I decided that the second class of the philosophy of art series should involve actually looking at visual art and talking about it. I thought about taking the students to a local art gallery, and then decided that it would be fun for them instead to visit our local junior/senior high school (where they will be 7th grade students next year) and look at artwork by high school students. We have a fabulous art program at our high school, taught by an inspiring and dedicated teacher, Sean McCabe. Sean agreed to spend some time with the 6th grade students.
I took the two classes up to the high school in separate groups, and both had a marvelous time. We looked at artwork Sean had put together in a slide show, including work by Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, Expressionist and other modern artists. We also walked around the art room looking at some very impressive work by high school students.
We talked about the difference between realism and more abstract art, and about such questions as whether everything an artist intends to be art is art, what makes art good or not, whether a work being original is sufficient for it to be art, and the nature of creativity. The visit seemed to help the students to deepen their appreciation of how complex some of these questions are, and looking at art while talking about questions of aesthetics allowed all of these questions to become more concrete.