Advocacy & Policy

NAEA Position Statement on Use of Imagery, Cultural Appropriation and Socially Just Practices

[Adopted March 2017]

NAEA believes images have power and meaning that impact individuals, communities, and cultures. Understanding the complexity of images is foundational in the development of students as artists, designers, and citizens. This includes the study of cultural origins and the use of images and their implied meanings. Visual art educators are then able to address implications surrounding the use of images through cultural appropriation and strive to inform societal practices and uses that avoid misinformation and perpetuating stereotypes.

NAEA encourages visual art educators to make curricular and pedagogical decisions that:

  • acknowledge and respond to the unique world views and voices of different people and communities; understanding, valuing, and respecting different perspectives
  • authentically reflect both historical and contemporary cultures and philosophies of diverse people
  • address issues around cultural appropriation and move toward cultural appreciation, valuing the ownership and significance of cultural images
  • eliminate perpetuating stereotypes, social inequities and assumptions of cultural homogeneity in educational settings.

NAEA supports the need for culturally sensitive and responsive visual art educators who encourage socially just practices and policies that provide and promote increased awareness, understanding, and acceptance of individual and group identities that affect all human interactions.


Definition of Cultural Appropriation:

“Cultural appropriation is the unauthorized adoption or theft of icons, symbols, rituals, aesthetic standards, and representations from one culture or subculture by another. Appropriation also occurs when a person of the dominant culture purports to be an expert on the experience of the dominated culture or[1] trivializes the experiences of a member of the dominated culture.[2]”

  • [1] L. Todd, “Notes on Appropriation” (1990) 16 Parellelogramme 24 at 24, cited in Coombe, The Properties of Culture and the Politics of Possessing Identity, supra note 11at 279.
  • [2] Coombe, The Properties of Culture and the Politics of Possessing Identity, ibid at 282.

Position Statement on Diversity in Visual Art Education Resource Document from the Position Statement Regarding the Use of Race Based Mascots in Educational Settings

Additional Related Reading Material:

Banks, J. A. & Banks, C. A. M. (Eds.). (2001). Multicultural education: Issues and perspectives (4th ed.). New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.

Delacruz, E. M. (2003). Racism American style and resistance to change: Art education’s role in the Indian mascot issue. Art Education, 56(30), 13-20.

Delacruz, E. M. (2014). Research in story form: A narrative account of how one person made a difference against all odds. In K. M. Miraglia & C. Smilan (Eds.), *Inquiry in action: Paradigms, methodologies, and perspectives in art education research *(pp.137-144) Reston, VA: NAEA.

Garber, E. (1995). Teaching art in the context of culture: A study in the borderlands. Studies in Art Education, 36(4), 218-232.

Knight, W. K. (2006). Using contemporary art to challenge cultural values, beliefs, and assumptions. Art Education, 59(4), 39-45.

Manifold, M. C., Willis, S., & Zimmerman, E. (Eds.). (2016). Culturally sensitive art education in a global world: A handbook for teachers. Alexandria, VA: NAEA.

Smith, L. T. (2012). Decolonizing methodologies: Research and indigenous peoples (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Zed Books.

Stuhr, P. L., Petrovich-Mwaniki, L., & Wasson, R. (1992). Curriculum guidelines for the multicultural art classroom. Art Education, 45(1), 16-24.

Wasson, R., Stuhr, P., & Petrovich-Mwaniki, L. (1990). Teaching art in the multicultural classroom: Six position statements. Studies in Art Education, 31(4), 234-246.

Explore More