International Journal of Art & Design Education

Getting the Act Together: It may be Cross-curricular, but is it Really Art?

Volume 12.1   1993



Barnes argues that deep subject knowledge is an essential requirement of cross-curricular initiatives by which the National Curriculum sets such store, and it is clear that art will be expected to combine with all the core and other foundation subjects in this regard. The author discusses this prospect, set in the context of the long tradition of art unwittingly finding itself the servant of other areas of activity, for example dramatic productions, or in the primary school where illustration for the latest classroom topic is regularly required. He notes the natural tendency, when art appears to be exploited in such cases, to mount a spirited defence of visual art in its own right and to assert its autonomy. This necessitates what Barnes calls a single-mindedness which borders temporarily on artistic `selfishness' – a form of protectionism for the fundamental nature of art the moment it meets with any other curricular area. Barnes maintains worthwhile curricular links are those which recognize uniqueness of discrete subject learning, and combine several instances of discrete subject learning into a coherent programme which is greater than the sum of its components. Paradoxically, a major consequence of cross-curricular initiatives is concentration on the fundamental nature of each subject and those qualities which differentiate it from other subjects. How else, he asks, does a subject derive its identity?