International art education professor discussed art, design

By Aurora Schnorr

DeKALB | Rachel Mason gave a lecture entitled “The Case for Integrating Art and Design” Tuesday night in room 110 of Jack Arends Hall.

Mason, who is a professor of art education at Roehampton University in London, delivered her lecture to a room of about 20 art education students and professors. Doug Boughton, director of the NIU School of Art, introduced the visiting professor, detailing some of her major accomplishments in Brazil, Japan, and Taiwan.

The 50-minute lecture was centered around Mason’s research on the integration of design into the curriculum of schools, with a focus on her homeland, the United Kingdom. In the U.K., with the exception of Scotland, the national curriculum offers two options for students with an inclination toward design: Art and Design, or Design and Technology.

The two programs differ primarily in the use of technology and conceptions of art.

The Art and Design program concentrates on what most would call fine art, such as painting and drawing.

“In Design and Technology teachers give students focused, practical tasks where they learn specific technical skills when they’re making projects” Mason said.

She believes that the programs aren’t as different as one would think. Both rely on creativity and the process of creating, but the majority of the world, especially academia, still looks at design as inartistic.

People need to rethink their definitions of traditional words we associate with art, particularly “craft,” said Mason.

“I found it interesting that [Mason] didn’t find ‘craft’ as dirty of a word as everyone else does,” said Collin Clarke, senior art education major.

“I’m a potter, and potting and ceramics is thought of as ‘craft’ and it is used with a very negative connotation.”

The topic of semantics was a big part of the night. Mason spoke about the traditional definitions of art, design, and craft, and NIU seems to be just as concerned as she is.

“I’m happy that art and design are both ill-defined concepts…my concern is that the these two subject areas have actually squeezed out the concept of craft.”