The city - guide to the next generation
30 June 2014
 Marina Teofilova
– What is „Man"? – They will ask.
Or maybe: – “What is „a city”?”
(Clifford D. Simak)

Children always have the feeling that adults wrong them, forcing them to spend a significant part of the time of their childhood studying and mastering the millennial experience, knowledge, morality, ethics and aesthetics, accumulated in a long and controversial history of mankind but lacking the charm of life, remaining outside the classroom and the school. Each of us, from the standpoint of age, has asked some of the following questions: How do children understand the immersive social and cultural environment? What happens to their desire to explore the world in the light of their own experiences and feelings? When does the gap occur between the need to give children ready knowledge and the desire that they acquire it on their own, by actively participating in finding the truth? What is the role of the City for the formation of personality?

Doesn’t the City as a continually growing, living organism reconcile in its dichotomous flesh the contradictions of past and future, of ugly and beautiful, of what we define as a historical and cultural heritage and art and what we condemn as subculture and kitsch?

It is not my discovery that the core of children's cognitive activity is their imagination, feelings, games and the pursuit of creativity. It is in the "art", which is created by a child that one can see children’s reactions and attitude to everything that excites and surrounds them, unaffected by prejudices and conventions. It is the image of their understanding of the essence of life, nature and man, the abstract concepts and relationships in their social, cultural and natural environment. It is therefore pitiful when this children's gift is wasted and lost forever, and as we all know there is nothing poorer and more unspiritual than the person that has become indifferent towards art.

What can keep the impulse for creativity and the interest in all forms of expression alive in children, which determine their development as aesthetically mature and spiritual persons? What can be done to preserve the need for communication with and through art in all stages of the development of man? The answer, of course, should not be sought only within school, within the classroom of fine arts, not even in the institutions of art, or within the family environment, but above all in the harmony and coordination of their actions and attitude to the problem of education through and in art.

Unfortunately, the reality does not meet many of the expectations associated with this problem. We are witnessing a cold and alienating modernity where human relations and aspirations are determined by the priorities of a society which is blinded by its daily needs and racing to its "better future". This explains the reason why at this stage we can seek the resolution of problems related to the formation and development of the aesthetic attitude towards reality, nature and art, beyond the longstanding institutions such as family, school and familiar educational systems.

The city as a dynamic and multi-layered image of our immersive cultural and social environment, with all the flaws and problems of modern society, has the advantage to form and educate today. It is a truism that the referent environment of friendly circles largely dictates the behavior and tastes of the new generation, and this impact is difficult to be resisted by the family and institutions. The contradictory and quite scandalous group-social inclusive theory of the American psychologist Judith Harris presents the counter-intuitive idea that "the socialization of children is not principally determined by their parents but by their peer groups." She does not deny the influence of parents on behavior and personal characteristics of their children, but rather insists that their influence is limited to the family context - outside the family children flexibly adapt to the requirements of the respective groups to which they belong - especially to those of their peers.*

And the circle of peers, thanks to its new, readily available technology and communication channels, has expanded monstrously, surpassing all limitations, including geographical and moral ones. The virtual Internet space and the new technologies have completely replaced the real space, schoolyard, street and park bench.

The city ceased to exist as a network of streets, as a place where people meet and diverge their directions. Transformed by the new dimensions of the virtual social network, it breaks into separate starting points (locations) and directions in which completely new content is designed. The bright city layers, saturated with urban dynamic information, influencing simultaneously all senses, invariably affect the formation of the visual culture of the next generation. Therefore, for the generations coming after us, the digital and multi-sensor culture, predetermined by the expansion of the new media, will dictate the direction of the development of senses, of the new visual, conceptual and abstract logical thinking. Certainly the visual thinking dominated by multimedia means and virtual dimensions of the expanding world will replace the familiar means of illustrated books and channels for formation of visual ideas and concepts. The digital culture undoubtedly has the advantage of speaking the language of the new generation.

Digital technologies are transforming many traditional activities related to visual and synthetic arts which are created with the help of many new forms such as Internet art, digital installation art, virtual reality and many others.** But we must not forget that despite of the radical change of the means of expressions and technologies, the nature of creating a work of art remains unchanged. ***

The coding and mastery of knowledge and skills related to objects, spatial action and visual culture will be determined by the degree of development of new media and technologies. But isn’t the modern era repeating in another dimension the familiar Renaissance model in which art is largely science and science – art? Handling categories defined as eternal on the one hand and on the other - always dictated by aesthetic views and ideals of each generation, we must integrate, tempt, be understood and make things clear to ourselves. I believe that the rethinking of the idea of art as a practice directed towards the formation of moral, aesthetic and artistic qualities of the child is the right way to children’s natural entry in the complex interconnected organism: spectator - author – work of art.

Abstract of our activity: to tempt children of different ages (preschool, elementary, middle and high school), i. e. the next generation to share with us the aesthetic experience of the City.
Example: The place and role of art is identified as crucial for the integration of the individual to the national and universal artistic values. An inclusion which entirely determines the future attitude of a mature person to art, to its problems and its participation in life; The time for studying fine arts determined in the annual distribution of the curriculum, is reduced from two classes a week in the first grade (62 classes per year), third grade (64 classes per year), fifth grade (68 classes per year) and sixth grade (68 classes per year), to 1.5 classes in the second grade (48 classes per year), fourth grade (48 classes per year), seventh grade (51 classes per year) and eighth grade (51 classes per year). This is supposed to be enough for the deployment of the aesthetic, creative and emotional expressions of the child. ****

But is this true, does the time determined correspond to the real space that art occupies in our lives? Is it possible from a modern perspective, that we assume that aesthetic education and artistic culture and values may be a subject of self-education?

This problem cannot only be solved by the teacher of fine arts, by the education system, or even by any approved institution of arts, and it should not be neglected and avoided. This problem has social and moral dimensions. What is within the capabilities of each one of us is the desire to fill the whole urban environment with aesthetic experiences for the children that would enrich and stimulate their imagination, and why not engage them in the creative process itself. That is why our goal is not to demand acceptable answers but rather to ask the right questions that would call into question the effective and practically tested means and approved forms which encompass our perceptions of urban, cultural and historical heritage and contemporary art.

* Harris, Judith. The Nurture Assumption: Why Children Turn Out the Way They Do. Touchstone Books,1999. p. 342
** Lieser, Wolf. Digital Art. Langenscheidt: h.f. ullmann, 2009. p. 13–15
*** Bolter, Jay David, Richard Grusin, Remediation - Understanding New Media, Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1999. p. 145.
**** Curriculum in fine arts, 2002
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