Reflections from the 2012 InSEA/ USSEA Conference, Indianapolis, USA

Marjorie Manifold, USA    -     While the thermometer rose to over 100 steamy degrees outside, attendees of the 2012 InSEA/USSEA Conference in Indianapolis (June 23-26) gathered together in the cool interior of the Crowne Plaza Union Station in downtown Indianapolis, to enjoy, share, and participate in a series of thought provoking presentations and inspirational workshops. The conference began on Saturday with welcoming speeches by representatives of various organizations that provided support to these events. Dean Gerardo Gonzales, of Indiana University’s School of Education, spoke of the importance of art education not only to those who would pursue careers in art, but to those who seek careers across disciplines in every field of endeavor. “To be an artist,” he remarked, “is to be fearless on some level.” 

Hilary Kahn, Director of the Center for the Study of Global Change, spoke of the role of the arts in bringing about global awareness, challenging stereotypes, and engaging ideas about the world and otherness within local communities. Following introductory speeches, Cheryl Williams, a lifetime member of USSEA, presented Kenneth Marantz, founding father and the first president of USSEA, with the inaugural USSEA-Kenneth Marantz Distinguished Fellows Award, which is named in his honor. Thus began three days of keynote addresses, presentations, and workshops related to cultural art education in global contexts. Highlights included an address by Enid Zimmerman on practical considerations about creativity in global contexts. 

Juan Carlos Castro’s delineated dynamics and qualities of knowing, learning and teaching art through new and social media as understood through complexity thinking and network theory. Elizabeth Delacruz presented many examples of student and young adult engagements with new media and socially interactive art learning in cyber environments. Alexandra McNichols-Torreledo stirred deep emotions with her conversation about the plight of the Embera and Wounan people in Chocó, Columbia – a presentation she backed with an extraordinary 20 piece photographic exhibition commissioned by the United Nations High Council for Refugees (UNHCR).

Workshops informed teachers with activities that: modeled how students of Project School weave themes throughout the curricula; introduced Interdependence Hexagon Project, and Peace Flag initiatives; and informed about artistic realization technologies for special needs to students; and described engaging methods for using ArtQuest© Technologies in the classroom. 

Presentations included symposia topics as diverse as – dialogues about how studio art instruction is being transformed by adopting practices of young people who teach and learn art making in interest-driven online communities, the “unobvious” influence of gravity upon the creative arts, considerations of how museums can serve as informal learning spaces and spaces for interdisciplinary discourse, and a challenge to the entrenched postmodern ideological perspective. Visual and paper presentations revealed inspiring and effectual ways of teaching empathy and caring, culturally sensitive teaching to and about Native American and Hispanic cultures; demonstrated how practicing Islamic or Korean calligraphy might serve as gateways to understanding cultural ideals; and considered how youth from impoverished neighborhoods might be empowered through community arts.

In addition to these intellectually stimulating presentations, the conference was site of several extraordinary exhibitions of art, including: a selection of evocatively beautiful, thought-provoking quilts made by women in response to and incident of racial discrimination and violence; twenty large photographs documenting the plight of indigenous peoples of Columbia, “Art for Empowerment: Healing through Art” a poignant collection of images created by abused girls and women; A selection of children’s artworks from the USSEA Art Exchange; Historic photographs and artworks made by children of Hiroshima soon after the 1945 bombing of that city, and a collection of contemporary artworks created by children of Japan. The latter group of images included 17 winning entries of the 71st National Exhibition of Art in Education in Japan.

Finally, on Tuesday afternoon, as outdoor temperatures rose to a sweltering 104 degrees, the last diehard conference attendees headed to the Indianapolis Museum of Art to enjoy a tour of the many wonderful works of art housed in air-conditioned comfort. A special thank to all the members of USSEA, InSEA, AEAI, and students of Indiana University (Bloomington and Indianapolis) who helped contribute to the success of the conference.

Kazuyo Nakamura,  Japan: I appreciate the InSEA/USSEA conference at Indianapolis because I found many presentations that would question the values that I had taken for granted and that helped me shed light on people’s values that escaped my attention. Such a conference makes a huge contribution to the development of humanistic democracy on a global scale, and by attending the conference I have renewed my awareness of the important role of art education in a democratic community.

Masami Toku, USA  -  It is always wonderful to participate in Art Educational conferences such as NAEA and InSEA to see my old friends and meet new friends not only from the US but also from all over the world. The 2nd InSEA/USSEA Conference in Indianapolis, US was no exception; rather, it became personally one of the most memorable summer trips, not only for me but for my family, since my husband is from the Midwest. This time, we flew from Chico, in California to Chicago and then drove down to Indianapolis. At the conference, I presented, “Another Role of Art Education: Development of a Therapeutic Art Project for Children”, which is a new collaborative project called “Koi-nobori (carp wind streamer) art project”, as a therapy for children, who suffered from the tragedy that happened in Japan (9.0 M earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear plant crisis, 3/11/11). Koi-Noboris is a traditional carp-shaped windsock to celebrate the national Children's Day with the hope that the children will grow up healthy and strong.

