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CULTURE AND IDENTITY: TEACHING ART

AT THE IRISH CULTURAL CENTER

By

ROBERT CADY

A CAPSTONE PROJECT PRESENTED TO THE COLLEGE OF THE ARTS OF THE


UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
MASTER OF ARTS

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
August 2017
ii

2017 Robert Cady


iii

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank all of the professors and classmates that shared this journey with
me. A special thanks to Elizabeth Delacruz and Jodi Kushins who served as the committee for
this capstone project. Lastly, I want to thank my wife Trish whose love and support made all of
this possible.
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ABSTRACT OF CAPSTONE PROJECT PRESENTED TO THE COLLEGE OF THE ARTS


OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE
REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS

CULTURE AND IDENTITY: TEACHING ART


AT THE IRISH CULTURAL CENTER

By

Robert Cady

March 2017

Chair: Elizabeth Delacruz


Committee Member: Jodi Kushins
Major: Art Education

Abstract

The purpose of my capstone project was to explore, through curriculum development and action

research, how implementation of a curriculum based on culture and identity can increase cultural

and self-awareness that will give students the ability to explore other cultures with a more open

mind. This ability is becoming more and more necessary in a global world. Culture itself is

difficult to define and much scholarly effort has gone toward examining culture and the best

practices to include it as part of an art education curriculum. These insights and best practices

inspired me to develop this research project. The curriculum I built and the action research I

conducted took place at the Phoenix Arizona Irish Cultural Center as part of its Academy classes

which teach Irish and Celtic culture. As someone who is a mix of Irish, Scottish, and Welsh

decent this location has a personal connection. Subjects of this study were students enrolled in

the Academy and their work and feedback are part of the data I collected. I analyzed this data to
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examine the effectiveness of the curriculum and how I performed as a teacher implementing the

curriculum.
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Table of Contents

Title Page..i

UF Copyright page..ii

Acknowledgementsiii

UF Formatted Abstract...iv

Table of Contents................vi

Introduction ......................................................................................................................................1

Statement of the Problem .....................................................................................................1

Purpose of the Study ............................................................................................................2

Research Questions .2

Rationale and Significance of the Study..2

Assumptions.........................................................................................................................3

Limitations ...........................................................................................................................3

Definition of Terms..............................................................................................................3

Literature Review.............................................................................................................................4

Introduction..4

Blending: What to Include, and What to Avoid..5

It Starts with Ourselves, Our Students, and the Community...7

Expanding Diversity....8

Summary..9

Research Method...10

Subjects..11

Research Site.11
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Data Collection Procedures and Instrumentation..11

Data Analysis Procedures..12

Presentation of Research12

Summary13

Findings.13

An Obvious Change in Focus, Right from the Start..14

Adapting and Adapting Some More..16

Summary across all Findings.....26

Discussions and Conclusions.............27

Discussion and Interpretation of Findings..27

Significance and Recommendations...30

Conclusion..31

References..32

Appendix A35

Appendix B....36

Appendix C37

List of Figures and Figure Captions..38

Author Biography..39
1

I am a mutt. Like many Americans I am a mix of different ethnic, ancestral, and cultural

heritages. Being a mix of Irish, Scottish, and English made creating an art curriculum for the

Irish Culture Center (ICC) of great interest to me. Celtic culture is literally in my blood and

through this capstone project I dug into my heritage alongside the students I taught at the

Phoenix Irish Cultural Center. Self-discovery is at the heart of this curriculum and the study that

came with it, for my students and myself.

Statement of the Problem

In this global age we are linked together by technological, political, ecological, and

financial interests. In this context, it is critical that our students be given tools to examine their

own cultures and be open minded to the cultures of others if they are going to be thoughtful

citizens (Delacruz, 1995). As art educators we need to be aware of our own biases about

different cultures in order to teach about these cultures effectively (Desai, 2000). Understanding

the intricacies of other cultures is crucial to their inclusion in our curriculum (Adejumo, 2002).

It is not enough to just show art from other cultures, we need to present it in its own cultural

context. We must also learn about our students and the communities in which they live before

attempting to expand the cultural scope of our curriculum (Davenport, 2000; Broome, 2014).

Focusing on our students and the community allows them to fully engage in the lessons and

enhances self-awareness. My capstone project is of interest to the Irish Cultural Center and other

cultural centers hoping to add art classes to their cultural activities. It is of interest to both

novice and experienced art educators for creating lessons and teaching about culture and identity.
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Purpose or Goals of the Study

My research goals were to build and implement a meaningful curriculum based on

culture and identity, in order to increase self-awareness and cultural identity in the subjects

participating in the study, and to add to the literature about including culture in art education

curricula. On a personal level to gain insight into the effectiveness of the curriculum and how

well I implemented it.

Research Questions

The following questions guided the planning and implementation of my capstone project:

1. How can art educators create a meaningful art curriculum based on Celtic cultural

exploration?

2. What happens when students participate in a curriculum based on Celtic culture in an

Irish cultural center?

