Teaching with Contemporary Art


Allan McCollum, "Drawings 1989/93"

Allan McCollum, "Drawings 1989/93"

In order to create his art, Season 5 artist Allan McCollum incorporates the time-tested strategy of teamwork. Huge installations and projects that no one person could possibly pull off by themselves are essentially the product of working collaboratively with assistants, scientists, and craftspeople from, well, everywhere. Without these people to help create and arrange his mammoth works, Allan would probably either be working on a much smaller scale or banging his head against the wall trying to figure out how to do everything at once.

Teaching is a lot like this.

In order to “pull off” successful and engaging classes, we often have to work with others to research and construct units of study that are meaningful, age-appropriate, and most of all, fun. The best units, lessons, projects, and works of art that get created in any art education setting are often the result of teamwork- from teachers initiating the ideas to administration and community support to parent involvement to student effort. It’s a nice parallel to Allan McCollum’s work because when you see an installation of his drawings or sculptures, you’re often left breathless. When you hear and see a class really clicking, really constructing meaningful work and making meaning, you’re also tempted to step back in awe of the whole process.

In a school year already layered with many challenges that relate to budget cuts, shortage of personnel and limited patience, Allan McCollum’s example of teamwork reminds us that with others so much more is possible than going at it alone.

Don’t forget to catch tonight’s episode, Systems, featuring work by Allan McCollum, at 10pm (ET) on PBS.