I also invited audience members to participate in the upcoming project in Japan at the conference. In response to my invitation, two of my colleagues from the conference, Patricia Belleville from Eastern Illinois University, and Barbara Caldwell from Iowa State University, sent their wonderful koi artworks to Fukushima, Japan. As a result, their artworks were displayed with other artworks from all over the world in the exhibition space at Fukushima International Airport (8/11-9/23/2012) as part of the 2012 Fukushima Contemporary Art Biennale. This is an ongoing project. I hope that many people will be interested in participating in the koi-art project as it goes forward.

Khanobbhorn Wattanasukchai, Thailand  -  It was the first time I attended an InSEA conference. I appreciate all the organizers of the conference, especially Marjorie Manifold for arranging everything for us. We had a good time, with my first special lunch with people from many countries. Through my participation at the congress, I gained more knowledge about different issues in Art education. One of my important impressions from the conference is that I met Professor Zimmerman, who was the advisor of my teacher. We shared many ideas about the future of art education. I also made new friends from many countries, such as Switzerland, Kazakhstan and Colombia. We shared our ideas about theories in art education, and our experiences in their application in the teaching of art. The workshops were very useful in helping me learn new techniques that I can now use with my students.

The city of Indianapolis has many interesting museums. I appreciate all the colleagues who took me to the Indianapolis Museum of Art. At the Indiana State Museum, I had a delicious lunch at the River View Terrace. Through these museum visits, I had the opportunity to experience the rich cultural and natural history of the state of Indiana. I was really impressed with a volunteer staff at the R.B.Annis Naturalist’s Lab, who had traveled around the world and we exchanged some ideas and experiences about art museums. At the Eiteljorg Museum, I was attracted by their variety of Western and Native American art and cultural artifacts. I also attended the Indianapolis Children’s Museum, which was a very interesting. There were value activities for both children and adults and I participated in many activities and had a good time. Most people at all places that I visited were very helpful and I had a good time. Finally, I thank all the conference staff members and I am glad I met all the conference participants. I had a good time and good experience with 2012 InSEA/USSEA Conference in Indianapolis and I wish I would have an opportunity to join the next conference again.

Elizabeth Burkhauser, USA   -   The USSEA/InSEA Conference in Indianapolis began, for me, at NAEA in New York City where I met, Mousumi De and Elke Kazmierczak, Marjorie Manifold and Steve Willis – all inviting me to the conference in June.  They encouraged me to submit a proposal for a presentation and workshop to share the International Interdependence Hexagon Project, which I chair.  I am very happy to have made these connections – for I feel our Hexagons have found a “home” and a platform for our mission – to support young artists throughout the world in an exploration of their interconnectedness.  This is accomplished, visually and metaphorically, by creating art inside of a downloadable hexagonal template on themes of a social justice nature. I was also given a space in the exhibit area to display some of the hexagons created by junior and senior high school students from the 2011 exhibition and was able to spread the word about the 2012 Project, our 7th year, which has a June 30, 2013 deadline. It was a joy to meet, interact with, and listen to, so many art educators with the common intention of “Teaching for Global Understanding and Engagement.”

This conference was not only rich with thematic content delivered by distinguished leaders in our field but also small and intimate enough to allow us to have informal conversations with icons like Enid Zimmerman, Elizabeth Delacruz, Juan Carlos Castro. I also became my friend Elka Kazmierczak’s participants in her most interesting research project on ‘Art for Empowerment.” Other memorable moments were meeting Alexandra McNichols, and viewing her photographs of the displaced Imbera People in Columbia. We have kept in touch through the summer as she planned her her trip back to Columbia in August. 

Also, Elizabeth Delacruz’ presentation opened up so many social networking possibilities – for both my art ed students at Keystone College where I teach but also for the Hexagon Project itself:  “Push your content out there”, we live in a user-generated world!  Juan Carlos Castro’s presentation was the most stimulating for me: A view of the future of teaching in a networked world.  I had to use hexagons for my note taking – they needed to be far from the linear…I feel very fortunate to have been among kindred spirits in education and life – and I think that was our commonality:  as humans on this planet, we believe in the necessity of seeing ourselves as part of a global civil society and, as educators and artists, we believe that arts in education can – and should – play a role. I’m very grateful for having been among you and look forward building further connections.