Being an Anti-Racist Art Teacher

By The Arty Teacher - March 12, 2024

I was shocked to read in The Guardian recently that less than 3% of artists named in GCSE Art exams are black or South Asian. I thought things had moved on.

“White artists comprised 91.6% of all exam board mentions, according to a report by the Runnymede Trust thinktank and Freelands Foundation, an arts charity.” The article said.

Many art departments in the United Kingdom re-audited their curriculums to assess the diversity of the artists they were using during and after the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020. It appeared on social media that many art teachers committed to being anti-racist art teachers at this time. Many art departments were already proudly diverse.

It would appear that this commitment hasn’t yet reached the exam boards who have left themselves wide open to criticism.

So what can you do as an art teacher to redress this unacceptable situation?

Knowledge of Artists

Art teachers who are new or in the early stages of their career must keep building their knowledge of artists.

Even though exam boards should be highlighting a diverse range of artists on exam papers, it’s important to note that they are only suggestions. This gives art teachers the opportunity to be anti-racist, to be diverse and to make sure the artists they introduce to their students reflect the faces staring back at them in their classrooms.

So, how can you improve your ability to offer a diverse range of artists to your students, both in your curriculum and when the exam papers are published?

Useful Resources:

The artists listed by theme page on this website is used by thousands of art teachers all around the globe. It simply lists artists by a huge variety of themes and is an ever-growing list. It is enormously useful when the exam papers are published as many of the themes on the paper are already covered. It’s already diverse, it’s been built using suggestions from art teachers and I’m open to adding artists.

Art UK is building a bank of inclusive and diverse resources to help art teachers. Their The Superpower of Looking project includes resources on Lubaina Himid, and they have ‘Artist in Focus’ resources on Sonia Boyce and Hew Locke. Through the Superpower of Looking project, they have ensured that 50% of their new content showcases diverse artists.

Hew Locke by Pam Winfield;CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

I reached out to Anwar Akhtar director of the arts and media charity The Samosa, after reading The Guardian article. Akhtar is a diversity champion who has worked with a large number of schools, discussing cultural and social issues often through film, theatre and music. He suggested that I look into Autograph and Iniva.

I was pleased to discover Autograph as a resource. Autograph showcase the work of artists who use photography and film to highlight questions of race, representation, human rights and social justice. It’s a great place to discover exciting, diverse, contemporary artists.

INIVA (Institute of International Visual Arts) is another useful resource to discover exciting artists. Iniva are dedicated to nurturing and disseminating radical and emergent contemporary artistic practice centring Global Majority, African, Asian, & Caribbean diaspora perspectives.

Of course, any art teacher worth their salt should be visiting local and national galleries. It remains my favourite day out and, for me, the most engaging way to learn about artists.

Committing to Being an Anti-Racist Art Teacher

Now it’s up to you. I believe you have a duty to your students to present a diverse range of artists in your lessons. Art is a powerful medium for expressing cultural narratives, identities, and experiences, making it a crucial tool for dismantling racial biases and promoting understanding. By actively incorporating diverse voices and perspectives into your curriculum, you can challenge stereotypes, break down barriers, and empower students to explore and appreciate the rich tapestry of human diversity. Anti-racist art education goes beyond mere representation; it involves creating a classroom environment that actively opposes discrimination, values every student’s unique background, and encourages critical thinking about the socio-cultural impact of artistic expression. In doing so, art teachers contribute to the development of socially conscious individuals who can engage with the world through a lens of empathy, respect, and equity.

Read the Full Report

Read the full ‘Visualise: Race and Inclusion in Secondary Art Education’ report.

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The Arty Teacher

Sarah Crowther is The Arty Teacher. She is a high school art teacher in the North West of England. She strives to share her enthusiasm for art by providing art teachers around the globe with high-quality resources and by sharing her expertise through this blog.

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2 responses to “Being an Anti-Racist Art Teacher”

  1. DonaldCrane says:

    Brilliant post. Thank you for being proactive. I would say it is very similar in the USA. We have a diversity of cultural arts, but the mainstream is probably very similar to the UK. Again, thank you for being a light to all of us.

    • The Arty Teacher says:

      Thanks Don. It’s nice to get some feedback. It’s simply a case of putting the students in our classrooms first.

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