Friday, November 21, 2014

Brick-Based Learning Giving Way to Affinity Spaces

Seeing (M.A. Reilly. Tuscany. 2009)

I make art. For the last decade I've learned a lot about making photographs, collages, paintings, printing, exhibiting and perhaps most important--seeing by participating in real and virtual affinity-based learning.

Free Verse (M.A. Reilly, 2010, Collage)
James Gee (2011)  in Language and Learning in the Digital Age defines passionate affinity-based learning as "complex, deep, and knowledge-producing" (p. 69).  He writes:
passionate affinity-based Learning occurs when people organize themselves in the real world and/or via the Internet (or a virtual world) to learn something connected to a shared endeavor, interest, or passion (p. 69).
Via the Internet I have met and collaborated with artists here in the States, Canada, and Europe. We share a deep passion for art making and I have learned so much from them, their methods, and their compositions. I've studied their work, shown art alongside them on line, and engaged with them in chats, exhibits, and publications.  It was through these artists who I have not met, but who I know, that I began to realize that the images I made might matter--might be good enough to show, to sell.

Before all this, I just took some pictures.

The difference between making art and taking photos is largely a result of the influence of other artists and through them an increasing need on my part to experiment. During these last ten years, I've studied craft and aesthetics, lost and gained skill and technique, experimented, exhibited and published work in group and solo shows as well as in magazines and books. I have visited many exhibitions and have made too many images to count. I have taken workshops and institutes here and in Europe that I learned about via other artists. And I have done all of this largely because of my ongoing participation in art-based affinity groups. These artists' passion and works (in)form and inspire my own.

Push for Gaza Cease-Fire (M.A. Reilly, 2014, Collage)
These days I am almost always cognizant of potential images as I make my way in the world.  This seeing leads me to frame and reframe images with or without a camera in my hands. I have toyed with the idea of going back to school and earning a doctorate in art, but found there is an absence of will--at least at this time. The learning I do with others online is fulfilling and often leads me to work I did not know I might make and collaborations as a writer and artist that (in)form my life.

I am ever so grateful for these ongoing opportunities. I am richer than Midas.

I think about this learning and wonder what it might take to include affinity-based learning as a viable method in place of high school or at the very least, in place of high school and middle school courses.

The world of brick-based learning that comprised the reality of my generations' formal schooling no longer is the sole reality for our children.  I watch as my teenage son learns via the presence of affinity-based learning in his life.  This learning has been nothing less than profound.

That future has arrived whether we want it to or not.
I wonder will we have the eyes to see it?  Will we have the courage to embrace it?

Gee, James Paul (2011). Language and Learning in the Digital Age (p. 134). T & F Books UK. Kindle Edition.

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