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Adapted from "Points of View," in Communication, Number Three in a Series of K-12 Guides. New York: Center for Global Perspectives, 1977. pp 5-7.
Cultural universals, the lifestyles and beliefs of people, are the glue that binds the peoples of the world into global synchronicity. This is, and has been, true across cultures and across time. One way of reinforcing this concept is to lead the students to observe the universals as represented in works of art from various cultures at different junctures in history.
The major goal of this activity is to show students that artists through the ages have sought to represent their cultures in works of art, indicating both the positive and negative features of that society. Art leaves a record which enables us "to see" another culture at another time-and to realize that whatever the time, people were universally engaged in common activities.
The progress indicators cited reflect desirable end goals. Teachers should be prepared to use a wide variety of observational, testing and authentic achievement evaluation measures in judging the progress of students.
Exposing students to the vast sweep of history as represented through works of art can prompt them to critically view the lives of peoples across the globe at various periods of time; by charting out the comparisons and contrasts between and among the representations, they will recognize the universality of human existence.
Please use discretion in your choices; most art of early centuries tends to be reflective of the wealthy aristocracy of the country.
Present the students with three or four art representations which reveal aspects of a particular culture and depict people going about their daily lives. Using a charting device on the overhead or chalkboard, the teacher will guide students in identifying "ordinary" and "extraordinary" moments represented by the pictures. After this discussion, ask the students to generalize about the value of art as an historical record; on the viewpoint of the artist in representing the culture; on the notion of "patronage" and its influence on the artist's perspective, etc.
Divide the class into small groups and either assign them to computer stations for an Internet search or distribute a spectrum of art books. Direct the students to research other examples of cultural representation. At this juncture, however, have the students add the dimension of time comparison: use representations of similar time periods across cultures. Ask them to account for geographical, economic, political, social and cultural influences on the representation.
Invite the class to consider how every person-whether artist or not-has a point-of-view and a style. Note that an aspect of this perspective is culturally or environmentally determined while another is uniquely personal.
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