About Aesthetic Education

In this short video, Greene speaks of "wide-awakeness" in the midst of an aesthetic encounter...

In Variations on a Blue Guitar: Lincoln Center Institute Lectures on Aesthetic Education, Maxine Greene seeks to define aesthetic education for us in a number of ways. For example, in the first chapter, Defining Aesthetic Education,  aesthetic education is defined as "an intentional undertaking designed to nurture appreciative, reflective, cultural, participatory engagements with the arts by enabling learners to notice what is there to be noticed, and to lend works of art their lives in such a way that they can achieve them as variously meaningful." (pg.6) 

In the  chapter, Notes on Aesthetic Educaton: An Initiation into New Ways of Seeing, Hearing, Feeling, and Moving...Greene reminds us that we are interested "in education here, not schooling", and that aesthetic education as we understand it is not "in any sense a fringe undertaking, a species of 'frill'". (pg.7)

The works of art we encounter  through the approach known as aesthetic education - aesthetic encounters, as Greene calls them - are  "situated encounters. That means that the perceivers of a given work of art apprehend that work in the light of their backgrounds, biographies, and experiences. We have to presume a multiplicity of perspectives, a plurality of interpretations. Clearly, this opens aesthetic educators to the likelihood of more than one interpretation of a poem, a dance, a play, a musical piece." (pg.175)

The Maxine Greene Institute serves as a gateway for artists, educators, researchers and all those interested in learning more about these aesthetic encounters, the canon embedded in the philosophy of aesthetic education, all the while sharing our practice and experiences - in the light of our backgrounds and biographies - with each other, world-wide.  

Maxine, circa 1940 and journal excerpt


What more does Greene say about aesthetic encounters, in her writings? Here, another excerpt from Variations:

"What I think we ought to understand is that paintings, dances, musical works, poems, and the rest are deliberately made for the sake of such experience. They are sometimes called privileged objects for that reason. But if they are to come into existence for you as aesthetic objects or events, they also have to be attended to in a particular way. They do not open themselves automatically, anymore than do apples and cherries on a fruit stand; they have to be achieved as aesthetic objects, and that has everything to do with you... My point is that, if the painting or the dance performance or the play is to exist as an aesthetic object or event for you, it has to be attended to in a particular way. You have to be fully present to it - to focus your attention on it and, again, to allow it to exist apart from your everydayness and your practical concerns. I do not mean that you, as a living person with your own biography, your own history, have to absent yourself. No, you have to be there in your personhood, encountering the work much in the way you encounter other persons.

The proper way to encounter another person is to be open to them, to be ready to see new dimensions, new facets of the other, to recognize the possibility of some fresh perception or understanding, so you may know the other better, appreciate that person more variously. This is, actually, how we ordinarily treat each other as persons. We do not treat each other as case histories, or instances of some psychological or sociological reality - not, that is, in personal encounters. Nor do we come up against each other as if the other were merely an inanimate object, incapable of reciprocation. There are analogues between this and encounters with works of art, especially in the readiness for fresh illumination, in the willingness to see something, to risk something unexpected and new."

   - Maxine Greene, Variations on a Blue Guitar (pp. 53-54)

To read a brief history of aesthetic education, please go HERE

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