Children As Curators: Mapping a Continuum of Aesthetic Development in Visual Arts
This paper outlines a recent Australian research study examining how children understand the meaning of paintings in art. The study demonstrates the developmental significance of pictorial reasoning as the bases for aesthetic development during middle to late childhood. In the study 36 participants aged 6, 9 and 12 years adopted the role of a curator and constructed an exhibition of portrait paintings. These young curators provided critical reasons in justifying their choices of portraits. Their responses were analysed in qualitative and quantitative terms. The findings indicate that, with age, children are able to formulate increasingly more integrated critical judgments and ascribe intentional meanings to paintings. Three curatorial performances are described to illustrate this continuum of aesthetic development as children advance into representational thinking and increasing critical autonomy. Understanding conceptual shifts in patterns of reasoning in children’s critical picture talk is the first step for teachers to know when and how to intervene in children’s learning and assist them in building more complex interpretations of artworks as artefacts.
Keywords: Pictorial Reasoning, Aesthetic Development, Aesthetic Judgments, Children as Critics
Dr. Karen Maras
Senior Lecturer - Visual Arts Education, School of Education, Australian Catholic University