Volume 21 Number 5 February 5, 2020

“It’s Just Such a Strange Tension”: Discourses of Authenticity in the Creative Arts in Higher Education

Dina Belluigi
Queen’s University Belfast, UK

Citation: Bellugi, D. (2020). “It’s Just Such a Strange Tension”: Discourses of Authenticity in the Creative Arts in Higher Education. International Journal of Education & the Arts, 21(5). Retrieved from http://doi.org/10.26209/ijea21n5.


This paper explores the conflicts engendered during the artist’s formation due to repeated submission to assessment in formal creative arts education. In a comparative qualitative study of two visuals arts practice undergraduate curricula, the underlying interpretative approaches to intentionality were uncovered to comprehend the impact of the hidden curriculum at those higher education institutions. Across both sites, nominal authenticity emerged consistently as the most valued criterion which artist-students referenced in their self-assessments of the success and quality of their artworks, and of their identities as members of the professional community of practice. This criterion for self-assessment ran parallel to, and at times against, the persistent disregard of the artist-students’ actual intentionality as a valid referent within the summative assessment practices of both the academic institutions studied. Within this paper, constructions of creativity, authorship and the relationship of these to interpretation, set the scene for exploring the traces, slippages and nuances between the discourses of authenticity which emerged. Drawing from empirical qualitative data generated from artist-students, artist-academics, curriculum documentation and observations of assessment, the contexts around these emerging discourses are discussed, and their significance for the novice artist’s experience, and the agency of artist-teachers, explored.

Visual Abstract

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