ART AND EDUCATION

"Art is a way to freedom, the process of liberation of the human spirit, which is the true and ultimate aim of all education". (E. Cassirer).

Today here in Rethymnon we can be proud of our progress in the area of visual arts. After the expansion of the exhibition spaces of the Museum of Contemporary Art of Crete and the move of the Workroom of Fine Arts afew metres up the same street, we now have a comprehensive art and culture facility. The Museum of Contemporary Art of Crete with its exhibition and educational section constitutes a unique regional cultural organisation with a wealth of alternative possibilities in terms of cultural policy and education.

According to the Workshops' register, from 1996 to this day some 8,000 children and adults have attended our programmes. This means a lot. Something is changing as regards artistic creation and visual education. The latter has acquired a special role and purpose in our time; significantly, modern educational theories have been instrumental in promoting art as an instrument of knowledge, expression and communication. The gield of art lends itself to exploring learning conditions conducive to different, combinatory forms of learning, behaving and attaining knowledge; to alternative methods of cultivation and erudition. This is why familiarity with the visual arts is seen as crucial in the development of children, in the quality of life for adults.

It is worth noting that education and expression through art is an irreplaceable process which contributes to all educational objectives—knowledge, skills, and emotions—and to all areas of growth: psychokinetic, emotional, social, intellectual and creative. It is a process of experimentation, research and self-expression which provides opportunities to reinforce the ability to learn, act, acquire experiences and redefine the principles and values required by a society—especially a society like ours, which is full of uncertainties, discrimination, contradictions, alienation and confusion. This means that the teaching of art goes beyond the mere learning of drawing or any other artistic technique; it is an alternative educational and cultural experience and a different kind of quest for getting to know about the past and the present, and acquires a special meaning as a language of expression and creation.

The value of visual arts is therefore precious and irreplaceable for contemporary man, being associated with an enhanced cultural level, a richer reserve of intellectual tools for a better life. Indeed, visual art influences our life even if we have never visited any Museum, gallery or art space. Monuments, statues, buildings, the urban environment, publications of all kinds, everyday utility objects, clothes and accessories are some examples of things derived from artistic quest and expression or created in interaction with it.

Workroom of Fine Arts: the operating principles
The Workroom of Fine Arts ofthe Educational Section of the Museum of Contemporary Art of Crete were started in 1996, when they became part of the Art Workshop Network of the Ministry of Culture.

The philosophy of the Workroom of Fine Arts' curriculum is based on the premise that artistic expression is a universal right of people irrespective of age or gender. It results from the principle that art is not meant for a minority of people with special talent or knowledge, but for all those who are interested in using it as an additional tool for thinking and communication which adds meaning to all activities.

The Workshops operate classes for children and adult, and the primary aim is to approach the artistic activities of both children of all ages and adults. In all cases we take into account the special requirements and abilities of each age group. Students in these classes are given the opportunity to learn many different techniques and media such as drawing, painting, pottery, mask making, collage, constructions, jewel-making, etc. They become acquainted with the art history and the cultural heritage of ours and other countries, through individual or group projects and various collaborations with cultural institutions fromGreeceand abroad.

The curricula and the activities are designed in accordance with the Art Studies Curriculum of the Institute of Education.

The subjects, activities, educational objectives and method of teaching are determined by the general characteristics of each age group as well as those of each participant separately. The classes do not generate stereotypes which stifle the creativity of individuals; instead, they instil in children/adults their own aesthetic values under various teaching methods so as to reveal and exploit the different views of artists today as well as at various moments in history. This contact is achieved through various methods of approach and interpretation depending on the age of students. In any case, the spherical approach to art means that theory and practice are carefully balanced, while the different methods can promote different educational and artistic aims and objectives.

Students are divided into classes of 12 to 15 according to their age. Children's classes meet for a two-hour session once a week; adult classes and the preparatory course for architectural schools, etc. have four-hour sessions. Most of the materials in children's classes are provided by the Workshop; at the beginning of the school year, students are asked to contribute certain additional materials as specified by the Workshop according to requirements.

In addition to their teaching work, the Workshops make use of the cultural material from the temporary exhibitions presented at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Crete, designing activities adapted to the subject matter of the exhibitions which go deeper into the form and content of the works on show.

Annual exhibition
Upon completion of the classes, an annual exhibition of the Workshops has been instituted as a regular event. The exhibition presents only part of the students' creations as they emerge under the unobtrusive supervision and the inspired guidance of the Workshops' instructors.

The students' works demonstrate how the Workroom of Fine Arts bring together people of all ages who share their love for artistic creation. Some only want a first, exploratory contact while others realise how sustained practice expands their perception. Small children get to appreciate the pure joy of creating. The teachers, as sources of inspiration in this creative action and companions on the adventurous journey of art, establish the conditions in which all aspects of personal expression can flourish. Each session becomes an opportunity and a medium for communication as well as the starting point for artistic reflection. All together, students and teachers, join in the 'serious game' of art. A game that demands boldness, skill, honesty, application, love, sensibility, perseverance, patience, enthusiasm and sobriety; a game that shapes and develops one's inner world and helps to bring to the surface one's hidden skills, abilities and proclivities.

Constantinos Christides
Head of Educational Section - Workroom of Fine Arts,
Museum ofContemporary Art ofCrete