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Girija Kaimal on How my artistic practice informs my evaluation practice

My name is Girija Kaimal and I am an Assistant Professor in the Department for Creative Arts Therapies at Drexel University. As an educator, evaluator, blogger and, artist, I’d like to share how my evaluation practice is informed by my artistic practice. The fields might seem unrelated but I think of art as metaphor. My colleagues and I published recently on how the arts can inform leadership practice (http://www.ijea.org/v15n4/). So then I wondered how the arts could inform evaluation as well.

Lessons Learned:

  1. Tools: Each media option comes with its unique attributes. Oil pastels offer bright colors; watercolors require an absorbent base; felt-tip markers can provide detail but aren’t really useful if you want to cover large surfaces; and; if you need to erase and refine your work, then pencil or digital media are your best choices. Each media choice comes with its own set of strengths and challenges and I have to know these attributes to use the tool effectively. Choice of evaluation tools for data collection and analysis is no different. You might be skilled in a range of methods or you might be sought out for a specific specialized skill. Either ways knowing your tools is essential for artistic and/ or evaluation practice.
  1. Caring:If my paint brushes aren’t clean, my pencils not sharpened, paper not stacked and my supplies aren’t stored safely they will not be available or effective when I decide to use them. It is no different with evaluation tools. If my work files and software are not organized and saved safely, then neither my use of time nor my work will be efficient.
  1. Practice: Can I avoid doing art for months on end and then expect to be skilled when I decide to start drawing one fine day? No, like with any other skill, ongoing practice is essential to both sustain and improve skills in both artmaking and evaluation.
  1. Sharing: Artmaking is like visual journaling for me: it helps me think through problems and express complicated emotions and ideas. Sharing my work with others helps me see things that I did not or could not see on my own. It is no different in evaluation. I make it a point to share summary findings and/ or draft reports prior to any final submissions.
  1. Discovery: Starting a new project (in art or evaluation) is full of the promise of learning and discovery. At the end there is sometimes a thrilling insight or often just an incremental discovery. Regardless, each project’s process has meaning and relevance and offers lessons to be learned.

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

4 comments

  • Asgar Bhikoo · July 15, 2015 at 2:45 am

    Hi Girija,

    Thanks for posting this. I agree with you. I have been doing Art and Pottery as a hobby, and there are lots of things that you can learn from those disciplines that apply to evaluation. From art, it was about the idea of perspective and how does your artwork interact with the audience you producing for, or what does it represent in a particular point in time. With pottery it was the idea of drawing a concept of what it is I wanted, then prototyping it and then building the actual model. It has taught that there needs to flexibility with rationality, and that as much as there is a plan, you need to be open to changing things to create what you feel fairly represents your artistic vision.

    I believe that Evaluation is about value creation, as much as it is about evaluating what has been created.

    Would love to hear your thoughts on this.

    Asgar

    Reply

    • Girija · August 17, 2015 at 8:48 am

      hi Asgar
      Your insights on pottery are very interesting. Sculpture and pottery add another dimension (literally and metaphorically) beyond 2-D. One thing your post highlights for me is that there is an element of interpretation in all evaluation work. As evaluators we make decisions all the time right from the design to the presentation of results. Not unlike the aesthetic choices we make in creating artwork.
      -Girija

      Reply

  • Rakesh Mohan · July 13, 2015 at 2:20 pm

    Love this post, Girija. A unique way to look at the field of evaluation through the artistic lens. Thank you for sharing your artistic perspective on evaluation.

    Reply

    • Girija · August 17, 2015 at 8:49 am

      Thanks Rakesh,
      Glad the post was of interest. Hope you are well.
      Catch up perhaps next year at AEA.
      -Girija

      Reply

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