View all 2020-2021 Professional Development »
What is artistic literacy? Artistic literacy "…is the knowledge and understanding required to participate authentically in the arts," as defined by the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards. It invites students to be a part of the creative process as well as the analytical process. By encouraging students to engage with and create artistic works, students reflect deeply on their beliefs, perspectives, emotions and learn how they can meaningfully express their opinions creatively. Artistic literacy also enables students to seek out and decipher messages inherent in artworks by analyzing the content, historical context, emotional impact and make interpretations based on those observations.
Why is it important to develop artistic literacy? Artistic literacy activates students' potential for personal transformation through creative expression by activating both the cognitive domain (critical thinking and logic) as well as the affective domain (creative thinking and emotion). By engaging in artistic inquiry, students develop the skills to analyze and evaluate artistic choices and to critically examine bias, context and emotion.1 This type of critical thinking allows students to "…connect both personally and meaningfully to works of art and, through this process, to forge connections to our humanity and the humanity of others."2
How does testimony and IWitness develop artistic literacy? In IWitness, students can access testimonies of individuals who share their artwork, their artistic process and their purpose. As revealed through the testimonies, their artistic expressions were created for various reasons: as tributes, as a form of memory, as social commentaries, for posterity or as a form of healing. These testimonies deepen students' understanding of the creative process by providing opportunities for students to see and hear how artistic expression is influenced by historical events, personal reactions and raw emotions. Students also participate in the creative process through specially designed testimony-based activities that ask them to consider the story of a survivor or witness, the historical context and their personal reaction before crafting an artistic expression in response. Students create drawings, videos, soundscapes, posters or a variety of other artistic forms and are asked to provide an artist's note. In this way, their artistic literacy is fostered and their perspective is widened.
Artistic literacy allows students to decipher messages inherent in artworks by analyzing content, historical context and emotional impact to make interpretations based on their analysis. IWitness features testimonies from survivors and witnesses of genocide for whom art served as a way to share their stories and express their emotions. Students can access them and learn how an individual conveys personal emotions while telling a story of a historic time and place. These testimonies also allow students the opportunity to craft their own artistic works in response to the authentic stories and experiences they encounter. IWitness further further develops artistic literacy by guiding students to create their own works, making creative choices to express messages through various media.
Teaching with Testimony Webinar:
Artistic Literacy and the Human Story
December 3, 2020 | 4pm PT
IWitness Activities to Artistic Literacy: