Puerto Rican students in the New Haven schools are usually introduced to art through traditional Western Art. For the teacher who is interested in a chronological approach, either Far Eastern Art or Ancient Egyptian Art might be the starting point. If the teacher believes in a stylistic approach, the Impressionists, the Abstract Expressionists, or even the work of a single artist are typically shown as paradigms of great art. But all of these are not as easily identified with by the students as is the art of Latin America.
Because middle school art in the city of New Haven is geared to introduce the children to various media and their artistic possibilities, the art that is shown to them should be of an inspiring nature rather than of an historical one. Although the monuments of the Ancient Mexicans are awe inspiring, works that give children a sense that they can use art media to express themselves is the goal of the art teacher. It is with this goal in mind that the examples in this paper are to be selected.
This goal of improving the Puerto Rican student’s self image while introducing him/her to art would be ideally best served if Puerto Rican art alone could be shown to the students. But the art of Puerto Rico is too often derivative of the very art that is foisted upon our students. Latin American art of the highest quality and crafts that are most attractive to modern and youthful sensibilities should be shown to the students. It is with this as the premise that the following works and projects are to be discussed.
As the middle school student goes from subject to subject, he or she sees each discipline as isolated from all the others. By introducing students to painting, sculpture and crafts of their own history they can also learn about history, social studies, science and to employ math skills in the execution of art projects. By discussing these subjects in art, and art in other fields, students can learn about the interconnectedness of all fields.
Each work of art that is shown to the students should be discussed for its iconography and for its place in history as well as for its visual impact or its aesthetic. In this way, each work will be appreciated for its historical message as an artifact or as a personal artistic statement.
It is hoped that the brief discussions of a few works of painting, sculpture, and crafts will encourage teachers who are not necessarily trained in either studio or art history, to feel comfortable presenting Latin American works in their classes to enable students to improve their artistic skills.