A university course in mindful viewing: Understanding art and self through contemplative experience

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This enquiry has two goals. First, it explores the benefits of a university art education course designed to develop mindfulness and initiate student appreciation of other world-views through art. Students at the undergraduate and graduate level were encouraged to create and use daily insight practices that would enable appreciation of unfamiliar artists, as well as visual works of other cultures. Through contemplative viewing, journal writing, discussion and art making, students developed what Dustin and Ziegler refer to as a ‘practical recovery of intuitive vision’, which can be explained as an everyday activity connected to either viewing or creating something that one values. The second goal of this writing is to suggest the necessity of developing a viewing practice built upon mindfulness as a creative act in order to explore art deeply. Mindful viewing and the reflection on one’s practice expands to an appreciation of others’ experiences in creating and living with their art. Contemplative viewing also gifts the viewer with the suspension of judgement about unfamiliar art long enough to appreciate what cannot always be understood in an initial viewing encounter.

Keywords: Mindfulness; art appreciation; contemplative viewing; insight; intuitive vision; worldviews

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1386/eta.7.2.137_1

Affiliations: Southern Illinois University

Publication date: July 12, 2011

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  • The International Journal of Education through Art is an English language journal that promotes relationships between art and education. The term 'art education' should be taken to include art, craft and design education. Each issue, published three times a year within a single volume, consists of peer-reviewed articles mainly in the form of research reports and critical essays, but may also include exhibition reviews and image-text features.
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