Exploring hegemonic perspectives of Midwestern yard-spaces through art education
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This study investigated yard-spaces as artistic sites that are created and maintained through design processes involving aesthetic choices. The field of art education has grown to consider everyday objects and places worthy of exploration as important signifiers of cultural views, values, and expectations. Yard-spaces, as everyday places, are often taken for granted, and aesthetic choices that conform to social norms often have detrimental effects on the environment. This study investigated conformist and non-conformist aesthetic choices, the environmental effects of these choices, and the influences affecting design and maintenance choices for yard-space appearances.A gap in knowledge was discovered for recognizing socially conformist aesthetic choices and social expectations for yard-space appearances. This gap was addressed by implementing a researcher-developed place-based environmental art curriculum with fifth grade students from my own teaching practice. Changes in students' attitudes and perceptions of the aesthetic choices affecting yard-space appearances indicated growth in aesthetic understanding and environmental concern. Introspection on the ways social norms are communicated through visual messages was transformational to my teaching practice as I developed a heightened awareness of social influences on my students. Therefore, the curriculum developed for this study is offered as an example to art educators interested in raising students' social and ecological consciousness and also for art educators interested in raising their own awareness of the social influences affecting students' aesthetic choices.Barriers to enacting change due to aesthetic attachment to appearances and psychological ownership of property impeded the willingness of participants to consider aesthetic changes for their yard-spaces. Research of these barriers is recommended for student learning to move beyond understanding of environmentally beneficial aesthetic choices to enacting these choices. New knowledge that was generated through this research revealed strategies for encouraging aesthetic and environmental understanding of yard-space appearances, but further research is necessary to understand the barriers that impede the enactment of social and ecological change.