Comparing Art Education in France and US: A Methodological Issue

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 18:30
Oral Presentation
Nathalie MONTOYA, Université Paris Diderot, France
I will talk about a current research started in 2014: As a researcher in art education seeing how it has been structured as a field in France, I wanted to compare its parallels as advocated in the US in the last thirty years.
This pretty broad ambition raised a methodological issue: while France has a long tradition of a centered politics in the arts, US is said to have barely a national cultural policy, in that every state, every region has its own agenda, its own political frame, and arts education projects would happen mostly because of local and individual initiative.
In this spirit, I conducted a sociological research by interviewing art educators in museums of New York City, along with reading documents produced by non-profit organisations advocating the cause of art education.
My research made me realize that contrary to what most people believe about cultural policy in the US, there exist public scenes for advocating the cause of arts and arts education. But these are mostly privately funded organizations, such as foundations, non-profit organisations, professional unions etc.
When studying closely their reports, I found a surprising convergence around a few themes that appear across the world of art education in US, in a way reflecting the centralization that the US federalist approach aimed to critique. In fact there are a few of these organizations who produce pivotal materials that everyone refers to, raising a close enough comparison to the French centralized cultural scene.
The long detour to find this centralized scene emerging out of decentralization enable us to adopt a wider comparative perspective on cultural policy: it’s the entire structure of public action, public debate, and the place arts has been given in the construction of democracy that can be compared in the two countries.