Engagement with the Art of Adolescents from Immigrant Families: Cultural Identity and Intercultural Challenges Manifested in Verbal Responses to Portrait Paintings

By SeungYeon Lee.

Published by The International Journal of Arts Education

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This study qualitatively explores the manifestation of intercultural challenges and adjustments in adolescents of immigrant families through their verbal engagements with a set of portrait paintings. Data were collected from in-person interviews with four Korean-American fifteen-year-old adolescents. A close examination of the collected data provides insight into the multifaceted responses of these immigrant adolescents who come from a community that is challenged and enriched by multicultural and urban experiences. This study’s findings suggest that adolescents from immigrant families face the additional task of developing a cultural identity that inculcates their traditional culture while accommodating the culture and values of the United States. Most significantly, the responses of the participant adolescents to a set of five different portraits demonstrate that art plays a critical role in adolescent life. Their engagement with works of art can be a meaningful experience, as they ascribe their values, assumptions, and beliefs to specific images and objects in paintings. The personal struggles and everyday experiences of young immigrants, such as uncertainty, ambiguity, and joy, were identified and verbalized. The study most importantly suggests that adolescents delve deeply into artistic images, expanding their interpretations, and discovering new meanings to the outside world as well as personal experiences.

Keywords: Cultural Identity, Adolescents’ Response, Portrait Paintings, Intercultural Adjustment, Globalization and Immigration, Identity Formation

The International Journal of Arts Education, Volume 7, Issue 4, pp.15-32. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1010.852KB).

Dr. SeungYeon Lee

Assistant Professor, School of Visual and Performing Art, Long Island University, New York, New York, USA

Ed.D, ATR-BC, LCAT, Dr. Lee is Assistant Professor of the Clinical Art Therapy Program at the School of Visual and Performing Arts, Long Island University–Post Campus, Brookville, NY.