Welcome. This blog site places before you a remarkable man, Charles Beck, an artist and teacher. This monthly series of stories begins by describing Charlie’s ways of being in the world, through my encounters with Charlie in the last decade of his life first as my colleague, then mentor and finally or rather for ever as my dearest friend. Year two of this blog expands to include my own hopefully and enduringly perspectives on art, on teaching and of a certain slant on life inflected by Charlie. ~ Peter London

Toward a Holistic Paradigm in Art Education: Part III of III

"To teach as if the whole world were in the balance."

Elevated, artistic behavior is the natural human behavior whenever there is a congruence of mind, body and spirit. It is what artists and creative people and lovers report all the time. And there is no reason why the exchange between teacher and student could not achieve similar results. Especially in the arts. Any education that seeks to elevate behavior, seeks to address in fullness the task of healing the world, requires an education of the mind, the body, the spirit. Especially in the arts.

Evidence from the Deep Structure of Art

The deep structure of art, a primary urge and satisfaction of the aesthetic impulse,  is to perceive, what Gregory Batteson termed the pattern that connects. The primary value, talent, and goal of the artist is to perceive the pattern wherein each contributing entity is simultaneously distinctive and related to every other entity. That is the work of art. That is artist’s contribution to society. It is this single trait, revealing the patterns that connect before others take note of them, that both endears us to those we flatter, and enrages those whose sins are thus exposed. 

The pattern that connects is one in which each contributing entity’s distinctiveness is revealed to be more radiant by the company it keeps. The most profound of our artists, perceive and portray something in addition; the sum of the lights cast by any one contributing source reveals more and more important origins and affinities, than any subordinate. Thus the symphony is more, different, and more revealing of the mind of its composer and the nature of nature, than can be accounted for by a list of its notes, or chords, of melodies, or themes, or movements. The play is more than its words, lines, and scenes. Thus the dance, the painting, the quilt, the poem.  Thus the world.  And thus it must follow as the night, the day; so is the human being, that is; we humans are a surprising alloy of mind, body, and spirit whose full measure can only be gauged by a reckoning of all our attributes. And whose potentials will only be realized by nurturing all those attributes.  Thus the charge to our educational systems of attending to the whole child through the efforts of the whole teacher.

What evidence is there for this seemingly radical proposition aside from that which I offer from my own twenty-five years of its practice? The evidence is ample.

§  It is the method of instruction of the Bhuto school of dance-theater of Japan.
§  It is the method of instruction of Gyoto chanting in Tibet and Nepal.
§  The training of mandala painters of Nepal, Tibet and Navaho of the Americas.
§  The method of instruction of the traditional martial arts of China and Japan.
§  The method of training didgeridoo players and dancers of aboriginal Australians.
§  It is the life and manufacture of traditional Shaker architecture and artifacts, song and dance.
§  It is the traditional way of instructing totem pole carvers and mask makers of the People of the First Nations, the Haida and Tinglet of the Pacific Northwest.
§  The training of sun Dancers of the Plaines Indians.
§  The poetry schools of Sufism.
§  The traditional purposes and methods of mask making throughout Asia, Africa, and the Americas.
§  The purposes and method of instruction of the international Waldorf Schools.
§  The training of Olympic level athletes.
§  The training of atmospheric level astronauts.
§  The musical training employed by Yehudi Menhuin, Ravi Shankar, Mickey Harte.
§  The training of Tea Ceremony Masters.
§  The mind, body and spirit of Yoga, Tai Chi, Chi Gung, Tai Kwan Do.
§  The method of instruction of the Kirov Ballet, Alwin Nicolias Dance Co., Mark Morris & Co.
§  The purposes and methods of the Bread and Puppet Theater.
§  The traditional training of cantors in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
§  The purposes and method of instruction for Creation Theology of Mathew Fox in the design of the New Mass.
§  The purposes and methods of the deep ecology movements such as Culture’s Edge at Black Mountain.
§  The arts training programs at holistic centers such as Eselan, Naropa, Omega, Interface the Open Center of New York. 
§  On and On.

Holistic approaches to arts education a radical proposal? Perhaps for art education as most art educators have come to practice it, but common fare for practicing artists. Which it might be again. Want to try?

~Peter London

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