Exploring i-knit, u-knit: engaging student, building community, and challenging stereotypes through graffiti knitting
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The recent and relatively unknown art form of graffiti knitting (GK) refers to the act of installing yarn-based products in public spaces in such a way that gently provokes sociopolitical and cultural dialogue. This qualitative study explores and analyzes the potential of GK as a cooperative, change-oriented or praxis-learning tool for a public-school art program. Few academic studies exist on GK and no studies have been focused on how graffiti knitting can impact interaction between high school students. The researcher's unit introduced male and female students in grades 9 through 12 to knitting and to GK, and it culminated in installations around the school environment of knitted products on benches, computer stands, lockers, and other high-visibility semi or permanent structures. Students who participated in the unit installations of GK voluntarily engaged in a round-table discussion. Their responses indicated that the process of learning to knit and the repetitive nature of the skill fostered a calm, collaborative space where students largely took over the teaching of knitting. Their responses also indicated that the act of GK impacted many of the participants' views on self-reliance in a consumerist society and challenged their largely conventional views on gender roles. Finally, their responses suggested that the experience of learning about, sharing, and engaging in GK altered the students' perception of the role and value of craft art in society. Learning and doing GK gave students an insider's view of the power of collaboration within an art community and provided them with a direct, empowering observation of strangers who encountered and reacted to their art. Feedback from participants in the GK unit largely supported the value of constructivist theories of learning, where the most beneficial learning is argued to happen when learners take responsibility for the learning of others. The GK artwork that students created was less important than the social changes that took place. That is, the key value of the unit wasn't so much the physical art produced by participants, it was the community developed among the students that grew inside the classroom and extended into the hallways and streets where the art was being experienced by both the makers and viewers.
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