The Other West

 Cultures within Culture

Your school may be in the Western world and you wonder how to expose your students to other cultures first hand. Exhibitions are always a fantastic way of seeing art from other parts of the world, as is travel of course. But sometimes we overlook the cultures immediately around us, the layers that make up our western society. Immigrant culture has greatly enriched our artistic experience in the west, and we also have great historical traditions to draw upon for inspiration. 

              You need not always look far from home to investigate other cultures

Art subcultures within the American mainstream 

There's plenty of Art in America, north and south, and this vast geography contains a variety of native cultures, subcultures and the mixing of native and immigrant communities. This makes a rich territory for artistic investigation. Encourage your students to look into their own geographic region for layers of cultures, and to look back in time to see how art has evolved (or not).

Some cultural topics in American art

  • African American Art, race and cultural change
  • Immigrant culture in the USA ( focus on one group)
  • Street Art, its origins and cultural ties
  • Native American traditions in art and craft, the role of ritual and healing in art. 
  • Other traditional crafts: i.e. Shaker furniture, Gees Bend Quilts ( picture on right)

The Old Country

Ancient European Cultures

When we think of European Art we tend to think of modern and contemporary art, or of the great traditions of the last 500 years, but the European region also contains some of the richest ancient history in the world. Encourage students to compare work across time periods, look at art and artifacts from Christian and  pre- Christian times if you have a local archeology museum.

Contemporary Regional Influences 

There are also groupings of artists in different regions of Europe, created out of a common sense of place. (like the term Nordic Painters implies.) What makes a group from a certain region distinct? What cultural influences can be traced in their work? 

European traditions

In Europe, the artists and artisans of the past can be a subject for cultural study and comparison with now.

  • Celtic traditions: stone carving, monuments, crop circles
  • Illuminated manuscripts, lettering, and the development of book art
  • Icons and miniatures ( Russian, Byzantine)
  • Lacemaking, embroidery, textile arts, each country has their own unique traditions.
  • Design and graphic arts: Bauhaus, Jugendstijl, Swiss Style.
  • Also consider  art movements united by geography or nationalism, such as Nordic Painters, German Expressionism, La TransAvanguardia or Futurism in Italy.
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