Teacher as a conceptual artist

Researchers: Melissa Bremmer, Emiel Heijnen, Sanne Kersten

Teachers in arts education might recognize the following situation. Socializing at a party, a guest might casually ask: “So, what do you do for a job?” This question about one’s profession might seem easy to answer. However, teachers in arts education frequently struggle with what to answer about their professional identity (Freer, 2012; Hatfield, Montana & Deffenbaugh, 2006; Welch, Purves, Hargreaves & Marshall, 2011). Should they call themselves artist or performer? Teacher? Or both? When probed about the reasons for this confusion, newly graduated arts teachers often answer that they believe that their main responsibility is education at the expense of promoting themselves as an artist (Hall, 2010). Later on in their careers, experienced teachers feel that their teaching practice requires all their time and attention too, and that their artist/performer identity simply becomes more and more invisible (Imms & Ruanglertbutr, 2013). Yet, maintaining an artistic practice could contribute to the quality of teaching the arts as teachers stay connected to developments in the arts and keep their artistic knowledge and skills up to date (Hoekstra, forthcoming).In the discussion about teacher/artist identities, the Mexican-American art education researcher Jorge Lucero (2011) argues that the perceived gap between teacher/artist identities could be closed through an integration of these identities. Building on developments in the fields of conceptual and social art, Lucero (2011) coined the idea of the ‘teacher as conceptual artist’ and proposes that a teacher’s classroom practice can simultaneously be their creative practice. According to Lucero, redefining the school as a ‘studio’ and its proceedings and population as ‘artistic material’, opens up possibilities to engage in a practice in which educational and artistic goals are simultaneously pursued.To date, Lucero’s ideas and artistic/pedagogic strategies have neither been empirically studied in other contexts than in his own art classroom practice, nor tried in an interdisciplinary group of arts educators. This research study sets out to explore how a group of Dutch arts teachers students from different arts disciplines experience their professional identity and asks the question: How do educational interventions based on Jorge Lucero’s ‘teacher as conceptual artist’ impact on the perceptions of the arts education students concerning their professional identities?

As perceptions about the arts teacher’ identity in part are formed during their teacher training college (Vella, 2016), the main participants in this study are senior bachelor and master in arts education students. A better understanding of arts teachers’ identities offers new perspectives on the practice of arts teachers and can lead to revisions in curricula of teacher training colleges (Vella, 2016).

This research study is designed as an intervention study with a pre- and post test. In the pre-test students will be asked about how they perceive their teacher/artist identity. The intervention consists of a weekend-long meeting with Jorge Lucero in Amsterdam. During this weekend, students are familiarized with Lucero’s concept of the ‘teacher as conceptual artist’ through lectures, discussions and workshops. In the three months following the intervention, students are asked to develop lesson ideas based on Lucero’s ideas, which they will implement in different schools (primary and secondary education). During the implementation phase, students will be supervised by Lucero through mail, Facebook and Skype-sessions. In the post-test the students will be asked again how they perceive their teacher/artist identities.

Graham, M. A., & Zwirn, S. G. (2010). How being a teaching artist can influence K-12 art education. Studies in Art Education, 51(3), 219-232.
Hoekstra, M. (in press, 2018). The artist teacher. Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Chester, United Kingdom.
Imms, W., & Ruanglertbutr, P. (2013). Can early career teachers be artists as well? Canadian Review of Art Education, 39, pp. 7-23.
Lucero, J. (2011). Ways of being: Conceptual art modes of operation for pedagogy as contemporary art practice. Ph.D. Dissertation, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA.
Vella, R. (2016). Introduction: Being What You Teach. In R. Vella (Ed.), Artist-Teachers in Context: International Dialogues. Rotterdam (xiii), Nl: Sense Publishers. Welch, G., Purves, R., Hargreaves, D. & Marshall, N. (2011). Early career challenges in secondary school music teaching. British Educational Research Journal, 37 (2), 285-315.


Sanne Kersten is programmacoördinator van het derde cyclus onderzoeksprogramma THIRD bij DAS Graduate School en werkt als onderzoeksassistent en coördinator bij het lectoraat Kunsteducatie van de Amsterdamse Hogeschool voor de Kunsten. Ze werkte aan onderzoek rond het thema 'teacher as conceptual artist' en is co-auteur van het boek Wicked Arts Assignments (Valiz, 2020), een boek over de hedendaagse praktijk van kunstdocenten.

Contact: sanne.kersten@ahk.nl 

Publicaties, presentaties en workshops

- Kersten, S. (2020) Educatietools voor het kunstonderwijs. Kunstzone 6, 58.
- Kersten, S (2020) Interviews. in: E. Heijnen & M. Bremmer (Eds.), Wicked Arts Assignments. Amsterdam, the Netherlands: Valiz. (p. 35-54).
- Bremmer, M., Heijnen, E., & Kersten, S. (2020). Teacher as conceptual artist. International Journal of Art & Design Education, 39(4), 1-17.
- 'Teacher as conceptual artist', presentatie ism Melissa Bremmer en Emiel Heijen, LKCA-conferentie (Ede, 2020)
- ‘School as Material. Teacher as conceptual artist’ presentatie ism Emiel Heijnen en Melissa Bremmer, InSea conferentie (Vancouver, Canada, 2019)