Art Education and Salvation: From Ruskin to Bailey to the West of America
I am writing a book about Augusta Maguire who had a forty year career on the national lecture circuit in the United States in the first half of the 20th century. She lectured about the importance of art education, most often at Teachers’ Institutes. In this paper I will explore the content of her lectures in which she argued that art could develop moral character, make life worth living, make good citizens, and Americanize new immigrants. She saw people’s education in the arts as essential to a democracy as well as to the maintenance of one’s humanity in a highly technological society. One of the main influences on her thought was Henry Turner Bailey, a well-known American art education theorist. As well as editing a national art education magazine, Bailey published a small pamphlet entitled “City of Refuge” (1901). It provided Augusta with a philosophy of art and art education which she spread to thousands of people throughout her career. She carried this message of the great moral and redemptive power of art and literature to rural Dakota as well as to cities from Chicago to Denver to San Francisco and as far south as Texas. She was a conduit of ideas expressed by Bailey and influenced by John Ruskin. I will explore how Ruskin’s ideas about the value of art were filtered through the work of writers like Bailey and how they were spread throughout the United States by means of speakers like Augusta Maguire. I will also explore the appeal of this message of art for morality’s sake, particularly to those in the Midwest and West of America.
Keywords: Theory Focus
Professor of Philosophy, Humanties Department