Does Fairness Matter when Showcasing Artwork?
Choosing artwork for special shows can be a daunting task for art teachers. Personally, when it comes to selecting student artwork for shows, I freeze like a Popsicle!
First, I wait until the last minute, because being asked to pick one student over another it is the worst part of my job. I dread it! Then at the last possible moment, I go about the judging like any sane person would do. I take out 100’s of student pieces spread them all over the floor, stand on a table, and stare into the sea of work. Comparing one students work against another is what I try NOT to do, but sometimes I have no choice. The following steps outline the process I use to determine which student artwork will be in the show.
3 Simple Steps to Choosing Student Artwork
1. What is the student COMMITMENT TO ART? Do they take their time? Do they do homework? Do they participate in discussions about art?
2. Does the student have good attendance in art? Will the student and parent “show up” at the event? After all, there’s no point in having art hanging on the wall if the student never gets to see it!
3. DOES THE STUDENT BEHAVE APPROPRIATELY? Believe it or not, I have students who fit both of the above criteria but their behavior in other areas of school is not stellar. If the student represents our school in the art show they have to respect school rules. I don’t know everything about every kid, but I have put back a few very strong pieces because the student did not participate in other specials. That was hard to do!
Even after going through all of the questions, you may still find you have a surplus of artwork that still fits the criteria.
It’s hard to know what to do. There is added pressure for me because in our district wide art show, there are “winners!” It’s a juried art show! This creates a lot of drama. All the winners have ribbons on their artwork. (Ribbons to me always make it look more like a county fair then an art show!) This year we had only one winner, which was not unusual. Even when we’ve had more winners I could never understand the reason why a piece “won” over another piece! Art is so subjective, isn’t it?
So this year, I put it out there on my blog. Mrs. E and others had some great ideas! Mrs. E. from Texas wrote, “You should make some great pins for your artists to wear identifying them as the artists. Your kiddos would feel special, it would take away the sting of not receiving district ribbons, and I bet people would sit up and take notice….” I thought that was smart! So, I went to our local medal shop, got all my students medals.
A few people (“non artists”) found out about my solution and I was shocked at their response. Some said, “They have to learn they’re not always going to win” and “you have to teach them how to be a good sport” finally, “there are winners and there are losers.”
I never thought about it like this!
I thought the drama would end here, but wait…. there’s more! Back at the ranch (aka elementary school) I had parents e-mailing me for an explanation of why their child wasn’t selected for art show or awards. To put it bluntly I could care less about the awards, it is the dirty work of being an art teacher. Comparing one child’s work to another’s is what I try to get away from all year and here it is staring me in the face and on my e-mails!
Having no idea how to make my students feel more appreciated then I already do, so I decided to ask them. I asked “How can we make each other feel important and showcase more peoples talents?” A fifth grader decided to take on the task of curating a 5th grade art show! I thought this was a fabulous idea. All the students have to bring in their favorite art piece, so now the responsibility is on THEM to choose!
It seems as though everything had been smoothed over, that is, until next year!
Until then, DO YOU THINK THERE SHOULD BE WINNERS AND LOSERS IN ART?
How do you select art for special shows?