Rationale and Significance of the Study

Multicultural art education has grown in importance in a 21st century globalized world

(Bianchi, 2011). Increasingly our students will come into contact with individuals from other

cultures now and in the future and how they respond to these interactions is dependent in large

part on their cultural understanding. As art educators we have an opportunity to help our

students learn about different cultures and to do so with an open mind. That is why developing

methods to approach cultural issues and to do so in a thoughtful and student-centered way is so

important to the future of our students. As the world continues to get smaller the importance of

cultural awareness continues to grow.


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Assumptions

Most people do not realize how many things influence who they are. Because our views

on culture may rely more on stereotypes rather than reality, uncovering all of the facets that form

us leads to a deeper understanding of who we are and allows us to view others in a new light.

Limitations of the Study

Because I taught at the Irish Cultural Center the diversity of cultures will be limited to

those primarily of Celtic descent, and those wishing to study it. Also based on the location of the

study, the number of students enrolled and their age remained unknown until the classes began.

Definition of Terms

Tokenism is focusing on superficial aspects of a culture without contextual support. A

teachers limited understanding can lead to marginalizing the culture or making superficial

attempts to represent the culture resulting in tokenism (Stuhr, Petrovich-Mwanski, & Wasson,

1992; Broome, 2014)

Hybridity is the blending of different cultures and cultural influences to create a cultural

person or group. This mixing of cultures, races, and evolving family dynamics are changing the

face of our classrooms (Delacruz, 2009).

Pluralism is the desire to include underrepresented cultures in a school curriculum in an

equitable way. The beginnings of multicultural curricula was pluralistic in nature. It was

influenced by the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s to promote social justice and equity for

minorities (Stuhr, 1994).


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Marginalization is lessening the perceived importance of another culture (Stuhr,

Petrovich-Mwanski, & Wasson, 1992; Broome, 2014). Within the context of acculturation it is

removing ones self from both cultures (Lopez, 2009).

Acculturation is taking on the traits of another culture when being exposed to it. There

are different ways that acculturation takes place. Some may assimilate and abandon their own

cultural heritage, while others may separate themselves from the new culture (Lopez, 2009).

Bi-cultural is the integration of two cultures where a person adopts both cultures but

bounces between these cultures as needed socially (Lopez, 2009).

Dialogical is learning about something through talking. Talking to someone from a

different culture, coupled with observing cultural context, is beneficial to understanding other

cultures (Bastos, 2006; Wasson, Stuhr, & Petrovich-Mwaniki, 1990).

Literature Review

In this review I will examine the inclusion of culture in an art education curriculum, the

challenges this inclusion presents, and the need to focus inward and on what is relevant to

students to successfully create and navigate a culturally sensitive curriculum. One of the key

findings that I made through this scholarly research was that culture is fluid and it isnt just skin

color or heritage it includes multiple influences. This hybridity, or blending of different cultures

and cultural influences, is an important concept for art educators to understand. Much of the

early cultural teaching in our field focused on pluralism, which is the desire to include

underrepresented cultures in a school curriculum in an equitable way (Stuhr, 1994). I found that

pluralism raises many questions in how to implement such a curriculum without marginalizing

the cultures being taught. A key concern for my own curriculum plans deals with tokenism,

which is focusing on superficial aspects of a culture without contextual support. While much
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was gleaned from all of my sources, the writings of Gall (2006), Stuhr, Petrovich-Mwaniki, and

Wasson (1992), Stuhr (1994), and Delacruz (2009) were extremely beneficial to my growing

understanding of exploring culture and identity in the classroom.

Blending: What to Include, and What to Avoid

In an increasingly globalized world examining culture in schools has become critical

(Bianchi, 2011). America is a land of immigrants and migration is part of all of our cultural

roots. The mixing of cultures, races, and evolving family dynamics continue to change the face

of our classrooms (Delacruz, 2009). Making connections with these diverse students requires

getting to know them and their unique situations. Even art educators not faced with a diverse

classroom should be exploring different cultures with their students to prepare them as the

landscape of America continues to become more diverse, and their exposure to cultures around

the continues to increase (Banks, 1993; Delacruz, 1995).

Culture is dynamic and needs to be viewed as such (Wasson, Stuhr, & Petrovich-

Mwaniki, 1990). The beginning of multicultural education in the mid-twentieth century was

pluralistic in nature. It was influenced by the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s to promote

social justice and equity for minorities (Stuhr, 1994). Pluralism attempts to address this issue but

it also comes with questions. Which cultures do you include and exclude? It is impossible to

include every culture in a meaningful way, so pluralistic art educators in the United States tend

to focus on minority cultures including African-American, Hispanic-American, Asian-American,

or Native-American cultures as part of their curricula. While a pluralistic approach gives some

exposure to different cultures it also raises another set of problems; the impossibility of

representing an entire culture. Teachers introduce are bits and pieces of a culture that may be

made up of multiple heritages, each with customs, beliefs, and art that is unique to each heritage.
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I am white so the general thought process says I am from European decent. That is true, but is

Irish the same as German? What about the fact that I am not full-blooded anything? Over time

my ancestors combined Irish, Scottish, English, and German to create my heritage? What does

that make me? What does that make the students in our classrooms? What about people all

around the world (Gall, 2006)?

