Friday, April 24, 2009

Art for Credit - Part 1

Last quarter I had a couple of opportunities to propose and submit art projects in lieu of traditional written assignments for my Seminary class-work. This might seem strange for a graduate school. I suspect it owes a lot to the pedagogical open-mindedness of Drs. Erin Dufault-Hunter and John Goldingay who left room in their syllabuses for such things. It also owes a lot to something called the Brehm Center for Worship Theology and the Arts which is an institute on our campus, working to remind that God created us and thus we aught to see our own tendency and need to create as a part of our participation in His image.

Art for Credit: Writings

I first attempted this for Dr. Goldingay in his Old Testament Writings course. I learned a great deal about the way that scripture, particularly the Psalms teach us to pray with honesty out of our experience. This connected directly to several experiences I had working as a chaplain in the hospital.

Here is what Dr. John's syllabus says about how one might do such a thing:
"(3) You can do something “creative” (e.g., poetry, art, music) for the second paper. Here are the rules for that.

1. Check out with me what you propose to do.
2. Remember that what I have to judge is how/what you have learned from the scriptures we studied. Your project should be a means of discovering something about the scriptures and expressing it that you could not have done by means of a regular paper. You can turn in any form of art that enables me to see that.
3. Sermons, teaching outlines, and the like do not count as “something creative” in this connection, because they are more designed to communicate than to discover or express, and it is thus hard to tell from them whether they reflect sufficient graduate-level engagement.
4. Most forms of art need to be accompanied by two pages of interpretation. Poetry might be an exception.
5. An artistically profound piece has a head start because its artistic nature should reveal part of the answer to that question. A more amateur piece may need more reflection in the accompanying pages of interpretation."
There are a few more items but this is the core of the concept. So I set out to make a connection between what I was learning in scripture about prayer by means of painting a picture of an experience I had once of a profoundly honest and transformative prayer I witnessed in the hospital.

If you are someone who is involved in teaching people things, especially religious and spiritual things, I hope you will consider adding something like Dr. John's clause quoted above into your syllabus or lesson plans. It was uniquely challenging and a different way of seeing where my life and the Bible come together.

If you're concerned about whether there's enough evidence that learning took place, for "credit" then you can take a look at my explanation. Here.

"Family Room" Watercolor, ink. Matt Lumpkin 2009

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