The School of the Art Institute of Chicago – Art Education

Cultural Approaches to Production       4100/6100     Spring 2009

Wednesday 6-9, 3 credits

36 S. Wabash Avenue, Sullivan Center, room 1240


Drea Howenstein, 312.629.6598 w, 773.316.2580 c, Office: Sharp 713, hrs W 1:00-5:00, 11-12:30 TH and by appointment,

Course Description

This course provides a studio/seminar context for the investigation of various social, political, ecological, personal, and historical forms of cultural production applicable to schools and various learning environments. This course provides an opportunity for artists and designers who are learning to become teachers to investigate various modes of cultural practice and process, in relationship to program development for diverse audiences and students with a wide spectrum of lived realities.

Artist/teachers will explore disciplines, venues, media, techniques, topics/subjects/issues, people and places, citizen actions, etc. in order to gain essential experience required to bring current art and design practices into schools and public learning environments. Class activities will investigate how to develop curriculum based upon culturally diverse artists, under-represented artists, designers and communities and local artists and collectives. We will look at social and cultural networking as a vital means to identify and connect with diverse forms of cultural production, and artists, designers and activists throughout the world. 

For the purpose of this class, diversity is defined as persons with lived realities which are affected by age, cultural heritage, ethnicity, geographic location/s, economic status, resource access, education, belief systems, life experience, opportunities, abilities, health, genetics, nutrition, gender, sexual orientation, and social, political and environmental conditions, etc. Importantly, we will examine our own cultural biases in relationship to the power and authority that teachers have to define culture and influence subjective values, as well as our cultural assumptions in the context of the effectiveness of our own teaching and in our responsibility to assessing the learning of our students.

Research Component

Through a combination of direct experience, course readings, fieldtrips, individual research and discussion, the class will investigate historical and contemporary contexts, and the social, political, cultural, economic and ecological dimensions to cultural production in preparation for project and curriculum development.

Studio Projects

Class participants will identify critical issues of concern to diverse audiences as informants to the undertaking of cultural practices, cultural processes, and the production of prototypes applicable for public schools and learning environments. Students will collaborate with other students and work individually on the development of curriculum resources. Students with life experience are encouraged to take leadership in group projects and to consult with the instructor to outline a plan to work independently on projects applicable to their interests, pre-existing knowledge, experience and competence in foundational studio skills.

Course Readings

All readings will be provided electronically, via the portal or as handouts. In addition to the foundational readings, optional supplemental readings on key course issues, new publications or articles relevant to individual student interests will be added to the portal throughout the semester.

Course Requirements/Expectations

  1. In accordance with SAIC attendance policy, students are required to attend ALL CLASSES. Students should miss class only for reasonable cause. Missing class for other than reasonable cause may jeopardize the student’s academic standing in the class and possibly their financial aid or scholarships.
  1. It is the responsibility of students who miss class to contact the instructor and receive instruction on how to make up for the missed class. Students are responsible for making-up the material covered during a missed class and for meeting all original deadlines for homework assignments. When possible you should notify instructor in advance of an absence, especially when you are missing a field trip so that the field trip is not delayed waiting for you.
  1. This is a studio/seminar class required to meet 3 class hours a week. The class begins at 6:00 pm and ends at 9:00 pm. On occasion exact hours may be altered to accommodate special events.
  2. Teacher certification candidates will be assessed based upon the attached teacher competencies. All students will need to earn a C GRADE or better and have missed a maximum of 3 absences to pass the course with CR. It is SAIC policy for 3 lates to equal an absence.
  3. In the case of illness or hospitalization, the student should contact Health Services and request that they relay information to the faculty teaching all of their classes.
  4. In accordance with SAIC policy, electronic course progress reports will be sent to you and the Office of Student Affairs immediately following an absence, or failure to complete assignments.
  5. Students requesting letter grades for the course must turn in a grade evaluation form within the first 2 weeks of class. Students receiving letter grades need to have an exit meeting with Drea Howenstein to document their self-assessment.
  6. Students must turn off cell phones during class lectures and discussions.


Academic Accommodations

If you have a disability for which you seek an accommodation, please contact SAIC’s Disability and Learning Resource Center (DLRC).  DLRC can be contacted by phone at 312.499.4278 or by e-mailing  Staff at the Disability and Learning Resource Center will review your disability documentation and work with you to determine appropriate accommodations.  DLRC will then provide you with a letter outlining approved accommodations.  This letter must be presented the instructors before any accommodations will be implemented. You should contact DLRC as early in the semester as possible.

Statement of Academic Integrity

Students at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago enjoy a significant freedom of artistic expression and are encouraged to stretch their scholarly and artistic boundaries. However, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago prohibits “dishonesty such as cheating, plagiarism, or knowingly furnishing false information to the School” (Students’ Rights and Responsibilities, Student Handbook, 43).

One plagiarizes when one presents another’s work as one’s own. It is a form of intellectual theft. Plagiarism need not always be intentional. One can plagiarize even if one does not intend to. The penalty for plagiarizing ranges from a failing grade on the plagiarized assignment to not earning credit for the course.

This may also result in some loss of some types of financial aid (for example, a No Credit in a course can lead to a loss of the Presidential Award.) Appropriate scholarly citation is at the core of academic integrity. For details on what plagiarism is and penalties, see the Students Handbook. See also the document prepared by the School on plagiarism, “Plagiarism: What It Is and How to Avoid It.” The document can also be accessed on the School’s website:

Here is the document-directing faculty on how to deal with this subject with students:


Individual Responsibility

  • As an important member of a learning community, you are responsible for the quality and safety of the learning environment. You need to actively participate in the class social network, research, discussions, field trips, project and curriculum development, etc. You are encouraged to work collectively and to support each other’s projects. Please be sensitive to how your attendance, preparation and commitment affect other students in the class.
  • You are responsible for your own learning and to respectfully communicate your perspective to the class and to inform the instructor of any special needs that you have or personal circumstance that effect your class performance.
  • Plan on working on your research and studio project/s 3-6 hours outside of class each week.
  • You will need to 1) identify the professional art/design skills/experience that you hope to accomplish during this class, 2) consult with the instructor to set your individual goals for the semester and 3) develop a strategic project action plan.
  • As an important part of the group process, you will present frequent updates on your research and project planning, facilitate group cultural production activities, and regularly compile instructional resources to share with your peers.
  • You are expected to maintain regular communication with the instructor, and to set up individual meetings when necessary to evaluate your performance or discuss individual research.
  • You will be expected to work with your peers to document and publicly share via the web, the outcomes of your class research, idea and project development, and prototype process.
  • You are encouraged to actively identify and share with the class, potential resources, funding sources, grants, etc. that you will be able to use to actualize cultural production projects in schools and learning environments in the future

Portal Participation

This class will use the SAIC online Portal to provide essential information, readings and to promote ongoing group dialogue between class sessions. You are responsible to check the class portal on a regular basis. It is essential that you activate and use your email account, to have access to the SAIC Portal.


Course Studio and research Requirements

1.     A research file to document your: research information and websites on various artists, designers, collectives, communities, citizen actions, etc, idea generation, images of prototypes, potential grants, etc.

2.     Share foundational aspects of your research and visual documentation with the class through regular verbal reporting, and creating folder/s on the portal.

3.     Frame your research and projects in a professional form of documentation such as Keynote, PowerPoint, blog, website or PDF that that you can use as a part of your job portfolio, both in actual and virtual formats.

4.     Explore new forms of cultural production and create multiple prototypes applicable to school and public learning environments,

5.     Share ideas and have fun!



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