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Art educators gather virtually to discuss teaching art in pandemic times

Conference to discuss unlearning past practices, teaching art in local communities, role of art education in time of confusion

Oum Jeong-soon, CEO of Another Way of Seeing, a company providing art education to blind people, rehearses her keynote speech for the 5th International Teaching Artist Conference on Sunday. (Korea Arts & Culture Education Service)
Oum Jeong-soon, CEO of Another Way of Seeing, a company providing art education to blind people, rehearses her keynote speech for the 5th International Teaching Artist Conference on Sunday. (Korea Arts & Culture Education Service)

The fifth International Teaching Artist Conference, being hosted by the Korea Arts & Culture Education Service this year, kicked off Monday in the virtual space due to the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic. The event runs until Thursday.

This year’s online conference, titled “Boundaries into New Pathways: Enacting the power of arts and arts education,” includes programs such as engaging sessions, activities and informal and formal discussions. Registered participants will also have opportunities to connect with leading art educators from around the world. From Tuesday, each day of the conference will feature one of three topics: unlearning, local and nomadic practices and peace and reconciliation.

During the opening ceremony held Monday, four speakers -- Oum Jeong-soon, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Rosalie Zerrudo and Simon McBurney -- delivered keynote speeches on teaching art based on their diverse experiences.

“When I said I will do an art project with blind people, I encountered numerous negative responses. Some people said it is meaningless,” Oum said in her speech. Korean keynote speaker Oum is an art educator and CEO of Another Way of Seeing, a company that provides art education to those without sight.

“Blind children also considered art class as a class during which they could take a short nap or study other materials,“ Oum added.

To overcome prejudices about blind children learning art, Oum said she had to unlearn everything that she knew.

“Everything that I had learned was useless. I had to learn from the beginning to create new measures (for art education) while fighting against prejudice,” Oum said.
 
5th International Teaching Artist Conference keynote speaker Rafael Lozano-Hemmer (Korea Arts & Culture Education Service)
5th International Teaching Artist Conference keynote speaker Rafael Lozano-Hemmer (Korea Arts & Culture Education Service)

Keynote speaker Zerrudo, who is an exhibition curator and academic head of the University of San Agustin’s fine arts program, shared her unique experience of teaching art in a disaster environment.

“My encounter with vulnerable women behind bars led me to a restorative process of people-centered art-making. Women tell stories as a means of gathering parts of themselves back to one piece,” Zerrudo said. “Expressive arts is a process of psycho-social support, where women exercise their own sense of freedom navigating in a tight small crowded prison space through stories of objects.”

This year’s ITAC is the first hosted and organized by an Asian country. Previous conferences were held in Norway, Australia, the UK and the US.

At this year‘s conference, the organizer expects participants to learn from the unique art education of Korea.

“Korea is the only country in the world that has a government-led art education policy,” Director of KACES’ Educational Affairs Division Kim Ja-hyun said during an online press briefing held ahead of the conference.

Kim also said that this year’s conference is special as it was being held during a difficult time for proper art education.

“Art education also has been put on hold here as they mostly are conducted at cultural facilities and also through visiting people who do not have easy access to art education. Cultural facilities were all shut down and activities held with more than 10 people were banned,“ Kim said. “So, art educators also had to create online content and art education kits to send out in a hurry.”

Kim added that this way of conducting education is not sufficient and expects that the conference will provide an opportunity for educators to share imaginative ideas and attempts to tackle the ongoing coronavirus situation.

By Song Seung-hyun (ssh@heraldcorp.com)
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