Art and Class | Teachers College Columbia University

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Art and Class

To Raphael Montañez Ortiz (Ed.D. ’82), world-renowned artist and the founder of El Museo del Barrio in New York City, the battle over access to arts education is about more than providing children with rich developmental experiences. Ortiz, Professor of Visual Arts at the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University, sees the arts as a means to political empowerment, and he argues that our society has relegated the “emotional body felt” (physical expressions of emotion) to an underclass.

“We look to the underclass as full of vitality,” Ortiz says, thereby excusing ourselves from the hard work of educating poor children in ways of using their intellect to guide their emotions. It’s convenient to say that minority communities are often just more “emotional,” so there’s an incentive to teach such a limited view of art, Ortiz argues. “But, especially for children without economic resources, the arts can provide a way to integrate these two vital parts of the psyche.”

Published Wednesday, Jun. 26, 2013