As a white male am I qualified to teach about African-American womens art? Adejumo

(2002) talks about the intricacies of a culture and how without living within a culture, and fully

experiencing all aspects of that culture, those intricate details may be lost. Desai (2000) also

questions the ability to really know about another culture because our own biases keep us from

fully understanding these different cultures. This limited understanding as a teacher can lead to

marginalizing the culture or making superficial attempts to represent the culture resulting in

tokenism (Stuhr, Petrovich-Mwanski, & Wasson, 1992; Broome, 2014). In addition, Garber

(1995) warns against using Eurocentric examples to illustrate cultural diversity. She uses

Picasso as an example of an artist that, based on his Spanish decent, might be seen as a Hispanic

artist to fill a need for cultural diversity even though his work was deeply a part of mainstream

art. Picasso is perhaps better used as an example of appropriation of culture without context

based on his use of African masks (Gall, 2006). These types of missteps do not represent

different cultures in an authentic way. With questions like what to include, am I qualified to

teach this, and how do I not marginalize what I am teaching, it is a challenge to include cultural

diversity in an art education curriculum. Including it will require work, and the first step is

working on yourself.
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It Starts with Ourselves, Our Students, and the Community

We all have biases. The key is to recognize this fact and attempt to adjust our way of

thinking about those who are different from us (Andrus, 2001). This is the first step toward

teaching about other cultureswe have to enter with an open mind. We also need to know our

students and our community. We must be self-reflective and assess ourselves and our teaching

methods in order to be a culturally sensitive art educator (Broome, 2014). Davenport (2000)

writes about a community approach to multicultural education that is based on ethnography. It

may seem odd to focus inward and nearby when planning to teach about things that may be

thousands of miles away. However this preparation allows for us to teach what will be relevant

to our students, and do so in a way that is respectful to the culture we will be exploring.

In her article Principles of Possibility Gude (2007) includes three things that fit within

the strategies presented here. She includes forming self in which students are empowered to look

inward; investigating community themes in which she suggests a dialogical approach where

relevant issues are discussed and community action can be accomplished; and encountering

difference in which Gude suggests selecting a few topics explored in depth over many covered

without much context.

When we look inward to what makes us who we are, we see that it is more than the color

of our skin and where our ancestors came from geographically. We see that the world around us

adds to the mix. It isnt just our family but our friends, classmates, teachers, and clergy who help

shape us. The experiences we have had shape how we feel about ourselves and those around us.

All of these things help create our belief system. Our sense of art, music, film, and fashion are

all acquired through the influences in our life (Wasson, Stuhr, & Petrovich-Mwaniki, 1990).
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America is often referred to as a melting pot and this is an apt description, but the idea

carries further than a national level. It goes beyond a regional or local level too. It could just as

easily be used to describe how each and every one of us came to be who we are. As I mentioned

earlier, the cultural landscape of America is constantly evolving. This brings with it the need to

understand the different ways a persons culture may be formed. Art educators need a way to

utilize this understanding to engage our students in exploring different cultures.

There are several terms within multicultural literature that can be used to describe this

melting pot of American culture. Hybridity, dual-culture, bi-cultural, and acculturation have all

been used to describe this mixing of cultures and how they evolve. The fact is, we all have

multiple and hybridized cultural identities (Delacruz, 2009). This is why art educators need to

learn about their students. We cannot assume what our students cultures are based on the color

of their skin or their surnames (Martinez, 2012). Many of our students may be dealing with

issues of identity. We all adapt culturally and as we are exposed to different cultures, through

media and social interactions, it is common to take on traits of those other cultures. This is

known as acculturation (Lopez, 2009). There are different ways that acculturation takes place.

Some may assimilate and abandon their cultural heritage. Others may separate themselves from

the new culture. Removing ones self from both cultures is referred to as marginalization

(Lopez, 2009). There may also be an integration of cultures, or becoming bi-cultural, where one

will bounce between cultures as needed (Lopez, 2009). This again is why looking at your

students and the community they live in, is so important to building meaningful content.

Expanding Diversity

Beyond looking inward and learning about our students and the communities in which

they live, we can explore outside of our local culture(s). Wasson, Stuhr, and Petrovich-Mwaniki
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(1990) support a socio-anthropological approach which is based on the art makers and the

sociocultural context in which the art is made. They go even further by saying, We believe that

this is best done through anthropological approaches that involve talking to people, listening,

observing, recording, interacting, checking responses, and constantly referring responses to the

cultural context in which this interaction occurs (p. 237). A dialogical approach is also

encouraged by Bastos (2006) who believes much can be gained in cultural research by simply

talking with people of other cultures. She believes that talking to people of other cultures helps

build understanding. Learning about a culture first hand from the artist is extremely beneficial in

making a meaningful connection to both their work and culture. Having this personal interaction

with the artist is not always possible but there are alternatives that can help fill that void. Essays

and videos of artists discussing their work and its meaning are easy to find on the internet. Such

documents provide context beyond simply showing the work (Andrus, 2001; Gude, 2007).

