Liz Rex

Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Freedman, Kerry J.||Staikidis, Kryssi

Degree Name

Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)

Legacy Department

Department of Art and Design


Outsider art--Study and teaching (Higher); Art appreciation--Study and teaching (Higher)


Contemporary art education practices should democratize art learning by engaging students in understanding integral relationships between art and everyday life. The purpose of this study was to determine how a vernacular art curriculum might affect adults' perceptions of art and their identities as artists. Participants enrolled in a class that was designed by the researcher to broaden traditional, Western definitions of art by focusing on three areas of curricular content: 1) making special, 2) everyday aesthetics, and 3) vernacular art environments. The goal was to determine if broader definitions of art that sought to democratize art knowledge with more explicit connections to everyday life might affect adults' perceptions of art and their identities as artists. The qualitative design for this study was a phenomenological, multi-case approach. This research drew upon data collected before, during and after a class in which participants explored the vernacular art curriculum. Three separate classes were offered that included a total of 15 adult participants. Participants self-identified as non-artists (n=9), artists (n=3), and art teachers (n=3). Participants completed a pre-class survey and pre-class interview to capture their prior attitudes about art and their artistic identities and also completed a visual journal and post-class survey related to transformations in their attitudes about art and artistic identities through the class. Findings from this study demonstrate that a majority of participants made explicit connections between how they perceived of art prior to the class and how strongly they identified as artists. Overall, participants had held conceptions of art that interfered with their abilities to identify as artists. For a majority of participants, the vernacular art curriculum provided new knowledge that disrupted previous notions about art and provided adult participants with knowledge that supported personal connections to artistic behaviors in their everyday lives. A subtle, but positive, transformation was observed in relation to how strongly participants identified as artists. In this study, educational strategies and a vernacular art curriculum were analyzed to understand how explicit connections between art and everyday life might positively affect adult identities as artists. The participants' transformations through this process provide the field of art education with insights into the types of teaching and curriculum that encourage lifelong engagements with art and a framework for considering art as an integral part of everyday life. Recommendations are offered for art educators, art teacher education programs, and for further research possibilities.


Advisors: Kerry Freedman; Kryssi Staikidis.||Committee members: Elizabeth A. Wilkins.||Includes bibliographical references.||Includes illustrations.


xxiii, 394 pages




Northern Illinois University

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