(A Sculpted (S)p(l)ace)
or A/r/tography in
Alex F. de Cosson, Kit Grauer,
Rita L. Irwin, & Sylvia Kind © 2005
University of British Columbia, Vancouver
A small opening of words
housing a gentle caress
of digital sculpture
of Sculpted Resolutions
Our research with
Learning Through The Arts™ (LTTA) found, among other things, that
artists-in-residence change pedagogical understandings
of teachers and teacher candidates (Kind, Irwin, Grauer,
de Cosson, 2005; Irwin, Wilson Kind, Grauer, de Cosson, 2005; Grauer, Irwin, de Cosson, Wilson, 2001). In this writing, we
explore the development of a project in teacher education
that is grounded in our LTTA research yet moves to
an innovative and transformative space and place for
negotiated meaning making. The project is the newly
created Margaret Grauer Teaching from the Heart cohort in
the elementary teacher education program at the University
of British Columbia (UBC) in which several artists
are working closely with university instructors, the
teacher candidates and the classroom sponsor teachers
in an effort to integrate the arts throughout the curriculum.
It is a professional development model that sees teacher
education as a lifelong and life-wide journey.
One of us, Alex de
Cosson, was not only involved in the original LTTA
research but is now one of the artists in this program.
As an artist steeped in the methodological and pedagogical
implications of our LTTA work, Alex not only brings
his scholarly and pedagogical understandings to the
project, he also brings his many years as a practicing
artist. What follows is a text that moves between Alex’s
voice as an artist-in-residence (handwriting and italicized
fonts) for this program and our collective voices as
researchers and educators engaged in the overall process
A (S)p(l)ace of Artist-in-Residence
Images of spiraling
Pine Cones weaving throughout this paper are by students
from the Teaching from the Heart cohort inspired by
the artwork of Andy Goldsworthy.
As I walked the halls of the familiar
building I kept my eyes, ears and senses open to new
spaces. I walked with my digital camera in a constant
rapid-fire state of action. I was interested in trying
to see anew a (s)p(l)ace I know well (and yet do not
know) having taught here for the past seven years.
Many ideas had
been flowing as I embraced my new position as artist-in-residence
to the first year of UBC’s Teaching from the Heart
cohort, a cohort whose philosophy can be appreciated
by reading Kit Grauer’s (in press) “My Mother Wore
Pink.” Kit remembers that her mother “never called herself an artist but her life revolved around art.” It
is this sentiment of art as a conduit to deeper understanding
that plays itself out in the beginning days of the
new cohort. We have a dancer, a sculptor and a ceramicist
on the team all introducing aesthetic ways of knowing
to eager student teacher candidates. We engage early
Alex de Cosson on the left, Heather Mackay on the
right, and a full complement of the Teaching from the
Heart cohort teacher candidates.
The teacher candidates dance and
sculpt curriculum from day one of their program.
They sing with joy as the sun shines and they are
invited to run outside to follow artist Andy Goldsworthy’s
example of non-intrusive environmental art making.
They are asked to embrace their emotions and to teach
with an open heart. It is hoped that the inclusion
of artists will help them see the joy of teaching
and learning through a holistic lens.
I am the sculptor on the team and
I am also their art-methods instructor scheduled
in their first semester. I shall be with them throughout
the eleven-month program including their nine-week
practicum when I will be an artist-in-residence in
A (S)p(l)ace of Risk
To be an artist-in-residence
has its risks; the question of how the artist can retain
his or her artist identity, while being subsumed into
the school culture, is one that Margaret Meban (2002) looks at from an autobiographical perspective
with interesting results. For Meban it was a matter
of losing her identity as an artist; “My experience as an artist-in-residence reveals a process of
enculturation whereby the school's values gradually
took precedence over my values as an artist (np).”
Our LTTA research
showed us the importance of artists’ embodied involvement moving through a curriculum
(Irwin, et al, 2005). We also had occasion to observe
teacher candidates interaction with artists. One teacher
candidate commented, “I learnt more from the artists
than all my university classes.” She
was most probably overstating the fact but it did illustrate
the positive pedagogical implications of having artists
working with teacher candidates as they navigate their
early steps into their teaching lives. In the Teaching
from the Heart cohort we chose to start the artist/teacher
candidate interaction from the first pedagogical moments
of the program and to keep it embodied throughout.
