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Getting Started



Art as Inquiry is an approach to art education that frames art-making as a form of inquiry—a way of exploring and learning about ideas, ourselves and the world. The goals of an art-based inquiry are understanding important topics, imagining possibilities, and inventing new realities. Students create art in order to meet those goals and they do it with a teacher’s guidance.

There are many ways to go about art-based inquiry in your classroom—ranging from independent inquiry, to group and whole class guided inquiry, to re-thinking and adapting existing curriculum to fit the approach. In this case, art-based inquiry calls for a slight shift in perspective and change in practice. It does not mean throwing out everything you do. It means taking what you have and making it more concept-driven, learning-centered and open-ended.

Graphic Novel Inquiry Trail .jpeg

A visual interpretation of an inquiry cycle about graphic novels.

Art-based creative inquiry straddles the line between scholarship and studio practice. It is scholarship because it entails systematic procedures, research, critical thinking, logic, verbalization, critique and reflection with the purpose of learning about important concepts and art. It is studio because it involves conceptual play, imagination, invention, elaboration and interpretation through art works and art-making.  It is a hybrid practice taken from contemporary art, adapted to the classroom.


A middle school student's artistic response to the question: What does your hand look like?

The Basics of Art-Based Creative Inquiry

A middle school student studying Japan and Japanese culture is inspired to design a futuristic cityscape. 

The Basics of Art-Based Creative Inquiry 

Structured yet open-ended

Art-based inquiry requires a play structure in which classroom practices, protocols, scaffolding, goals and expectations are clear and meaningful for students. This structure supports growth toward independent, creative and critical thinking and art making. It varies according to levels or kinds of inquiry. It allows students to explore concepts, themes and issues. Art-based inquiry emphasizes research into concepts and playing with ideas and ways of seeing and representing them. Exploration and play with materials are part of the research and are in service to the ideas.

Purpose of Art-Based Creative Inquiry

The Purpose of Art-Based Creative Inquiry 

  • To help learners develop the habits, dispositions and thinking skills, artists use to understand and convey their ideas.​​

  • ​To open up learning to imagination and play, thus giving learners freedom from conventional academic constraints to take ideas further, connect them in new ways, create new ideas and new perspectives.

  • To provide a strong, yet flexible and open-ended structure for art-making and learning.


A middle school student uses air-dry clay to create a hybrid of her plushie and a peer's ornament.

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