You hear it often enough, ‘You have to see the real thing, it so different’. As an art teacher you know this well, the days of scratchy slides in a half darkened room may be long gone, replaced now by large scale digital screens at the front of the classroom. The possibilities on offer to an art teachers (and all teachers of course) have improved enormously during the last decade. But still, the chance to see art, design, architecture, theatre, dance, music and other cultural forms for real, first hand, offers so much more.
A fabulous case in point is an exhibition of the Dutch fashion designer Jan Taminiau that I have visited today. I’ve referred to his work in my lessons at school in the context of a fashion design assignment that I use with my groups of 15-16 year olds. Examples and cultural references are important in my work as a teacher. Not in the sense of showing pupils what I expect them to do. It is more a question of firing the imagination and showing them the possibilities; possibilities that often go way beyond their wildest imagination. There is so much that I’d like to show and share with them.
But the limitations of the classroom, even with its generous display screen at the front and pupils with tablet, laptop or phone screens available to them, can’t match seeing the real thing. What it would mean to be able to bring my groups of budding fashion designers to the Centraalmuseum in Utrecht to see Taminiau’s exhibition?
The exhibition oozes qualities that grab your attention. The elegant silhouette’s that he creates, the rich use of colour and the, quite literally, dazzling textures and structures of the surface of the fabrics. This would have been the most amazing teaching aid to the above mentioned assignment.
I have photographically documented as much of the work as I can. I’ll be using it next school year I’m sure. Teaching fashion design is just a little outside of my comfort zone, but I do like to do it once in a while. But oh, how I would like to let the pupils see such an exhibition. But then the same is true of so many of the shows that I see. The museum world in the big cities, certainly in Europe, is booming. The challenge is finding a way to be able to get pupils to visit them in the context of the educational programs that they are following. More often it seems to happen in a rather detached sort of day out to the city that often seems to have rather vague educational aims……the fully focused and contextualized field trip is a sadly underused and rather squeezed out aspect of contemporary education. But the detail of that is a post for another day.