A (S)p(l)ace of (Un)certainties
a question nagged at me,
hat am I wearing today?”
am used to teaching as an artist in the art-methods
class, however this new position forced me to constantly
assess my actions. To wear my artist hat with integrity,
while engaging in a pedagogical truthfulness, is my
goal. It is too early in the process to know how well
or honestly I shall succeed, but it is my goal to stay
true to my artist self and give artist’s eyes to the
teacher candidates of the
from the Heart cohort.
A (S)p(l)ace of Methodological Underpinnings
A/r/tography (Irwin & de
Cosson, 2004) allows for new understandings in educational
research. It is a methodology that flows from the artist/researcher/teacher
a scaffolding of metaphors and metonyms I engage
in the three-dimensional (nested) praxis of a sculptor
walking/writing an understanding of this active,
engaged and embodied working process.
A sculpture defines itself through itself;
it references the world as a living embodiment of its
surroundings, in relational aptitude, it points to comprehensible
(possibilities) for all who seek. Its (possible) simplicity
transcends “boundaries imposed by outmoded discipline-based
structures” (Gude, 2004, 8). It has a multiplicity of
meanings through the lenses of postmodernism and (non)modernism,
a pluralistic understanding contextualized by its location
and the prior knowledge of a viewer who engages in a
dialogic (Bakhtin, 1981; de Cosson, 2004; de Cosson,
2001) viewing relationship.
finished sculpture sits awkwardly amidst the forest canopy,
a (walked) rock entwined in cedar bark, a hybrid (Minh-ha,
1992) of forms, a third space (Bhabha, 1990) of visual
complexity, a (s)p(l)ace of mixing and matching, slipping
and sliding, through metonymic (Aoki, Low & Palulis,
2001) and metaphorical nuances.
a sculpture is engaged in its own (re)creation, articulated
through the medium of writing (Richardson, 2000). As
nature claims for itself the twines of its existence,
so an (inter)relational walking/writing temporal space
of being-becoming is in continual flux within each
of us as we come to terms with our teaching and learning
A (S)p(l)ace of
It is with/in
a contextualized space of the Neville Scarfe (SCARFE) education building on the
UBC campus that I bring myself to question an issue
of personal relevance. If, as I contend, it is an
artist’s job to see a-new, to (re)engage with spaces
known too well by those who inhabit them, then how
can my engagement with its spaces bring new meaning,
and how relevant may these insights be to others?
What can a sculptor
bring to an institutional setting that is different,
engaging and challenging? What, in other words, would
make for a new learning of the already known? This
is an archetypal quandary of education.
I walk to see
a world enacted
see things I’ve never seen before” (Long, 1988)
I walk to think …
I walk to find meaning through my stepping
One after another
my strides define
who I am becoming
that which is yet to come.
our research demonstrated, an artist-in-residence frees
the teacher and the student teacher candidate from pre
conceived notions of school culture to begin new journeys
in teaching and learning (Irwin, et al, 2005; Kind et
al, 2005; Grauer, et al, 2001).
walking artist Hamish Fulton (1999) says, “Walking is
the constant. The art medium is the variable (30)” and
on a previous page, “Occasionally I make route-finding
mistakes (28).” These are the mistakes that feed the
artist self; mistakes that open to new possibilities
that are a constant horizon change.
was with this in mind that I said to the teacher candidates
on the last day of their first term, “Don’t cut your
threads, you never know where they might lead” this
in response to a textiles project they had recently
been working on. This is the philosophy I shall continue
to walk with.
we walk together over the next seven months, through
the trials of early classroom teaching and many more
methods courses I hope the artists-in-residence will
help give the teacher candidates the heart they need
to face their teacher selves with confidence, joy and
integrity, knowing it is a constant journey of discovery
and beings becoming. As one school principal said to
them on a field trip to her school, “Every child in
our school is our child, not just the children in your
class.” This was a great moment of securing the philosophy
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