The arts as a fly wheel for innovation

On 10 September 2015 we welcomed in our midst J. Scott Lee, executive director of the Association for Core Texts & Courses (ACTC), an American/Canadian based organisation which promotes core text teaching and reading. A wonderful session at the Utrecht University of the Arts follows.

The audience consists of about 40 people: students of the Master in Arts Education, lecturers and researchers from Utrecht University of the Arts (HKU), colleagues from Utrecht University of Applied Sciences (HU) and others interested.  

Hanke Drop (senior researcher HKU) welcomes the public and introduces the speakers of the session: first of all our guest-lecturer Scott Lee; then Bart van Rosmalen (chair of the research group "arts & professional development"); Til Groenendijk (teacher visual art + pedagogy & didactics); and Iko Doeland (team manager at Rotterdams Vakcollege de Hef).

Scott Lee presents to us his view on the importance of liberal arts education. In the US (as well as in Europe and likewise in the Netherlands) the humanities see themselves forced (for both financial and positional reasons) to ape the sciences' approach of positivist research, publishing, the stress on citation indexes, etc. There is hardly any opportunity for - nor interest in interdisciplinary teaching and research where more innovative, less formatted positivist approaches would do much more justice to the complex societal and global issues of today's and tomorrow's. The interdisciplinary and broad/deepening education is almost limited to liberal arts education, which is a rising educational type within Europe and the Netherlands but currently experiences difficult times in the US and Canada.
Most interesting in Lee's view is how he sees how the arts, underlying liberal arts education, play such an inventive role in our daily life, in education, in our societies, in our world: the arts (like philosophy does - if we could perceive these two as separate domains) reveal to us hidden aspects of our humanity, they bring us other perspectives, they give us tools that help to bring forth a world ourselves.

Bart van Rosmalen then asks the audience to give their reactions: "what terms, words, meanings still cross your mind? Why especially these words?" A short dialogue between the students and others present and Scott Lee comes up.

After this exchange of thoughts Bart invites everybody to the main hall at the fifth floor of the HKU building. There he expresses his artistic reflection on Scott Lee's positions and leads us with his beautiful warm cello tones into self reflections as well.







We all walk back to the room, while accompanied by the cello music...

Then Til Groenendijk starts her artistic reflection on Scott Lee's contribution. 


Imagine that this piece of art (made by Tim Rollins and his Kids of Survival) could speak to you, what would it say?

















Til reflects on the inventive role of the arts in enabling to bring forth a world: a world brought forth by children of poor families in the Bronx, New York, who learn to read through the arts, who "dare to make history when you are young, when you are a minority, when you are working, or non-working class, when you are voiceless in society, takes courage."

Then Iko Doeland starts his reflection on Scott's presentation. 

Iko addresses his main point: "We talk about humanities, but to make things clear we have to return to the German word ‘Geisteswissenschaften’ or ‘geesteswetenschappen’ in Dutch. The English equivalent for Geist/ geest is Mind, with a capital M. This suggests there is also a science of the body. Well there is, but we only know of the body when we traditionally speak of science in disciplines like physics, biology, chemistry etc. But there is something wrong here.  We have come to think of the body solely as material, as an object and not as a lived experience. Throughout Western civilization we have deepened the so called body and mind split and roughly spoken – due to the restricted time for this occasion – we might say that we have put everything that has to do with the body on the side of the sciences,  and everything that has to do with the mind at the side of the liberal arts. We need to abrogate this dichotomy in order to get a clear and new perspective on the liberal arts and fine arts. Nowadays we come to speak of an embodied mind and although it might be easy to accept such a concept, it isn’t institutionalized."

At the end of the session everyone picks out a closed sample of the series 'best arts lessons', written down and illustrated by teachers and lecturers of Utrecht University of the Arts. 





Happy two hours!