The conceptual framing for this exhibition emerged as a result of an ongoing Art at Work project, a collaborative and accumulative project that is interested in examining the past-present-future relationships between art and education in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Art at Work initially emerged in 2013 as a result of research (with exhibition, see Art at Work: https://www.artandeducation.co.nz/ art-at-work-2013) in memory of the passing away of educator, Elwyn Richardson, and his relationship with artist, Jim Allen.
Elwyn Richardson’s work that promoted an art(full) inquiry approach to education is well documented in his book, In the early world (1964). The dynamic art (and craft) work that Richardson achieved with children in attendance at Oruaiti Primary School was accomplished because of both, the significance attributed back then to art as an important vital way of knowing the world, as well as the collaborative relationships that existed between Elwyn (i.e. teachers) and artists, such as artist Jim Allen.
Back in 1953, when Jim Allen was initially employed by Gordon Tovey as an Art Adviser for the then Department of Education, he was sent up to North for some time to work very closely with Richardson (and the wider communities that surrounded Oruaiti) to de- velop ways of working with art (and craft), in education, with children, teachers and their families, in the community.
The ways that emerged were innovative and responsive to then contemporary theories and technologies that had relevance to both art and education. Recently, in part, because of considerable concernregarding the status of art in education, this history, other local histories, have ignited considerable interest (see, for example, Bieringa, 2016; Craw & O’Sullivan, 2016;
“...the arts ...are integral and inseparable parts of what it is to be human... The challenge ... is that the ben- efits of art, ...[is] not always readily available to every New Zealander. [It] should be. Every one of us”
We have yet to understand the current policy directions for art in education as they might (not) be reflected in the recent speeches delivered by Jacinda Adern, our Minister for Arts,Culture & Heritage.
In an earlier speech, Adern states, “[a]rts and culture are not a ‘nice to have’. They are an essential part of our individual, community and national identity. For too long they have been treated differently when it comes to sustainable growth, career paths and eco- nomic benefits,” (n.p.).
Adern’s speeches emphasise the importance of galleries and museums, the sustainability of art in our communities, this is so great. The ‘pedagogical turn’ discourses in art are very much alive, and effective: the galleries, museums and other community sites that are taking up this challenge and making art available in the community, to wider audi- ences, are gaining considerable momentum, perhaps.
With and alongside this,the business of art education is growing too. However, what’s missing in Adern’s speeches is any articu- lated wisdom that makes the connections with how essential the benefits of art might be being played out (yet), let alone be readily available in the everyday lives of ALL chil- dren within the childhood milieu of its more formal public educational institutions.