A Vision for Art Education Part One: Space and Media


Vision 1


When examining the art room environment today, we notice that the arrangement of furnishings isn’t much different than the general education class setup. Both have either tables or desks with assigned seats that the students are expected to remain in during class. Talking is held to a minimum in both spaces and collaboration between students is often restricted to teacher-designed groups. There is one teacher with approximately 30 students per class and the students have little contact with anyone outside of their designated room number.

A certain sense of order and control is established in this environment but is this arrangement the most conducive to the art-making process? Let’s take a look at a few out-of-the-box room arrangements and consider the possibilities of the future art education setting.


Separation of Studio and Classroom Space

The traditional art room is designed for one function to take place at a time. For example, in the conventional configuration, it would be difficult to teach a lesson to one group of students while other students were walking around the room or working on projects.

Many shop classes have overcome this issue by separating the lesson area from the workspace. Auto tech classes will often have the garage to work on cars and a separate classroom setting for book work.

Art classes could take a lesson from shop classes and separate the lesson area from the studio. Teachers that needed to share a lesson could pull a group of students into the classroom setting. Meanwhile, the studio space would be free from the traditional desks-in-rows design. This arrangement would allow for workspaces to be set up by media. The studio would then have room for a painting center with rows of easels, a drawing center with drafting tables and any number of other configurations.


Invisible Borders

Taking this concept further, studio spaces that are in close proximity could be shared by multiple teachers at the same time. The borders that exist between different levels of classes (I.e. Art One, Art Two, etc.) could be erased. Students of all levels could work in one studio space providing advanced opportunities for learning, collaborating, and assessing work.

In a shared environment, multiple teachers could demonstrate different concepts for different levels and the students could decide which demos they wanted to or needed to attend.

Imagine one of the teachers in this space as she is about to provide a short demo on one-point linear perspective. She announces that she will be presenting this lesson to a studio filled with different students at different levels. A previously label Art One student, who has never been exposed to linear perspective, decides to sit in along with an Art Two student who is seeking a refresher. Meanwhile, another student who has already mastered one-point perspective in middle school decides to move on to something more relevant.

Stocking the 21st Century Art Room

The art room of the future will need to stock the storage room with materials that go beyond those items listed in the fine art supply catalogues. While the room will still be fully equipped with traditional art supplies such as paint, pastels, and pencils, we need to save room on the other side of the supply closet for materials that will spark the creative imagination of the 21st century artist. Cement, joint compound, chicken wire, and birdseed might only scratch the surface of the materials we decide to stock. Likewise, new technologies such as 3D printers, LCD projectors, video, and cellphones should all be considered “materials” that might be used to produce art.

The Future of Art Displays

While the display case and the bulletin board have long been staples of the art class gallery space, the future art teacher needs to consider any space as display space. We need to train our students, as well as ourselves, to break free of the gallery mentality. Art can and should be displayed in the courtyards of our buildings. Our students should be creating directly on our school walls, decorating our hallway lockers and adding designs to our school fences. Check out these almost legal street art projects for more ideas.

Artists have always been known as people who think outside the box. As art teachers, we excel at this type of thinking when it comes to the lessons and projects we offer our students. It’s time we took a look at the box we are all creating in, including the classrooms we share, the materials we use, and the way we display the art our students produce.


Does anyone teach in a space like those described above? 

What is your vision for the future art ed classroom?


Ian Sands

This article was written by former AOE writer and choice-based art education expert, Ian Sands.


  • Lorraine Pulvino Poling

    In my last job- a HS- there were two of us. The room was intended for one person. The room was L shaped and we had 2 classes going at the same time, one in each of the L arms. Sometimes within any given class there would be different levels of instruction (and sometimes different courses) Some semesters we had a third teacher there, during one of our planning periods. Oh, we teachers also flipped sides of the room at different periods during the day, depending on courses offered. Our situation was looked on as “less than ideal” by other art teachers. Funny how this could be considered a “futuristic” plan. It worked for us- because we got along- we had different teaching styles, but the same basic philosophies. ( the third teacher did not fit well- drove us both crazy). The students definitely benefited (I could go on about this for pages). But if we teachers did not mesh the way we did it would have been a disaster.

  • Clara Crosby

    My elementary k-5 art room is becoming more and more a choice based art studio and as this is happening I am finding myself totally rearranging the room design and materials needed. I am learning from my students what I need to do. If I could just pick one word to describe what is happening I’d say: reflection! I used to go from project to project. It was so all about me. Now, I am the studio location and I provide choices and opportunities. Then, I stand back, watch, listen, and REFLECT. From this reflecting time I know what my next demo will be about. It is an exciting time in my career in art education!

  • Jared Hulstine

    Great article. Yet again, Ian writes somehow knowing what I am yearning for in my teaching practice. I need to hear this reassuring and questioning voice more.

  • Great food for thought as we transition into an age where learning styles are different from what our parents and grandparents knew; budgets, materials, and infrastructure are at once expanding and contracting in a variety of ways; and our jobs as educators are increasingly demanding and potentially rewarding! Thinking outside the box addresses all these issues!