Educational Studies and Art Major
Danny Gonshorek, from Champaign, Illinois, is a fan of Banksy --
the British artist most famous for his graffiti artwork. "His work is often
created in prominent public places. I really like his work and what he is
saying. He secretly installed his own art in museums like the Natural History Museum of London as well as the Louvre."
Ask Gonshorek most anything about Banksy and he has the answer. And, if he can't come up with the answer, he whips out his own book of Banksy's work that he carries in tow. He is eager to point out the photos of various graffiti rats in several classic landscapes. "He is an artist and a prankster. It is gonzo journalism in a way," he says with pride. "But his art addresses various cultural and social issues such as commercialism in society, government surveillance of citizens, and violence in society."
Gonshorek seized the opportunity to conduct an independent study educating gifted students. With funding provided by a Richter scholarship, Gonshorek examined Banksy and Danish Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson. Eliasson is another artist that engages his audience as an active part of his art by using temperature, moisture, aroma and light to generate physical sensations.
Stephen Schroth and Jason Helfer, both assistant professors of education, were working on identifying four prominent cultural figures for the publication when they asked Gonshorek if he was interested in assisting. Their essays on Pierre Boulez, a composer, conductor, and writer, and Michael Tilson Thomas, a pianist, conductor, and composer, were featured in the spring issue of "Heroes of Giftedness: An Inspirational Guide for Gifted Students and Their Teachers," published by Gifted Education Press. Gonshorek's two essays examining Banksy and Olafur Eliasson, a Danish Icelandic artist, will be featured in the fall issue of the publication.
The "Heroes of Giftedness" publication has more than 14,000 online subscribers that include teachers, program specialists and coordinators, parents, graduate students and professors worldwide who receive the publication four times a year to gain creative ideas for teaching gifted children.
The Writing on the Wall
Gonshorek is considering an additional major in educational studies. "I think gifted children could relate to and learn from these small biographies. The pieces explain how some of the artists work thematically."
Gonshorek paints himself as a physical artist. He loves playing the guitar and uses oils and acrylic paints on large canvases, so it takes no stroke of genius to see what drew Gonshorek to researching the two visual artists. "Banksy's work is ironic. It is a comment about people reclaiming the space that we all live in."
Back To the Drawing Board
Gonshorek says he has not taken an art class since middle school. "But when I came to Knox, I took a drawing class and I just loved it. I feel that it is a shame that I wasn't exposed to the more prominent visual artists at a young age." He says he feels a lagging educational system is much to blame.
Student motivation is a constant challenge in education. "There is not enough emphasis on learning by doing in school - experiential learning. To be honest, my working relationship with my professors is the best thing that happened to me academically at Knox."
Making a Difference Right Off the Bat
Many gifted underachievers confess that they are not interested in school because they find it uninteresting, meaningless, or irrelevant. Gonshorek, who was in a gifted education program in high school, feels that the current educational system could be better. "I feel passionately about that. Approaching this project from a research undergraduate perspective was very interesting for me. It provoked my beliefs about the nature of education and learning."
Teaching is a hard job when the students want to learn, and it is a challenge when they do not make the effort to learn. Gonshorek says his own education is a model of how to motivate students. "You can get them to engage if you focus on their interests. Interest-based learning centers on the student and increases the likelihood of them being involved in their own learning process."
"Every child needs to know they are welcome and safe and loved and special. Not everyone will be an astronaut, and I think as long as kids are showing up, thinking about it and engaged, they should be okay. I think that is all you can ask."
"Teaching involves providing students with models or exemplars who can serve as inspirations regarding their own futures. As Knox professors, we also attempt as much as possible to provide opportunities to engage in research that will allow them [students] to use their many skills to see how they fit into the larger world to which Knox is connected," Schroth says.
While he is considering the Peace Corps after Knox, Gonshorek says he has a lot of plans include extensive travel. "When I came to Knox I was politically aware, but that awareness has expanded, and I have become more engaged. I'm really fascinated about functionality and art and making my own things and being self sufficient."
His mix of functionality and art is expressed in his large canvas abstracts, playing the guitar or expressing his self sufficiency by doing his own cooking, crafts or "maybe someday even making my own clothes."