21st century education
Evaluating a Work of Art

Evaluating a Work of Art

How do you talk about a work of art anyway? Easy! Just consider the work vis-a-vis these 6 key terms from Team Blueberry. For the images I put each key term in a Flickr / Creative Commons / Interesting search and picked one. The photographer’s name is under the image. Click the image to go to the photographer’s Flickr page.


Black and white photo of young girls excited at a concert by Lotus Caroll
Audience / Lotus Carroll


I’m interested in the ways in which my work can be welcomed by the audience, quite aside from whether or not they judge it as artistically “good.” To me, taking care of the audience means a number of things, all of which come down to offering a unique experience in a polite manner. Three considerations:

A. Non-Confrontation:

I am interested in how performances can speak to audiences in a compelling manner that doesn’t require adversarial confrontation or a negative feeling of challenge. Does the work offer an experience of its themes in a way that feels and promotes positivity?

B. Interactive Agency:

Are audiences offered ways to interact with the work that are inviting, accessible, and allow them agency to determine the extent and quality of their participation? Are the modes of interaction either obvious or well-explained, so that audience members do not feel unsure about what they’re “supposed” to do in relation to the piece?

C. Gifting:

I am interested in finding ways for audience members to have “takeaways” that are meaningful to them as well as delightful; i.e., something they actually want. Does the work offer something to its audiences, either tangible or intangible, that is specifically for them? — RL

photo of a cat in grass with a powerfully fixed gaze on something in front of it
Usefulness / Vincent Desjardins


I would welcome and benefit from basic advice and/or critique, not so much from an aesthetic sense, but more from the question of form, functionality and usefulness. With a class as diverse as this, with so many tastes and interests pertaining to style and genre, there is no way to effectively react to such diversity, except in the most general of ways. Only then can we even begin to build international dialogue across materials covering so many variances including (but not limited to) culture, gender, educational focus, experience and technique. — MM

high contrast black and white photo of a young woman with very runny mascara and a "shh" finger to her lips with the word "love" written down the length of her index finger
Magnify / Ashley Rose


Does my work magnify an ordinary experience so that the experience is transformed and becomes (momentarily, for a lifetime) extraordinary? — CF

photo of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in yellow and brown tones with the text "Addressing the fierce urgency of now."
Urgency / Shira Golding


Art can function on many levels or wade in the currency of pop culture. It can bristle with powerful theory ideas, or luxuriate in finish fetish. Art can do many things and exist in many ways, but I think a key to a successful work of art is that whatever else it does, that it have a sense of urgency. That this art demands to be considered at this time. You can have a lot going, but if there’s no urgency, how engaged can your audience really be?

To some degree, I disagree with myself. Or at least I worry. “Urgency,” in part, makes me think of Hollywood movies that have so much aggressive action and so little of any real human substance. So I don’t mean that. Still, I do think that powerful works of art engage their moment in some compelling way. Michael might look at the history of EZTV, or I might look at our species-long relationship to the planets in the night sky, but even so, I think to be really successful, and compelling, and urgent, these works must contextualize these grand sweeps of human culture in some way that sparks with connections to our contemporary moment. — VB

photo of roller derby skaters circling a track or riding tangent lines of the inner ring
Tangent / Bob Krzaczek


As frustrating as they may be tangents in critiques are an important part of the process of giving and receiving feedback. Therefore, I am proposing a formal place for the tangent in our bespoke rubric. Inspired by Liz Lerman’s critical response technique our tangent criteria should be situated towards the end/bottom of our rubric/evaluation. Lerman refers to this as “opinion time” and requires responders to ask permission of the artist before stating an opinion about the work. In the earlier stages of the evaluation process, you are required to frame everything as a neutral question (very challenging!) — MR

photo of 2 people in parkas standing on a small bluff overlooking a massive waterfall
Resonance / Ghislaine Meicler


A. Resonance:

in physics refers to frequencies of greater amplitude and vibrational energy. Then there’s “limbic resonance,” mutual empathy and attunement between beings (wikipedia/Limbic_resonance). There is a strong basis in soundwaves… amplification, reflection, reverberation … resounding, echoing, heightening. To what extent is the work “resonant”? To what extent and in what ways does it create a state of resonance, of heightened vibrational energy between performer and participant (or between work and reader/viewer), and later within the participant’s mind-body as s/he recalls the work? How might the work intensify its resonance?

B. Generativeness

is the quality of being generative, of sparking ideas and insights and thought patterns and feelings and neural synaptic pathways. To what extent and in what ways is the work generative for the participant (or reader/viewer)? To what extent does the work engage the participant in a process of active creation rather than a passive state of reception? How might the work intensify its generativeness?


Does the work’s resonance (or lack thereof) influence its generativeness (or lack thereof) and vice versa? Why or why not? — KS

Team Blueberry is:

Christa Forster, Katrina Schaag, Michael Masucci, Molly Ross, Rebecca Longworth & Vanessa Blaylock.


    1. Yes Christa, I agree with you, we did a pretty nice job! 😀

      Of course there are all sorts of ways that you could evaluate a work of art. I just read one artist-scholar’s rubric that was entirely based on formal elements: texture, color, and so on, with no specific reference to ideas and content except as revealed via formal elements, as in “rough texture” vs “smooth texture”. It does seem that the 6 of us each picking one key concept has offered a rubric that I find pretty compelling and would be inspired to use to talk about my own work or someone else’s.

      I also really like the clarity of the process we started with this one: putting longer docs under our individual posts, and having the team post be a streamlined document that another artist-scholar could actually read and understand without heroic efforts.

  1. that’s an awesome work you did, group!
    I followed you in Novoed from the beginning, after I got your submission to review once;)
    and it’s just great your voice as a group became much stronger through the course and you do such a fruitful work together.
    applause to you;)

    1. TY Varvara! TY Jim! This was an inspired project for us. Varvara, I know you wrote about your Spatula & Barcode experience, “I feel this week we really became a team.” And I think that was kind of true for us as well. As Christa just posted: http://mediciuniversity.co.uk/christa-forster-autoethnographic-journal/ we had actually been having productive conversations from even before we had the opportunity to form groups. Still, for all the nice work and collegiality, I think both the Group Virtual Meal and the Relational Art Activity from Spatula & Barcode took things to a higher level. In a way the synergy from that was the fuel that got us, finally, after so many weeks of “messy” group posts, to this more organized piece which I think was a better “team” project and also a lot easier for a Peer Reviewer to get through and understand.

  2. Brilliant work, It rocks.
    What counts most is the communication – seeing the process and progress. Audience, Usefulness, Magnify, Urgency , Tangent, Resonance.
    If I might just comment on one contribution –
    ‘Paradise Lost’ – it is beyond time – you dont need to relate to a periond, emire – just read and appreciate.. Great choice!

How can MU help you?