Global encounters at a Dutch MFA: intercultural dialogue in higher art education

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Over the past fifteen to twenty years we have witnessed Dutch and European higher art education become increasingly more international, a development that is reflecting globalisation in the art world in general. The artists we work with in many of our institutes and (master) programmes come from a diversity of cultural backgrounds, sometimes covering almost all continents.
My doctoral research Global Encounters at a Dutch MFA focuses on the manifestation of cultural differences within and the conditions for an intercultural dialogue about art and artistic concepts within higher art education. The question is whether these cultural differences are made explicit within the dialogues conducted in educational settings and if and how students profit from this diversity in the development of their individual practice.
In higher art education students and tutors exchange views on art and artistic concepts through regular conversations. Verbalizing what they see, experience and think is therefore an important ingredient of all the encounters happening at MFA programs: a Western master program focused on art always requires room for and installs a culture of conversation. But within this conversation, cultural confusion can arise.
A South-Korean student at our institute recently described her experience of how coming from another, non-Western country, being raised in a different art context, confronted her with many underlying concepts in art she did not necessarily share or even could recognize and describe as such: “I was more like an estranged Babylonian that did not understand the exchanged language of ‘ways of seeing’ […] How can I say what I see, what can I see, or more likely what should I see and after all, what do I see? If I cannot say it, don’t I see it?”
This experience is not a merely individual one. Hosting a wider range of cultural backgrounds increases the diversity in concepts and constructions that are implicitly underlying the discussions and conversations within the program. As much as we would like to think that every conversation at an art program leaves room for cultural differences to be made explicit, openly discussed and fruitfully addressed, it might be the case that in the daily educational practice many of them still remain rather under the surface.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages5
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2 Dec 2016
EventELIA - 14th Biennial Conference 2016: Turn Mirrors into Windows - Palazzo Spinelle, Florence, Italy
Duration: 30 Nov 20163 Dec 2016


ConferenceELIA - 14th Biennial Conference 2016
Internet address


  • higher education
  • arts
  • ethnography


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