Sunday, October 24, 2010

Should Art Be A Competition?



I have been thinking about this question all week. I posed the question on my FACEBOOK wall to stir up discussion. We all have our own experiences and opinions about this topic. Life is a competition. Why not include ART in that scheme? I am an artist. My art is just as vital and valuable as any other human who takes the time to create. However in the art life scheme of things, it gets thrown to the jurors (lambs or wolves?) who sit before our work as grand judges. Who are they to decide?

The whole idea of art as competition rubs me the wrong way. In recent years, I have steered clear of any shows that reeked of the idea of “art as sport” "who will win the trophy?" kind of deals. “I AM BETTER THAN YOU ARE!! NONNY NONNY POO POO!” I am just over that part of my art life. In the past, it did me well. I have won my share of “best” of this, that, and the other. I have won the pots of gold. That isn’t really important to me anymore because I know I am the best I can be.

Also, I have been a judge and part of art juries. I know how it works. If the exhibition is local, it is obvious whose art is whose. Thus, the judge often picks the artists with names or their friends. If the show is national, the jury will pick their SUBJECTIVE choices. Usually, these decisions fulfill some kind of personal agenda. The judgment could be based on the kind of art they like, the kind of art they do, the kind of art the gallery wants to show, etc. etc. When you get rejected it might not have anything to do with the quality of your art at all.

Actually, the reason this question has been bothering me has very little to do with what I just wrote. As an art educator, I am expected to enter the art of my students in a few exhibitions throughout the year. The most recent option is a show for 3rd to 5th graders. Some of you know I work with kids with emotional and behavior issues at a special ed school. There are very few students in that grade bracket, but we worked away on our projects trying to illustrate the theme. We have worked a month on these drawings with computer typed stories. We are allowed five entries. Since getting these kids to produce ANYTHING is a true miracle the fact I had five kids complete the project made us do a happy dance. We managed to get our exhibition worthy pieces together and submitted them.

On Tuesday, our five pieces will be “JURIED” in or out of this elementary art show. This bothers me to no end. How am I going to tell any one or two or three or four or five kids……”SORRY, your work got rejected. They didn’t want your art in the art show.” The whole idea of having to break the news to them just freaks me out. They already have rejection issues. Now their art might be rejected too? I just don’t like the idea at all. Yes, it is important to teach kids about life, but there should be time for them to create and express without the fear of being judged. That is why this art as competition idea drives me NUTS!

8 comments:

sara star said...

There are two separate issues here. The special ed kids art and potential disappointment if they aren't accepted. And adult artists entering juried shows.

Adult artists can be judged objectively by standards of art: line, color, shading, texture and composition and subjectively over the content of the picture and the ideas expressed.

Truly some ideas have been over done or are not relevant to some audiences.

For the special ed children, I suggest speaking to the school and asking if you could have section of the art show where all of your kids art can be included since the disappointment might be too hard to deal with.

Sheree Rensel said...

Sara,
I mentioned I had two different issues going on right in the post. I disagree with your "special ed" kids theory. I don't think ANY elementary student should have to deal with jurors. As far as "speaking to the school" is concerned, this show is a school district promoted show. They are aware of differences among students at all schools in the district. I would love for my students to be able to "compete" on a level playing field, but that isn't possible in some cases. However, there are kids in other schools who have difficulties of their own. How can you choose who to jury IN or OUT? This just seems very sad, but silly all at the same time.

JafaBrit's Art said...

the best lesson a teacher or parent can give is to teach children what is important (their personal best) and how to deal with competition/s.
It is one of the aspects of american culture I have not found endearing and tried to raise my kids away from this type of thinking.

Sheree Rensel said...

Jaf,
You are right. Kids need to know their best is important. I do think we have to teach our children about rejection, but there will be plenty of time for that as they age. It just seems elementary school should be a time to grow and thrive. To be shot down especially over their own artistic endeavors is hard for me to swallow. However, it is the way of the world (or as you say "American culture"). :-(

JafaBrit's Art said...

I think this must be horrible as a teacher. I hope you are able to find a way to help them understand in a way that won't crush their spirit.

artjas said...

I don't think that elementary school special ed kids should be exposed to the competitive side of our society at this early age. This kind of rejection could do more harm than good. Don't let Art be another example of "You don't fit in."

Jesse Noe Mendez said...

I think that as long as the kids heart is in it, that just being allowed to participate in any elitist art show should absolutely flatter them. If not, well then what is the motivation behind creating art for your teacher?

xooxxo

deb said...

I agree that art should not be about fitting in, or meeting some standard not at their age, maybe not ever, do we really live in such scarcity that there is not enough room for all our talents? art isn't about doing it right.