The goal of multicultural education is to empower our students, and help them become

thoughtful citizens (Delacruz, 1995). This is significant in the age of globalization where we are

tied to other people around the world through technology, political, ecological, and financial

interests. Our students will be encountering other cultures now and in the future. Our

responsibility as art educators is to impart the ability to view these cultures with an open mind

and the desire to learn more and create an understanding that can celebrate differences instead of

having those differences form walls.

Summary

Culture is difficult to define. It is dynamic and is influenced by all of the things we

encounter in our lives. It is important to understand its fluid nature in order to meaningfully

explore different cultures. As art educators looking to include diverse cultures in our curricula it
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is critical to understand just what culture means to different people. Without looking at all of

what makes us who we are we will risk stereotyping and allowing our personal bias to remain

unrecognized. We must look inward and understand ourselves before we venture into discussing

culture with our students. We need to learn about others and ask questions that allow them to

help shape what we will then explore together. We need to view the community we all live in to

see what our students deal with daily or perhaps never see at all. Building cultural explorations

around our students and their community allows them to more fully engage. We want them to

better understand themselves, to recognize their own identity, and how they fit into their

community. This will become the foundation for them to explore beyond themselves, beyond

their culture and community and to explore the diverse world before them.

Research Method

For my research, I created and implemented an art curriculum based on Irish and Celtic

culture and that focuses on my students identity. This study began as curriculum development

and then became action research during the implementation of that curriculum (McKernan, 1987;

Small & Uttal, 2005; Dick, 2007). Using research to aid in developing a curriculum requires

thoughtful planning. McKernan (1987) writes, Practitioners need to know how to ask important

and productive questions which will be testable in the setting. A spirit of inquiry needs to be

nurtured (p. 16). These research questions are not set in stone and researchers must be aware

that research questions are likely to change as the study progresses (Small & Uttal, 2005). I

gathered qualitative data during the action research to gauge the impact of the curriculum and to

aid in self-reflection on my own performance (Peshkin, 1993).


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Subjects

The studys subjects were students enrolled in the Academy at the Phoenix Arizona Irish

Cultural Center. There were four students enrolled in the classes and agreed to participate in this

study. All four students were women over 50 years old. One of the students dropped out of the

classes after the first class. I was also a subject in the research as I documented and reflected on

the curriculum and my performance as a teacher. Because human subjects were used during this

study research permission from the University of Florida Institution Review Board (IRB02) was

requested. All subjects taking part in this research were required to sign consent letter explaining

their role in the study.

Research Site

My study was conducted at the Phoenix Arizona Irish Cultural Center (ICC). This

centers purpose is to expose the community to Irish and Celtic culture. They do so through their

library, exhibitions, genealogical center, culturally-themed events, and learning opportunities

through their Academy classes. This research study was conducted during an art class I created

and taught for the ICCs Academy.

Data Collection Procedures and Instrumentation

I gathered data through observations with field notes, photo documentation of work in

progress, and a questionnaire given to participants at the end of each lesson (see Appendix A).

Participants were also asked to fill out a Where I am from questionnaire prior to the family

heritage lesson (see Appendix B). Gathering data in this way utilized what Peshkin (1993)

defines as a process of description, interpretation, and verification in action research. His 4th

stage of the process is evaluation which I did at the end of the study. This type of data gathering

is cyclical as Dick (2007) describes it, Action and theory are integrated within each cyclethe
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action informs the theory, which informs the action (para. 8). The curriculum consisted of 4

lessons Irish/Celtic Art and Artists, Symbols, Family Heritage, and Who Am I? I

collected data from these lessons during five two hour classes as part of the Phoenix Arizona

Irish Cultural Center Academy.

Data Analysis Procedures

As data is being gathered it is critical to have an organized system in place to store,

separate, and maintain the data or tidying up as LeCompte (2000) puts it. I made copies of all

data. I have each lesson plan filed separately in both paper files and on a computer.

Observational notes were filed by lesson plan. Documentation photos were filed electronically

by lesson. Comments from each lesson ending questionnaire were filed by lesson. Copies of the

Where I am from questionnaire were filed with the Family Heritage lesson and the original went

to the participant. As new research questions arose during data collection, these questions and

alterations to the lesson were documented on lesson plans. Any changes to the lesson plans were

noted and explained on the lesson plan and in a separate document filed under alterations. The

data I gathered falls under the descriptive style mentioned earlier. Interpretation of this data

began as it was collected to gauge if research questions were being answered or if changes

needed to be made. This formed the verification stage where generalizations of the research were

made. When the study ended I used all of the data gathered to evaluate the study (Peshkin, 1993).

Presentation of Research

At the conclusion of my capstone project I put the project and findings on my personal

website http://robcady.weebly.com/capstone.html. I also made the findings available to the Irish

Cultural Center so that they can continue the curriculum in the future and share the curriculum

with other affiliated cultural centers.


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Summary

This proposal began by building a curriculum based on culture and identity for the Irish

Cultural Center. Through scholarly research I explored the best ways to design and implement

this curriculum. I then turned to action research to collect data on the curriculum. By observing,

documenting the process with photos, and gathering feedback in the form of lesson

questionnaires at the end of each lesson I assessed the curriculum. This assessment informed

how well the research questions were answered, where improvements can be made, and how

effectively I implemented the curriculum.

