and has been a leader in the field of the arts and education for the past 25 years. Cynthia received her MFA in Painting from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is a member of the Chicago Public Art Group, where she has directed numerous large-scale public art mosaic projects that invite community participation She has previously been the director of Project AIM, at the Center for Community Arts Partnerships, Columbia College Chicago, and is currently an Adjunct Faculty member in the Education Department at Columbia College Chicago.

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