During my doctoral studies, I found myself surrounded by researchers and graduate students who used a variety of art forms to do research. I loved learning about their work and arts-informed research methods.
I was inspired to use art in my own work, but hadn’t figured out how. I had little talent when it came to the visual arts, despite my yearning to express myself in that way. I wanted to go beyond words in my research, to find new ways of understanding and engaging others.
At a critical time in my research, as I was trying to make sense of the hours of interviews I had conducted with my participants, I went to a workshop on arts-informed research methods. There, I had the good fortune to learn how to use collage from Lynn-Butler Kisber and Mary Stewart (AERA Pre-conference Workshop, Chicago, IL, 2003)
From the first collage I made at that workshop, I knew I was onto something. It was a wonderful feeling!
The art-form collage was particularly suited to the experiences I was trying to understand. My research participants had all immigrated as children and maintained their mother tongue, while acquiring and becoming fluent in a second (and in some cases third) language. In their everyday lives, different worlds came together in a unique combination, just as in collage the different images I brought together created a whole.
When I returned home, I continued to make collages to reflect on my research, and ended up including collages throughout my thesis to represent my participants’ experiences and the interplay among languages, cultures, and identities in their lives.
Since then, I have made collages in search of understanding in my own life. Though, I haven’t made a collage in some years. That is until today. In my recent post, How to use collage to reflect on just about anything, you can learn how to make a collage and see my latest creation.
Learn more about the use of collage in arts-informed research:
Butler-Kisber, L. Collage as inquiry. In Knowles, J. G. & Cole, A. L. Handbook of the arts in qualitative research: Perspectives, methodologies, examples, and issues (pp. 265-277). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, 2008