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Arts and Crafts vs. Fine Arts

The initial impetus for my second studio project was the essay on Mierle Laderman Ukeles by Robert C. Morgan about her work with New York City’s sanitation department, Touch Sanitation. Her work encompasses some of the themes I hope to work with in my future, community, social work, and exploration of how “art” does not have an unchanging definition.

With this project, I want to demonstrate “education” as a definition for art. When one considers the institution of education there are two ways in which the arts fit in, either it’s observed within higher education where art becomes an exclusive and prestigious field of study, or it is observed in grade school as expendable and inferior to the core classes. The two terms that most accurately encompass these two levels of art education are “fine arts” and “arts and crafts.”

Through this lens, I decided to use the work I do at a Saturday recreation’s camp, working with children on the Autism spectrum, where we use arts and crafts as an important tool to get the kids to use their creativity to engage with each other. I collaborated with my coworkers to recreate with the kids, to the best of their abilities, one of my old paintings as a way to have the realm of “fine arts” directly in dialogue with “arts and crafts.” The end result was a sort of abstraction of my painting using materials accessible and interesting to the kids. The project is more about the process of having this specific community consider the work of a “fine artist” and in return having my class of “fine artists” consider the arts and crafts of children, bringing both to a similar level.

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