Teachers College Hosts The 3rd International Conference on Drawing, Cognition and Education ☆

Teachers College and the Metropolitan Museum of Art played host to the Third International Conference on Drawing, Cognition and Education, October 24-26, 2013.

In collaboration with Thinking Through Drawing and the Drawing Research Network, Teachers College warmly welcomed participants to the Third International Conference on Drawing, Cognition and Education Thursday, October 24th. This exclusive event attracted educators, students and professional artists from around the world to engage in a series of workshops dedicated to the art of drawing. But as they philosophized and gave homage to the processes surrounding this art, several tropes lingered prominently amongst the discussions: how do you qualify the significance of drawing, and how do you champion drawing’s value on artistic and academic fronts?

The first day of the conference dawned at Teachers College, where a series of parallel presentations were held in Macy and Grace Dodge Hall. Topics such as “Drawing as Investigation” were explored, where Nina Samuels discussed “Drawing as Thinking in Chaos Theory,” and Amber Struke presented on art as “Embodying Symbiosis: A Philosophy of Mind in Drawing.”

Musicians from Alarm Will Sound prepare for the “Graphic Notations workshop, held in the Met’s Melanesian Gallery October 25th.

Day two of the conference was a rare treat when participants were invited to a series of panel discussions and workshops hosted by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Led by members of the Met’s Education Department, the day’s events were held in all corners of the museum, encouraging the participants to challenge their artistic perceptions. During a morning session in the Melanesia Gallery, for instance, the “Graphic Notations” workshop invited four musicians from Alarm Will Sound to facilitate an interactive discussion about the intersections between drawing and musical notation. The participants sketched graphical representations of a musical score, which were then interpreted by the musicians themselves! Moving from auditory to the kinetic, the “Other Wise: Drawing Life” session focused on the interconnectivity between motion and visual perception. Participants moved about the Met’s Roman Court while pondering how their physical rhythm altered the ways they viewed the still lives around them.

Participants kneel, roll and slowly move about the Petrie Court at the Met to gauge how physical movement changes the viewer’s perception during the “Seeing and Moving, Moving and Seeing” workshop.

The final day of the conference regrouped the participants in Zankel Hall on Saturday morning, for reflective discussions on the impact of the previous days’ experiences. Though the majority of the participants came from strong backgrounds in drawing themselves, everyone who spoke was highly grateful for the opportunity the Met sessions had provided for conceptualizing art from unique points of view. Remarking on the diversity of workshops which advantageously utilized the Met itself, one participant expressed that “when we think of drawing, we often think of copying . . . it was inspiring to see so many different ways of imagining with the museum collection.” Surprised at the sense of returning to a learning space that the workshops facilitated, an art education teacher then commented that “each of the workshops took them by the hand in a way that teachers sometimes lead students.” Yet another artist, exuberant about the entire conference experience, exclaimed that the Met workshops provided “free time to draw one of the best collections in the world: what could be better than that?”

A collaborative performance in front of Morgan O’Hara’s wall drawing in the Macy Gallery during the closing reception for the conference.

The room soon adopted a more serious tone as the discussion turned to the crux of the conference: how can drawing be framed as a meritorious art form in life and in education? All agreed that drawing is a creative, universal language which fosters communication and understanding. An advanced technology in itself, drawing is the product of a developed society in search of an alternative outlet for expressing their thoughts, and drawing as a form of expression often derives meaning from baseline allusions to the human condition. The discussion ended when the participants were encouraged to contribute to story boards at either side of the lecture hall where diagrams enumerated the qualitative characteristics of drawing. One board displayed a continuum of reasons to draw, spanning motives from pure creation to communication. The second board displayed a rough outline of short and long term reasons to put pen to sketchpad, along with obstacles that drawers confront today.

Though patterns exist amongst the methodologies and motivations for individuals to draw, one universal, indispensable quality which champions drawing as a prominent component of any art education program remains to be found. Yet collaborative events encouraging open dialogue on drawing such as the International Conference are key to pinpointing the core significance of this art form. While debates on proper education reform and tropes of artistic interest will never end, conferences that usher creative collaboration are an ideal venue to propagate these essential discussions.

By Alyssa Foster

Arts & Humanities Staff Writer


– For more information on the International Conference for Drawing, Cognition and Education, please visit their event website or Facebook page.

– Alarm Will Sound is a performance group currently partnering with the Met’s Artist in Residence Program. To read more about their collaboration, please visit their Met website here.