The Role of Visual Arts Competencies in Embedding Belonging, Diversity and Identity, Part 3 | Jude Ross | 7 Min Read

February 23, 2023

To quickly review: the first article focused on how to embed Identity and the second article addressed how to add Diversity to the traditional visual arts curriculum. The first article tackled how to embed Identity within the traditional Visual Arts Cannon, typically a bastion of the “old white guy club,” by using competencies that deepen the learning process for students. By integrating 21st-century skills into the art process, we not only give our students a fantastic art education but also support their ability to succeed in any future venture. Embedding Identity broadens students’ perspectives on how people look at and experience the world around them. My second article grew in scope to outline how competencies that embed Diversity into the curriculum add another layer of complexity and experience for students and further broaden their perspectives and horizons. 

This third article addresses the importance of Belonging. It’s not enough to have these conversations with students; it is necessary to create experiences and lessons in which students can feel and then express a sense of belonging. 

Belonging

Cornell University’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion offers a wonderful definition of belonging: “Belonging is the feeling of security and support when there is a sense of acceptance, inclusion, and identity for a member of a certain group. It is when an individual can bring their authentic self…” This idea of bringing your authentic self to work, school, etc., is powerful. There is no energy lost within code-switching when this is possible. You feel welcome in the larger group because there is a genuine, true feeling of acceptance. Seth Boden’s blog really speaks to this last idea: “The experience of being treated and feeling like a full member of a larger community where you can thrive.”

Another huge aspect of belonging is that you can have a diversity of representation without inclusion, and inclusion without an environment of Belonging for everyone. With this idea in mind, one can see how powerful a tool Belonging can be when creating a supportive atmosphere for all.

When incorporating Belonging into the Visual Arts classroom, the first questions that come to mind are what types of artwork are on the walls? Are the images representative of the students in your classes? Is it a student-centered classroom? How can subtle cues create a more inclusive classroom?

Jude Ross

Jude Ross teaches at The Alexander Dawson School at Rainbow Mountain (NV). He has lived on four continents and has been educating students in the U.S. and in international schools for over 17 years. He received two Masters degrees, an MFA in Painting and Drawing, and an MS in Curriculum and Instruction.