Study #1 Introduction


The aim of art is to not represent the outward appearance

of things, but their inward significance

~~ Aristotle

            After grade school, many adults stop creating artwork and lose faith in their ability to make art. Some seek out additional instruction at community centers, museums, and other institutions of higher learning. This study explores the art education environment of the adult learner.  “Although K-12 art specialists may have primary responsibility for their students’ visual art learning, art educators in higher education, art discipline specialists, and art museum educators all contribute to art education practice” (Stankiewicz, 2001, p. 123).     

Statement of the Problem

Adults hold a wealth of lived experiences. Along with their lived experiences, they also face everyday barriers. How do teaching artists approach obstacles stopping adults from making art or developing art skills? How does a teaching artist give adult students skills so that they are ultimately able to express themselves in the manner they desire in the future? 

Purpose of the Study

By exploring and investigating the environment around teaching artists, this study's purpose is to discover and identify the teaching artist’s approaches. The study explores ways teaching artists give encouragement, skills, and knowledge adults might need to make art. This study connects the experiences of teaching artists with adult learner starting, wanting to developing their artistic skills, or simply continue making art.

Research Questions

•    What drives active artists to become teaching artists to adults?

•    What teaching approaches do teaching artists of adults use in their classroom?

•    What are some of the outcomes the teaching artists’ noticed because of their teaching methods?

Significance of the Study

This study explored why teaching artists were driven to teach adults. I discovered  who influenced the teaching artists and to what extent. I discovered approaches the teaching artists use to inspire adult learners. Through a literature review and interviews with teaching artists, this study informs the reader of the various learning environments from a State University to a “paint and sip” national franchise.  Adult learners in an art making program is an under-explored topic. This research will be helpful to teaching artists so they can gain insight into a variety of teaching approaches in a variety of art teaching settings. Teaching artists can gain insight into a variety of teaching approaches that inspire and encourage adult learners no matter what their level of art making.  Also, it will benefit art educators of adults, artists, researchers, scholars, and anyone working in an adult art education programs. The findings can be continually referred to and refine to meet their professional needs.

            The research is of importance to me personally, socially, and professionally because of my deep passion for visual arts and my experience teaching adults art making. As the researcher, an artist, an educator, and an adult learner, I hope this study improves the quality of instruction for creative adults learners. In addition, this study allowed me to expand my teaching horizons.


I am making the assumption that most adults have experienced some art education in their life. I make the assumption that the needs of the adult learner is different than K-12 students. Another assumption is that the teaching artists would be able to identify their motivations for working with adults.

Key Terms

The following term are being used throughout this paper:

Adult Learner: There are many frameworks, principles, models, and theories that set out to explain the difference between an adult and a child learner. Barret (1993), suggests the adult learner takes a more active role in acquiring knowledge. The term adult learner is defined by Merriam and Caffarella (2007), as someone who is aware of themselves and others.  Motivated by intrinsic factors rather than extrinsic ones, the adult learner’s reservoir of life experience is expansive, and their learning process is more problem-centered than subject-centered.  More specifically, “…his or her self-concept moves from that of a dependent personality toward one of a self-directed human being.” (p. 272). Also, Lieb (1991) states, an adult learner is autonomous, has accumulated knowledge through life experiences that they can use as a resource for theirs and others’ learning, they are goal-oriented and are practical. Lieb also states that adult learners are motivated by social relationships, personal advancement, escape/stimulation, and cognitive interest. Stephen Brookfield (1995) suggests that the adult learneris continually learning outside of conventional education structures, they acquire new skills and knowledge in a wide range of community settings and take control of their learning.

Art Making: Art making encompasses many forms and media like painting, ceramics, fabric, metal, glass, etc. Art making is a journey of self-discovery, creativity and includes self-expression through art materials and tools.  Lawton and LaPorte (2013) state, “creativity is a catalyst for change of the best kind, with benefits that are immediate, long-lasting, and within the reach of every person” (p. 321).  For adults, art making is a form of experiential learning. Adults learn better when they can experience what they're learning. According to Malcolm Knowles (2005), experiential learning refers to the types of education that allow adults to be active, to do whatever it is they're learning. They also want to apply to their new learnings the life wisdom they already have from their accumulation of experiences.

Barriers: The assumption that adults have reached a point in their lives where they are completely happy with their careers, family, and leisure activities and do not participate in learning, may be just that, an assumption (Merriam, Caffarella, & Baumgartner, 2007). What prevents some adults from participating in learning are barriers. Barriersare referred to as the needs of the individual that may restrict them from growing as an adult, responsibilities that trump self- development, and major duties required of a person’s life. Some barriers are internal some are external both may include time, family and job responsibilities, money, geographic conditions, self-esteem, social expectations, and others. More specifically, Lieb (1991) explains that some barriers include, “Lack of time, money, confidence, or interest, lack of information, about opportunities to learn, scheduling problems, “red tape” and problems with child care and transportation.” (p. 2).

