Philosophy 1361, Philosophy and the Arts Dr. Cynthia Freeland, Fall 2009


Research Project Assignment:  Art and Society


The research project will be worth 20 points or 20% of the final grade for the class. The grade is broken into parts with separate due dates, which are listed below.


Directions: Choose one topic from below and follow the schedule of due dates for beginning, organizing, and documenting your research. This research should lead to a final report including a discussion of what you have found along with a philosophical analysis or commentary incorporating answers to these two critical questions: (1) What definition(s) of art is being used in the context you are discussing?, and (2) What account of aesthetic value is being invoked in this context? You should refer to at least some ideas in Freeland's But Is It Art? and/or in the articles in the Aesthetics: The Big Questions textbook, to help you as you do your analysis and observations. Use relevant quotations to back up some of your points.  There is no strict length limit for the paper but the suggested length is 7-10 pages.  Students may work collaboratively only with explicit permission from the professor. 


Topics for Research Project


1. Art Education

Do research on art (or music) education within the public school system. This might involve an entire school system of a city (like Houston) or the situation at a given school. Compose some questions to learn about concerning the staffing, funding, equipment, fund-raising, performance or exhibition options, etc.  What does your research lead you to conclude about the respective evaluation of artistic value and its role in childhood education at a given level? If possible, interview a teacher. Do you have recommendations for improving art education?


2. Public Art 

Investigate several works of public art either in Houston or on the UH campus, or elsewhere, and discuss the following: Who made the works and what are their titles and media? How much did they cost? How were they funded? Can you find any evidence of public response to the works? Who decided on their selection? How does their placement work; is it meaningful in any particular way? Explain. Who decides if these works are “art” or “good art” and what is their supposed goal in their public situation?


3. The Art Market

Do research into the art market. Either choose a particular artist, such as Van Gogh or Damien Hirst and research trends in their prices; or select a particular medium, such as photography; and/or a particular artwork, such as Sunflowers.  Find information showing changes in the art’s valuation over time. What does this show? Is it wrong to consider art from a marketing perspective? Why or why not? Discuss.


4.  Arts Organization Funding


Option A. Do research on the funding of the NEA (National Endowment for the Arts) and observe trends of funding over the decades, noting especially what happened from 1990 on. (The NEA has its own website at There is a chart of Appropriations History at the site, and you will need Adobe Acrobat to download it (it's a pdf file). There is another interesting pdf file here providing an international comparison of spending on the arts. This site also contains NEA history, mission, background, information on how the money is spent, etc. You can also do research on and report on other arts funding agencies such as Texas Council on the Arts and/or CACHH (Cultural Arts Council of Houston and Harris County).

Option B.  Write about the funding of a particular arts organization that you know something about. This should be an organization, not an individual artist. How does the organization get its money and pay its artists? What sort of audience does it have and how do they view the organization? To what extent do you think that the organization's artistic mission and vision are shaped by its funding needs? (This question might be more appropriate for students to answer who are already involved in some sort of arts organization, whether for dance, photography, music, or any other art.)

Option C. Write about funding of an arts organization or arts agency in another country. Discuss what the organization or agency funds, where its operating budget comes from, its mission and goals, and samples of its activity. 


5.  Arts Festivals

Investigate an arts festival you find interesting. This might be something like the Art Car Parade, the Bayou City Arts Festival, the Renaissance Festival, Dance Month Houston, the annual Quilt Festival, International Festival, a music festival, or an arts festival in another city. How are the arts represented? How does the audience respond? How are the entrants selected—is there a screening committee and if so, what are their standards?   How does commercialism factor into the festival?   What do you think is the relationship between the festival and the more standard institutions of “high art” in the surrounding city or state (e.g. symphony, opera, art museum)?


6. Your Own Topic

You must consult with Mr. Trujillo and/or Dr. Freeland and receive approval. For this purpose it is best to submit a brief written proposal; doing so by e-mail is OK.


Schedule of Deadlines

Deadline 1: 

Submit your proposal (1 page) by September 23; suggested length, 1 page   5 points

Guidelines for Proposals

May be submitted either in class on paper or on-line via WebCT.


Deadline 2:

Submit a preliminary bibliography of at least five entries and a report on your activities by October 21; suggested length, 3 pages    5 points

Guidelines for Bibliography

May be submitted either in class on paper or on-line via WebCT.


Deadline 3:

Submit your complete report of your research findings in writing by late November 23. More detailed guidelines will be distributed closer to the deadline.   12 points



Important Dates, Fall 2009

Aug. 24 First day of Class (Mon)

Sept. 7 Labor Day Holiday

Nov. 25-28 Thanksgiving Holiday

Dec. 2 Weds.  Last day of Classes

Dec. 9-17  Final Exam Period