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The Learning Conference 2003

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Presentation Details


Making Sure it doesn't Add Up - Artists and Learners as Multimodal Agents in South African and Swiss Classrooms

David P. Andrew.

The title of this paper is drawn from the writing of Malcolm Ross, Hilary Radnor, Cathy Bierton and Sally Mitchell in their book, "Assessing Achievement in the Arts" (1993). In this book the following observation is made: "School art, at its worst, is the art of the bureaucrat: neat, safe, predictable, orthodox....School art adds up: the real thing rarely does".

This paper informs a broader research project between the School of Arts at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, and a non-governmental organisation, the Curriculum Development Project. This research project investigates how artists can take on roles in South African classrooms and community art centres to ensure the implementation of critical and creative arts and culture education programmes for learners from reception year to grade 9, and also at the Further Education and Training level (grades 10 to 12).

The starting point for this aspect of the research project is the perceived affinity between an emerging multiliteracies framework and the manner in which some contemporary artists work, and their engagement with learners in 'artists in schools' programmes.
Through a study of the interactions in an 'artists in schools' project at the Fouriesburg Intermediate School in the eastern Free State province this paper begins to map an artists's way of working onto an emerging multiliteracies framework, and vice versa, as a way of understanding the moments of compatibility, and also the tensions present in such a relationship.

The project between artists and learners at the Fouriesburg Intermediate School draws on a number of similar projects dealing with the representation of self in both South Africa and Switzerland. The bringing together of opportunities for self representation grounded in the familiar, the presence of both the artist and the learners as agents of multimodal strategies, and the possibilities afforded by audiences other than those traditionally linked to the school. are foregounded as a combination of factors that provide for critical learning experiences.

As part of the larger research project this paper aims to suggest ways in which a stronger engagement between some contemporary artists' ways of working and a multiliteracies framework might inform the design of an accredited artists in schools education and training programme. Further to this is the suggestion that this engagement might provide a path for the transformation of local arts and culture education teacher training programmes, if not other programmes too.


David P. Andrew  (South Africa)
Senior Lecturer in Fine Arts
Department of Fine Arts Wits School of Arts Faculty of Humanities
University of the Witwatersrand

David Andrew is a practising artist and senior lecturer in the Department of Fine Arts, Wits School of Arts, at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. He has been a member of the Wits Multiliteracies group since 2001.

  • Artists in Schools
  • Contemporary art
  • Multiliteracies
  • Multimodal
  • Audience
  • Accreditation
  • Transformation of arts and culture education programmes
  • Representation of self

(30 min Conference Paper, English)