Teaching Artists:Teaching artists are artists that demonstrate and lecture others on their artistic skill in formal or non-formal teaching environments. A teaching artist is accomplished in both teaching and art making. According to Eric Booth (2015), “A teaching artist is a practicing professional artist with the complementary skills and sensibilities of an educator, who engages people in learning experiences in, through, and about the arts.” (para. 1).

Limitations of the Study

Limitations include time constraints which limited how many participants I could interview and for how long and the fact that all participants were recruited from a small geographic area.

Study #1 The Underrepresentation of Women in Art History



     From ancient to contemporary art, women have participated completely or in various ways of art production. Through this study I discovered for the most part, art history has scrupulously excluded women’s participation in Western art history. Over the years there have been a series of feminist critiques describing the invisibility and underrepresentation of women artists in art history.  Women painters and sculptors have been excluded from modern art history texts for hundreds of years (Slatkin, W. 2000).

The focus of this study is on the disproportionately small number of women artists recognized in art history and correspondingly their lack of inclusion in a college classroom. In traditional art history classrooms, through text books, course discussion, instruction, and materials, only a few women artists are recognized.  This study’s aim is to integrate and recognize more women artists throughout art history. This is accomplished in two ways.  First, I discover and expose some of the missing women artist remaining unrecognized in higher education art history. Second, by creating a feminist pedagogy teaching model designed to include some of the missing women artists in art history. 

            For example, on the front of the publicity postcard distributed by the Guerrilla Girls, a feminist art group asks, “Do women have to be naked to get in the Metropolitan Museum?” The response is printed below the question.  It says, “Less that 5% of the artists in the Modern Art Sections are women, but 85% of the nudes are female” (Guerrilla Girls, 1998). This represents a variety of issues that beg further examination. These statistics show the gender discrimination in the art world. This study is not suggesting we change the facades of museums or the historical representation and roles of women artists. Rather, the aim is to increase the learner’s knowledge of women artists missing from traditional art history curriculum.          

While the topic of education in art history extends world-wide, this study is limited to the United States’ education system.


A New Yorker cartoon drawn by Lee Lorenz shows a group of cavewomen painting. One of the cavewomen asks: “Does it strike anyone as weird that none of the great painters have ever been men?” This is a bit sarcastic, but there is a long-held belief that prehistoric art was created by men. I use this cartoon to demonstrate the direction of this study and find it analytical of how art history is taught and known to the Western masses.  

Through documentation, many art historians have privileged the artistic greatness, and genius of only men. From the literature reviewed in this study, I have found traditional art history has excluded women’s participation in art through the ages. In art history text books, women artists are commonly non-existent. It was not until the intervention of the women’s liberation movement in the 1960’s and 1970’s women in art history began to be included in textbooks. According to Chadwick (2002), feminist art historians “wish to reclaim women’s histories and to resituate women within the history of cultural production” (p. 9).  Through the interviews in this study and my personal experience, I am lead to believe that the failure to recognize women’s creative and artistic contributions continues to be underrepresented today. 

The creation of art history is often said to have begun in the mid-seventeen hundreds by in the writings of Johann Joachim Winckelmann. Whitney Davis (1994) of Berkley Universities History of Art Departmentstates, “Winckelmann's image of art history presents a more adequate sense of the enterprise than the misleading polarization of "objective" history and "subjective" interpretation frequently encountered today” (p. 141). 

There are others that will argue Giorgio Vasari and his writings were the foundation and beginnings of art history in the fifteen hundreds. Vasari was an Italian painter, architect, writer, and historian.  He was primarily known for his writings and personal relationships with Renaissance Art and Artists. As George Bull explains in the introduction of a new edition of Vasari’s The Lives of the Artists (1965),which Bull translated into English, “Vasari was not the slightest bit interested in the religious and political issues of his time” (p. 9).  In the literature review chapter, both of these historians will be discussed in greater detail.

To address some of the challenges in today’s instruction, I designed an art history course using the principles and practices of feminist pedagogy. The model is not only designed to fit the needs and demands of a diverse population learning environment, but the structure is congruent with my own personal values and aims. In all the classes I have taught; I wanted equality to be central to the interactions that took place, enabling all students to feel free to learn.

Based on existing research and research within this study, I am confident that women will continue to be active participants in their visual culture around the globe and the future.  This study hopes to broaden the base study of knowledge about the omission of women artists in the past.

