This paper explores visual culture and its emergence as a (inter-) disciplinary field of study and practice within art education. Visual Culture Art Education (VCAE), while still in the process of defining itself, inserts itself among myriad academic disciplines as well as our everyday living experiences outside the classroom. Due to its discursive nature, VCAE draws extensively on contemporary pedagogical praxis.
I advocate for the integration of visual culture, with an emphasis on popular culture, into art curricula as a means to increase the relevancy of art instruction for students. The inclusion of (popular) visual culture in the art classroom also serves as a means to facilitate the development of higher order thinking skills that can assist students in their ability to navigate the seemingly infinite clusters of signs aimed at shaping them (inside and) outside the art classroom.
I advocate for inquiry-based educational methods within the framework of constructivist theory with an emphasis on critical pedagogy and psychoanalytic pedagogy. These contemporary pedagogical models position the learner as a key agent in meaning making. By modeling questioning strategies and facilitating critical connections to course materials and student interests, art educators share the responsibility of learning with the students thereby creating a democratic community within the classroom. Connections to democratic principles are made throughout this paper as a means to communicate the several opportunities art educators have in the classroom to foster student questioning, student-initiated research, and student constructed meanings that are independent of authority and distinct from dominant ideologies.
My research focuses first on the scope of visual culture, then on contemporary constructivist pedagogies that reveal multiple access points for art educators to begin to integrate VCAE. This research becomes the foundation for several instructional resource guides written for art educators in K–16 classrooms. These guides present research on several contemporary fine artists whose work collectively makes use of (popular) visual culture and (popular) media to communicate meaning and affect social change. A focus on contemporary fine art demonstrates the applicability of a visual culture art education while at once elucidating the importance of empowering students to critically engage their visual worlds whatever they might be. Questioning strategies are provided to encourage student construction of meaning in a manner that informs student-initiated research and art making.