Usually the reference to an art teacher means a teacher of visual arts. An art teacher may work in a school, college, or university; be associated with a studio or museum; or give private lessons. In any of these positions, an art teacher will—over time—be likely to address six basic areas. These are: how to create visual arts using various media; the structures and functions involved in art of different genres and purposes; the choice and evaluation of the content of art; the relationship of the visual arts to historic events and cultures; how to assess works of art; and the interrelationships of the visual arts with other disciplines. In many cases, these areas will not be taught as separate distinct units; rather instruction will be intermingled and overlapping.
When teaching the first area, the art teacher helps students to understand the techniques and processes involved in using various media, as well as providing the students opportunities to actually experience using these media. The media could include anything from paint to clay to pastels to metal to wood to dyes. The techniques and processes might include, for example, brush strokes, various approaches using a potter’s wheel, smudging, welding, carving, and batiking.
When teaching the second area, the art teacher helps students acquire knowledge of structures and functions. This means that he or she helps students understand the meaning of artistic and practical function, as well as the underlying organizational principles of the arts, including repetition, contrast, emphasis, balance, and unity. Students become aware of different perspectives on the roles of these elements in works of art, are able to evaluate the effectiveness of different approaches, and are able to make effective choices about structure and function in creating their own work.
With regard to the third area, the art teacher focuses on the content of art, including subject matter, the use of symbols, and the incorporation of ideas into artwork. Students learn to thoughtfully consider and choose the content of the artwork they create. They also identify the origins, purposes, and effectiveness of subjects, symbols, and ideas in the art of others.
Fourthly, the art teacher helps to place artworks in the context of history and culture. Students become able to analyze works of arts in terms of their historical and cultural provenance. They also are able to identify common elements in artwork of diverse origins.
Fifthly, the art teacher helps students to acquire a set of standards by which to evaluate of their own artwork and the work of others. Students explore the concepts of intention, meaning, and effectiveness. They become able to interpret works of arts in these terms and understand their own responses to art in terms of the techniques and content of the art.
Finally, the art teacher draws connections between the visual arts and other arts, as well as other disciplines. Students become able to see principles that underlie multiple disciplines. They learn to see works of art in terms of ideas from other disciplines, such as the humanities or sciences.