The Purpose of Study

The purposes of this study are twofold.  First, through feminist research, I needed to identify some of the women artists who have not been properly recognized as significant contributors in art history.  Through the lens of a woman artist, researcher and teacher, I analyze important women artists that are normally excluded in a traditional Western art history classes. This study examines possible reasons women’s art works are not or were not in America’s art history books.  It considers some of the societal, cultural, educational, economical, and religious oppressions that have contributed to women artist’s disparagement and their hidden existence in art history.

Second, based on the knowledge that emerged from this study through a literature review and data collection, I designed a feminist pedagogy model. Using feminist pedagogy practices, this Western art history course’s purpose is to heighten the awareness missing women artists in art history. The course empowers underrepresented women artists, as well as explores and discusses the social, economic, political, religious, or cultural climate in their time. My aim is to provide meaningful discourse, materials and texts that are suitable to the diverse population of students in today’s classrooms. The course’s approach reflects the disparities in a traditional art history practices.

The curriculum focuses on the large disparity of women artists in the modern art history college classrooms. Very few women artists are recognized in a traditional art history class as important and significant.  For example, Judith Leyster, Georgia O’Keefe, Mary Cassatt, and Frida Kahol are usually artists that get mentioned routinely in today’s classroom. Some of the artists that are less mainstream in this study are Timarete, Properzia de’Rossi, Caterina van Hemessen, Natalie Goncharova, Marie Braquemond, and Yayoi Kusama.

The course model is in Chapter Five of this study. The course is ultimately for a diverse population of adult learners. According to an on-line teaching resource, (2012), there are six fundamental principles to feminist pedagogy: Relationship, Community, Voice, Empowerment, Respect/Diversity, and Challenging Views.  First the relationship of the instructor and the learner complement each other as a unit to derive new knowledge. The second is allowing empowerment of the learners, where the instructor is not the only resource and authority. The third principle is constructing a community in the classroom where the learner can comfortably share their interests, knowledge, and commonalities with the rest of the class. The fourth principle encourages privilege of the voices of all learners, not just the most vocal members of the class, but activities that provide everyone opportunity. The fifth principle supports the respect and diversity among all students’ personal experiences. Lastly, a feminist pedagogy classroom challenges traditional and patriarchal learning ideals and promotes learners to challenge significant ideas. See table 1 on page 105.

Significance of Research

The feminist pedagogy curriculum design is important to adult and higher education because it supports the individual, creates a climate comfortable for discourse, growth, and sharing along with other benefits to both the learner and the facilitator. The body of research and its findings within this study will be of interest to adult educators, art historians, women studies professionals and students. 

By including more women artists that contributed to the rich history of art, the learners are made awareness of their relevance in a specific period in art history. The women artists mentioned in this study only represent a small portion of women that have produced art and remain unrecognized or underrepresented in art history. The outcome of a feminist pedagogical art history model will redefine and implement appropriate materials that will emphasis women artists in art history. This classroom incorporates feminist consciousness so that the male perspective is not dominating. For example, women are not just the subject matter of the works, but also creator. The feminist perspective is included in the instruction, as well. This means a point of view that promotes female gender, and the removal of various types of oppression of women in a patriarchal environment.      

This study’s main audiences are educators or the learners of introductory level art history courses. This research explores the contributions and struggles of women artists in art history.  It was necessary to investigative the background of women artists throughout art history to effectively construct a feminist pedagogy teaching model.

The research is of importance to me personally, socially, and professionally. My deep passion for the visual arts has led me to this study.  The research allows me to expand my professional horizons as an educator, artist, and research scholar. As the researcher, a woman, an artist, an educator, and a student, I am happy to take ownership of this study with high hopes to improve the equity of women artists in the art world.

This study provided in-depth stories about the professional lives of three contemporary women artists. Their stories offer insight into challenges and opportunities that relate to their identity as artists. Also, the stories and knowledgeable insights of four historians provided views of women in history and their detailed experiences using successful pedagogical practices.       

Based on existing works and the research within this study, I am confident that women will continue to be active participants in their visual culture around the globe and in the future.  This study hopes to broaden the base study of knowledge about the omission of women artists in the past.          

Theoretical Framework

Through the use of feminist theoretical framework, this research focuses on the role of women in the past and their historical achievements.  The framework examines women’s social, political, economic roles and life experiences of their time. Feminist theoretical framework offers insights into art history and contemporary works of women artists (Pollack, 2003).  Using this type of framework emphasizes women’s historical position in society.   The framework enabled me to discover some of the hurdles women artists had to overcome.

The feminist research framework brought to the research process a better perspective on the roles of women in art history, and feminist pedagogy principles and practices. Searching for literature on these topics was easily accessible through books, articles, journals and websites. I had the luxury of choosing the readings that had the most significance to the topic of my study. The Feminist pedagogy review of literature completed my vision of an effective art history curriculum inclusive of more women artists from history.             