Findings

I conducted my research while teaching classes at the Phoenix Arizona Irish Cultural

Center (ICC). The classes I created would be the first art classes they have offered so there was

concern over member participation. To allow for more time to promote the classes the start date

was postponed to the last half of their Fall Academy session. The increased promotion time

could not overcome the holiday season, however; with classes running from mid-November to

the week before Christmas time constraints limited the participation of several interested ICC

members. When classes began on November 16th, 2016 only four students had signed up. All

four students were women over 50 who work or volunteer at the ICC. Of the four students one

dropped out after the first class, and another student missed a class with an illness. Two students

were late to class because of an ICC meeting they had to attend.

The purpose of the research was to put together an art curriculum with a Celtic theme and

an emphasis on both cultural and personal exploration, to examine what factors may hinder or

enhance teaching such a curriculum, and to study how the students participating in the

curriculum responded.
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At the start of this study I knew that having never taught before would affect my research

in some ways, but I discovered it would become a major factor in both how I taught and how I

viewed the results. Being organized and prepared did only so much once I got into the

classroom. Not only was I teaching for the first time but I was doing so in a non-school setting.

This setting not only provided limited time but I also had no idea of the number, age and art

making experience of my students before classes began. Much of the project became about

learning to adapt.

An Obvious Change in Focus, Right from the Start

There were five two-hour classes scheduled for the study. Over the course of these five

classes were four lessons. At the end of lessons students were asked to fill out a questionnaire

(see Appendix A). The first class was an introduction with an explanation of my study, getting

consent, a look at Irish art and artists, and ending with a preview of the second class on symbols.

The second class on symbols was designed for the students to explore how symbols affect who

they are and for them to create an art work made up of symbols based on their exploration. The

next lesson was a family heritage accordion book where the students constructed, decorated, and

filled the pages with items and pictures that illustrate their heritage. Also as part of this lesson

students were asked to fill out a Where Im From questionnaire (see appendix B). The final

lesson was a Who am I? collage where the students would incorporate what they had learned

about themselves, their heritage, and culture throughout the classes.

I had not intended on having the first class as part of my study. Having limited my study

to three lessons I felt that there would be more data available from the classes where art was

being made, but I found that what I observed that first night would be the beginning of some new
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research questions. New questions included how does being a novice teacher affect this study?

And how important is adapting teaching plans to address the needs and desires of your students?

That first night I thought I was organized and ready even though this would be my first

time teaching art. What I found was the material I was sure would fill the two hours lasted a

little over an hour. I introduced myself, told them about my study and got their consent. I then

showed them examples of Irish art and artists in a PowerPoint presentation. After examples of

ancient Celtic art and a page from the Book of Kells, a familiar example since the ICC has a

copy of the book in its possession, I presented works by Irish artists Jack Butler Yates, Francis

Bacon, Louis Le Brocquy, Mark Ervine, and Danny Devenny. Yates worked from the late 19th

to early 20th century. His subjects included Celtic myth and everyday Irish life, through which

he contributed to the upsurge of nationalist feeling in the arts that accompanied the movement

for Irish independence (Venues, n.d. para 1). Bacon was a prominent artist in the 20th century

whose work had many influences from master painters to photography. Bacon was a self-taught

painter that produced dark and distorted imagery (Francis Bacon, n.d.). Le Brocquy was a 20th

century Irish painter whose work spanned impressionist inspired scenes, textiles, mosaics, to

Celtic myth inspired portraits (Louis Le Brocquy, n.d.). Ervine and Devenny are modern-day

Irish muralists who came from opposite sides of the conflict in Northern Ireland, who now work

together on murals to support cooperation and peace (Painting for peace, 2016).

One student asked for more information on the artists so I told them what I knew and

promised to send links to the online materials I used to gather the images and biographies for the

artists. I then introduced the symbols lesson. What I had planned on taking two hours was

finished and I had about 50 minutes to fill, so now what? I talked with the participants in my

class. I learned about what experience they had making art and found it was not very much. One
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student had done some painting. Another had done some craft projects, and the last two had no

art-making experience. I confessed to this was the first time I had taught art and I explained that

since this would be new for all of us, wed learn how to do it together. I also learned that one

student was a former high school math teacher who worked in the ICC office, another worked in

the McClelland Library at the ICC, one student was the Music Director at the ICC, and the fourth

was a retired volunteer. This last student dropped out after the first class.

Even though the first class was only introductory, and I had not planned on including it in

this study, some important things happened. The street mural tradition from Northern Ireland

that I showed with artists Mark Ervine and Danny Devenny struck a chord with two of the

participants who had seen them first hand when visiting Ireland. I recommended the

documentary Art of Conflict to them that was available on Netflix. This film described the

Painting for Peace Project where mural artists that were on opposite sides of the conflict in

Northern Ireland were now working together to promote peace. The last thing that happened that

night shaped the remainder of my study. After learning about their art making experience and

then listening to what they wanted to learn in the next class on symbols, the symbols lesson was

about to undergo a major change and so was how I was going to approach the other lessons and

what all of our expectations from these classes would become.

