Written by Jessica Baker Kee, Ph.D. Candidate in Art Education, Penn State University, and Pincus Family Foundation Intern, Palmer Museum of Art
In the process of living and working as museum educators, we make space to honor Maxine Greene, the educational philosopher, author, and teacher whose writings and teachings have greatly impacted the field of aesthetic education. Dr. Greene, who passed away last week at the age of 96, conducted lectures and taught classes at Teachers College, Columbia University (where she had been professor emerita since 1965) until her passing. She is renowned worldwide for bringing a remarkable sense of empathy, creativity, and imagination into teaching and learning in the arts. Maxine Greene posited “wide-awakeness” as the bedrock of her educational philosophy: a heightened awareness of one’s own sensory, emotional, and spiritual existence, as well as a greater empathic connection to the human community. She believed direct, immediate encounters with works of art were central to the development of this enhanced awareness; in her 1977 essay Imagination and Aesthetic Literacy, she argued that:
“those who can attend to and absorb themselves in particular works of art are more likely to affect connections in their own experience than those who cannot.”
Throughout her career, she was a staunch advocate for “aesthetic literacy” through education in the arts, and argued against overly standardized teaching methods in favor of dialogue, learning from students, and building empathic learning communities in both schools and museums. When we use the work of Dr. Greene to inform our discussion and praxis as museum educators, we place ourselves within a rich tradition of intellectual and creative thought arising from the philosophy of John Dewey and others. Although she had an extensive background in existential philosophy, she remained grounded in everyday teaching praxis, which makes her writing uniquely accessible to a diverse range of students, teachers, artists and educators. I first encountered Dr. Greene’s work as a master’s student of art education, and it was a breath of fresh air in what often felt like a dense and theoretical field of study. Reading her work is an aesthetic experience of its own; her sparkling, lucid writing style draws the reader in as she invokes her own encounters with works of art, literature, poetry and the beauty of nature. Below is a list of her major works that may be of interest to museum teachers:
- Maxine Greene Center for Aesthetic Education and Social Imagination (http://maxinegreene.org): a community of artists, scholars and educators devoted to discussing and celebrating Dr. Greene’s work.
- Landscapes of learning. (1978). New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
- The dialectic of freedom. (1988). New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
- Releasing the imagination: Essays on education, the arts and social change. (1995). San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass.
- Variations on a blue guitar: The Lincoln Center Institute lectures on aesthetic education. (2001). New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
Feel free to leave your own thoughts, musings, and remembrances of Maxine Greene in the comments, or submit your memories with the Maxine Greene Center’s “Remembering Maxine” webpage (which already has a powerful and growing series of people’s memories and experience with Dr. Greene).
JESSICA BAKER KEE is a second-year PhD candidate in the Art Education program at Pennsylvania State University. She completed her BA in Art History at Duke University and her MAEd in Art Education at East Carolina University. She has also worked as a museum education intern, a public and private school art teacher, a federal disaster relief agent, and an educational research consultant. Her research is rooted in phenomenology and explores constructions of identity and trauma within pedagogical environments, examining the impacts of race, class, and institutional policy on the lived experiences of art educators and their students. In her free time she enjoys running, yoga, art making and exploring the beautiful trails of Central Pennsylvania. Jessica’s postings on this site are her own and do not necessarily represent Pennsylvania State University’s positions, strategies, or opinions.
3 thoughts on “Remembering Maxine Greene”
Reblogged this on disstijl and commented:
What a great remembrance on so many levels.
Jessica – thanks for writing this piece in remembrance of the amazing and transformative Maxine Greene. I always remember something Maxine once said — which is that we, as educators, cannot facilitate experiences with art if we have not first had experiences with art ourselves. When I have my own experiences with art or lead in-gallery sessions with teachers and docents, these words are always in the front of my mind. I never had the honor of meeting Maxine in person, and I plan to take this opportunity to re-introduce myself with her words, ideas, and writings so that the power of her spirit can live on through my teaching.