According to Denzin and Lincoln (2005),  “sociology and anthropology analyzes both women’s representations of experience and the material, social, economic, or gendered conditions that articulate the experience” (p. 249). They continue, feminist research “requires that we investigate the subject and the object rather than deny the existence of, or seek unilateral control over, this relation” (p. 251).   

My affiliation with the art world was useful in guiding and directing me to take on the role of the researcher of this study with a heuristic lens. Feminist research serves to stimulate interest, prompt questions, encourage discovering, and heighten understanding of women artist’s social issues in art history.  The awareness of women artist’s personal and professional lives enables educators to present art history to the learner differently and more effectively.

The feminist principles and consciousness also guide this framework and the decisions being made by the researcher. Liz Stanley and Sue Wise (1983) say, “Feminist consciousness is one expression of women’s unique view of social reality, and we see it as ‘unique’ in the sense that it is concerned with, and can see, different aspects of conventional, sexist, reality” (p. 117). Patricia Maguire (1987) sums up some feminist principles and said, "Feminism is (a) a belief that women universally face some form of oppression or exploitation; (b) a commitment to uncover and understand what causes and sustains oppression, in all its forms and (c) a commitment to work individually and collectively in everyday life to end all forms of oppression" (p. 79).

Feminist theories, “emphasize problems with the social text, its logic and its inability ever to represent the world of lived experience fully…grounded in the experiences of oppressed peoples” (Denzin & Lincoln, 2005, p. 24). Stanley and Wise (1983) explain feminist theory as, “something produced out of the scientific mind’s experience of the world” (p. 48). Feminist Theory has helped me understand women’s oppression.     

Linda Nochlin indicated in her essay entitled Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists? (1988), research on women should be done by women.  Nochlin declares, “Women and their situation in the arts, as in other realms of endeavor, are not a "problem" to be viewed through the eyes of the dominant male power elite”. She continues, instead “women must conceive of themselves as potentially, if not actually, equal subjects, and must be willing to look the facts of their situation full in the face, without self-pity, or cop-outs” (p. 151).

Sandra Harding (1987) reaffirms that studying women from their perspective, and including the researcher’s beliefs as part of the research is what makes feminist research feminist. She maintains, "They can be thought of as methodological features because they show us how to apply the general structure of scientific theory to research on women and gender" (pg. 9). Otherwise, if not feminist research, there is no variation; we are studying women in history from a man’s view. Maguire agrees (1987), "A male view of the social world has become the view" (p. 82).

To add to Nochlin, Harding, and Maguire’s stance, Denzin and Lincoln (2005), express the same view on who is best to represent women in feminine research.  “The important assumption that women in specific contexts are best suited to help develop presentations of their lives, contexts that are located in specific structures and historical material moments”. They point out that it is, “particularly critical as feminist work to understand-text, discourses, and encounters with women-how their lives are contextualized and framed” (p. 256).

The views of Stanley and Wise (1983) differ.  Simply being feminist does not give the researcher an escape they state. Stanley and Wise argue, “All humans attributes are brought into the research situation by researchers, are inevitably  brought into it…”feminism” can be seen as a direct parallel to “sexism”, because it similarly constitutes the presence of a distinct set of values within the research situation” (pgs. 48-49).

Either way, what makes feminist research feminist research, is that it attends to the gender of women and how they experience the social world. Feminist research explains the world in a unique way and guides the process of research. (Harding S. G., 1987).  Bringing my own knowledge, experiences, perception, and objective truth into the research process, I may be both an insider and outsider to the art world, but as an insider, I have a strong understanding of the dynamics that social relationships inform the situation under investigation. Using feminist research framework brings a better perspective on the roles of women in art history.          

The Research Questions Guiding this Study

This study investigates the following questions:

1. Where did the history of art begin? Whose story is it? Who are some of the key art historians?

2. Why are women artists missing form art history curriculum?

3. What were some of the social forces confronted by women in art history?  How do they differ for women today? 

4. What were some of the opportunities women artists encounter in Western art history? What opportunities are offered women artists today? 

5. What value is there in portraying the social roles of women in art history? 

6. What does a feminist pedagogy classroom offer in helping educators expose some of the discriminations and current underrepresentation of women artists in art history instruction? 

7.  How can we better educate the diverse student population in today’s classroom with a so that broader and more relevant understanding of art history?

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Latest comments

31.10 | 18:33

Great job from Yolanda AND Norma

18.10 | 03:33

The purpose of art is not simply to be shocking. Any homeless streetperson can do that. The purpose of art must be higher and remain higher than the gutter.

11.10 | 12:45

ive didn't read all the articles but what I read are very affective

20.09 | 14:39

There is clearly a need for Women's movement.

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