Adapting and Adapting Some More

The initial symbols lesson was to view symbols of the past and see how they connect to

things all around us. From a cross on a chain around your neck to the Apple logo on your phone

it tells something about you. These things become symbols of who you are. The students were

supposed to use these things that mean something to them and create their own art work. But

after seeing carvings of Celtic knot designs in the introduction to the symbols lesson, the desire
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to learn how to make Celtic knot designs was requested by all the students. Seeing their interest

I decided to adapt the lesson. I spent the week between classes searching for directions so I

could instruct them on how to create these designs step-by-step using a dot method (see Figure

1).

Figure 1: Dot outline for a Celtic Knot Design.

At the start of the second class I found that one participant bowed out so there were just

three students going forward. After getting the students set up with sketch pads, pencils, erasers,

rulers, and a compass I began a PowerPoint presentation with the step-by-step instructions. The

participants both enjoyed and were frustrated by the experience. Their inexperience drawing

frustrated them, as one student said in her post-lesson questionnaire, The lesson would be so

much easier if I could draw better. Despite some struggles this student was able to overcome it

to make some successful drawings (see Figure 2). One of the participants was a former math

teacher and she excelled using the compass to create the triquetra (see Figure 3). This student
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helped her classmates use the compass which was a great help to them and me. A suggestion

was also made by my former math teacher to use graph paper next time to make the dot designs

easier to lay out.

Figure 2: Students sketch pad with successful Celtic Knot.


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Figure 3: Students sketch pad with step-by-step notes and a very successful triquetra.

Because of the students initial struggles drawing, time became an issue. Despite the

symbols class going past the scheduled two hours it became necessary for it to carry over for

another class session to allow the students more time to complete drawings. One student would

miss the next class with an illness. Of the two students in class, one student began a large Celtic

cross and the other a large triquetra (see Figures 4 and 5).
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Figure 4: Student beginning of a large Celtic cross piece.

Figure 5: Student coloring in the triquetra design she made.


21

At the end of the symbols lesson I handed out the Where Im From questionnaire and

poem (see Appendix B and C) as an introduction to the family heritage accordion book lesson.

This questionnaire was a means to get them to think about their heritage and to discover that

their heritage was not just about the people that went before them. It included sights, sounds,

smells, places, and things as well and I hoped it would help them find ways to incorporate more

than just pictures in their accordion books. One student commented that she was amazed that

she ran out of room filling in her responses to each section of the questionnaire. She said, It

triggered so many memories, that I couldnt stop writing. She wrote, I came from a sloping

backyard, with the smell of blooming rose bushes, in her questionnaire.

The family heritage accordion book lesson consisted of cutting 98 lb. mixed media paper

into 9 x 24 pieces for folded pages, a 10 x 16 piece for the book cover, and 1 x 9 strips to

join page sections. Once constructed with glue sticks students had an accordion book like the

one I made as an example (see Figure 6). The books were to be decorated in ways to be a

remembrance of the students family heritage. Students could use any art media to decorate their

books along with items and photos.


22

Figure 6: Sample undecorated accordion book.

The accordion book making involved some trial and error. The slight texture on the

mixed media paper we used on all the art lessons did not allow the glue sticks to make a strong

enough bond so the pages would separate. One of the students mentioned that the ICC had a

glue gun so we switched to that with more success. When given options for decorating their

books the participants wanted to try using paints. Only one of the students had any experience

with painting so time was spent learning to mix colors and identify the best ways to apply the

paint. One student found that thicker applications with a brush caused the pages to stick together

even after the paint dried. So the student who had done some water color before suggested using

watercolor, but we had no water colors to use so I suggested using the acrylic paint as a wash
23

instead (see Figure 7). Mixing the acrylic paint with some acrylic medium and water allowed

them to paint their book pages without pages sticking together.

Figure 7: Accordion book pages being painted with an acrylic wash.

Time remained a major issue. In each class where art was made we exceeded the

scheduled two hours. Even with an extra half hour or so the students were not getting finished

pieces. The symbols lesson and the family heritage accordion book lesson spilled into the next

class. Adding to the issue of a time crunch I had a student miss an entire class to illness while

two others missed part of a class because of a meeting. Factoring in all of these things, I decided

to cut the final collage lesson out to allow them to continue working on their unfinished projects.
24

The final class was one of pure exploration and sharing. The students shared with me

and each other techniques that worked and ones that didnt. After one student shared how much

she liked working with the watercolor markers her classmate used them to adorn her accordion

book cover (see Figures 8 and 9). Another student tried to mix colors to match a building in one

of the photos of Ireland, that were scattered around the conference room where the classes were

held, to give her accordion book more of an, Irish feel. One student continued working on a

Celtic cross that would tie in her family crest with bricks of important names, places, and dates

of her familys history (see Figure 10).

Figure 8: Student using markers to adorn her accordion book cover.


25

Figure 9: Finished accordion book cover.

Figure 10: A students family heritage Celtic cross.


26

Summary across Findings

I found that the key word to describe this study was adapt. Every variable that went into

the study from my lack of teaching experience, location of the study, student make-up, to a new

curriculum affected the outcome of the study. Any expectations I had going into the classes

about staying on schedule, effectively presenting material, and having the students complete

finished art works needed to be altered. There was a positive connection with my students and

they did learn about art making and their culture even if it didnt go completely as planned. As

the classes went on the students became active collaborators in adjusting the curriculum. There

was an active sense of experimentation going on (see Figure 11). The students felt comfortable

making suggestions to improve each lesson and most importantly owned their learning

experience. From asking to do Celtic knots to switching to a glue gun to construct accordion

books, students gave input. They also actively helped one another during lessons. Showing how

to use a compass or applying acrylic paint with a sponge, my students shared their skills and

successful techniques.

Figure 11: Student experimenting with applying acrylic paint with a sponge.
27

Discussions and Conclusions

It is fair to say that my curriculum and project didnt go quite as planned. It could easily

be called a successful failure, if I may use an oxymoron. It was a failure in the sense that

finished art was not completed and that all the lessons were not taught, but it was a success none

the less. My students overcame their early struggles drawing and managed to complete

successful Celtic knot designs. One student even used her new skills to begin making a large

heritage piece. I learned much about both planning and implementing a curriculum. I

discovered that even if things do not go as planned, meaningful learning can still take place. My

students discovered that just because something may be difficult, like drawing, that it can still be

fun. They learned that thinking about their culture and where they are from cannot only bring

back memories, but inspire their creativity and desire to learn even more about themselves. I

found that honest communication and taking a student centered approach can overcome many of

the obstacles that teachers face every day and that adaptability may be one of the most important

characteristics teachers can have as they face the challenges the classroom brings.

Discussion and Interpretation of Findings

The basic structure of my research objectives were met. I developed and implemented a

curriculum based on Irish culture, that was student centered, and my students were enthusiastic

about the subject matter. Looking back now, even though my research questions found a

semblance of an answer, the questions that came up as the research went on really were at the

heart of the study. I know now that being a novice teacher and adapting is really where the value

of my study lies. All teachers face issues with planning and time management, but for a novice

those issues become even larger. There were times where it felt like no amount of planning was

enough. I found that planning without experience is guessing much of the time. Some of that
28

was my lack of experience and some of that was setting. Not knowing anything about who I

would be teaching going into the classes compounded the issue of my inexperience. If my

expectations were that the classes would go exactly as planned, time would not be an issue, and

my students would have wonderful art pieces to display at the end of the classes I would surely

deem my curriculum and ability to teach a colossal failure. I knew from being a student that

even experienced teachers have things go awry so I wasnt expecting perfection, but I did need to

temper my expectations. It became necessary to adapt not only the lessons but my mindset as

well. I had to fully embrace something one of my favorite teachers Shirley Haupt once said,

Learning takes place in the journey and not from the destination (S. E. Haupt, personal

communication, January, 1985). This was something I wanted to impart to my students but it

became just as important to how I needed to evaluate every aspect of my research. Once my

expectations for myself and the curriculum changed it became much easier to adapt and focus on

what was most important, my students.

The study was definitely successful from a student-centered approach. It was already

geared toward a cultural connection but it became more and more about what they wanted to get

from each lesson and less about any desired outcome I may have had before classes began. It

became clear that the heritage aspect of the lessons really stuck out as being successful. As one

student wrote in her questionnaire, It was great to be reminded just how big family and my

heritage is to my life. This student tied the genealogy she had previously done into her art (see

Figure 12). Another student mentioned, She could see how learning about art could benefit her

teaching Celtic music because it gave context to the other things going on when the music was

created. The end of lesson questionnaires were positive and that reinforced what I observed that

my students enjoyed the classes. Two students made comments about how much they enjoyed
29

painting. Another mentioned how much she enjoyed how everyone worked together to find

creative solutions to problems that came up while making accordion books. One student was

thankful that she was reminded how important her heritage was to her. I know that I enjoyed

teaching them. I learned what areas I need to improve as a teacher, mainly time management,

and I received valuable teaching experience.

Figure 12: A students piece centered on a Celtic cross with bricks symbolizing her heritage.
30

Significance and Recommendations

It is difficult to think of my research as being significant to other art educators. Here I

am a novice teacher whose first exposure to a classroom was this study. How can this be

important? Who would my findings help? As I face these questions I realized that there are so

many unusual variables to my study. Here I am a first time teacher in a non-school setting,

volunteering to teach a cultural based curriculum to an unknown group of students. Approaching

my study based on its unusual nature I find that it may be of interest to a wide range of art

educators. Obliviously, novice teachers could benefit, but the other elements of a non-school

setting and facing an unknown group of students may be of interest to experienced teachers who

are moving beyond their classrooms to teach art. The cultural element is important. Whether

faced with students from multiple cultures or having a homogenous classroom, teaching about

culture is an important element in a well-rounded art curriculum. I feel that the main area of the

study that can be of interest to everyone is the ability to adapt. I expected to have to adapt some

things during my research, I did not anticipate that adapting would become a major focus of my

research.

There were so many changes made to the curriculum because of time, student interests,

and my inexperience that it became extremely difficult to gauge the effectiveness of many

aspects of my study. Things became more about what didnt happen than what did. That is okay

because it is a result, but from a personal level it is nonetheless frustrating. To borrow a phrase

from my retail days, I need to do a correction of errors report. Simply put, that report lists

everything that went wrong with the project so that the next time you do it you can avoid making

the same mistakes. If I teach this curriculum again there are a few things I would change so that

there would be less focus on adapting and more focus on the effectiveness of the curriculum.
31

The first change is time. I would want the lessons to go from 5 two-hour classes to 10

two-hour classes. By having three full classes to implement a lesson it would allow me to

overcome differences in student art making experience and manage any technical difficulties and

still have time to complete the lesson. The second change would be when the classes are offered.

Having the classes span two major holidays greatly limited participation. Having a few more

subjects would allow for a better understanding of the effectiveness of the curriculum.

Conclusion

This research project was exciting, scary, frustrating, fun, and incredibly valuable to my

future plans of teaching. As a pre-service teacher I often felt at a disadvantage pursuing my

masters in art education. I taught vicariously through my professors and classmates. This

project finally allowed me to experience some of the highs and lows that my peers face every

day. It gave me even more respect for the job they do and strengthened my desire to join them in

the classroom.
32

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Appendix A

Question Feedback

Name something you


learned about your culture
during this lesson?

Name something you


learned about yourself?

Name something you


enjoyed most about this
lesson?

Name something you


enjoyed least?
36

Appendix B

WHERE I'M FROM


I am from (specific ordinary item), from (product name).

I am from the (home description... adjective, adjective, sensory detail).

I am from the (plant, flower, and natural item).

I am from (family tradition) and (family trait), from (name of family member) and (another

family name) and (family name).

I am from the (description of family tendency) and (another one).

From (something you were told as a child) and (another).

I am from (representation of religion, or lack of it).

I'm from (place of birth and family ancestry), (two food items representing your family).

From the (specific family story about a specific person and detail), the (another detail, and the

(another detail about another family member).

I am from (location of family pictures, mementos, archives and several more lines indicating

their worth).
37

Appendix C

Where Im From ~ Fred First ~ November 2003

I am from the peaceful banks of a creek with no name; from JFG, toast and blackberry jam and

home-made granola.

I am from "a house with double porches," a room filled with good ghosts and creek laughter in

the mornings before first light.

I am from Liriodendron and Lindera, butterfly bush and mountain boomers

I am from Dillons and Harrisons, Betty Jean and Granny Bea-- frugal and long-lived, stubborn

and tender, quick to laugh. Or cry.

I am from a world whose geography my children know better than I, from a quiet valley where I

am the proprietor and world authority of its small wonders.

From barn loft secret passwords and children who can fly if they only try.

I am from oven-baked Saran Wrap and colds caught from jackets worn indoors.

I am from pire in the blood Baptists, from the cathedral made without hands, the church in the

wildwoods, the covenant of grace.

I'm from the Heart of Dixie, son of Scarlett O'hara. From War Eagle, Wiffle, UAB and PT, from

Walnut Knob's blue ridge and the soft shadows of Goose Creek.

From a "fast hideous" dresser and a home body from Woodlawn, from a grandfather I never

knew that I can blame for my love of nature and my stubbornness, they tell me.

I am from fragments, the faint smell of wood smoke, and familiar walks among trees I know by

name, from HeresHome and good stock. A man can hardly ask to be from more.
38

List of Figures with Figure Captions

Figure 1: Dot outline for a Celtic Knot Design.17

Figure 2: Students sketch pad with a successful Celtic Knot......................18

Figure 3: Students sketch pad with step-by-step notes and a very successful triquetra..19

Figure 4: Student beginning of a large Celtic cross piece.20

Figure 5: Student coloring in the triquetra design she made.20

Figure 6: Undecorated accordion book.22

Figure 7: Accordion book pages being painted with an acrylic wash...23

Figure 8: Student using markers to adorn her accordion book cover24

Figure 9: Finished accordion book cover...25

Figure 10: A students family heritage Celtic cross...25

Figure 11: Student experimenting with applying acrylic paint with a sponge...26

Figure 12: A students piece centered on a Celtic cross with bricks symbolizing her heritage

29
39

Author Biography

Robert Cady was born in Northeastern Iowa and received a BFA in Fine Art from the

University of Northern Iowa. His major focus was photography, but he also minored in painting

and art history. After graduation Roberts life direction took a turn and art took a backseat to

marriage and work. After a divorce and many years of retail management his life took another

turn. A new, and understanding wife, caused a reinterest in art and a desire to finish what so

long ago was put aside.

Robert is currently enrolled in the University of Floridas online Master in Art Education

program, where he has recaptured his love of art and found an increasing desire to share that love

through teaching. Even though he has never taught before, Roberts confidence has grown

considerably during his studies at the University of Florida and is about to begin his new life as

an art educator now that he has completed his capstone project.