“We don’t become competent without practice,” Laura Reeder, (C3)2 curriculum director, said to the teachers and teaching artists attending Day 2 of the 2017 (C3)2 Summer Institute. To help project partners gain competency, Ms. Reeder along with Loretta Corbisiero, project director, and Lorraine Sopp, project coordinator, planned a day at the Heckscher Museum of Art.
The museum visit was an opportunity for (C3)2 educators and teaching artists to explore art as well as practice the teaching of art. “A work of art is an active, live, physical thing,” Ms. Reeder stressed. “Today, your job is to dive deeply into artworks—to discover how to make connections with curriculum. In addition, I’d like you to dive into what the artist is thinking.”
After her welcoming remarks, Ms. Reeder introduced Joy Weiner, director of education and public programs at the museum. Ms. Weiner (above) greeted project participants and explained the museum’s educational mission. “No matter what the art is, what’s its medium or era, our teaching approach is the same,” she stressed. “We give students a cross-curricular, immersive experience. We infuse the curriculum and interactivity.”
To begin the day’s activities, Ms. Weiner led the teachers and teaching artists into a gallery of photographs by Thaddeus Holownia. “Walden Revisited” is a study of the trees near Walden Pond and pays homage to Henry David Thoreau. Ms. Weiner helped the (C3)2 visitors explore the exhibit through open-ended questions and a sensory activity. Participants were asked to consider what they saw in the photographs as well as what they didn’t see.
The group then entered a second exhibit entitled “Earth Muse: Art and the Environment.” In this exhibit, various artists use the earth’s natural beauty and diversity as muse for their artistic expression. One of the artists, Barbara Roux (below), spoke to the (C3)2 group about her artistic inspiration and process. She creates a narrative for each work. “I’m not interested in beauty,” she noted. “I’m interested in change, in Nature’s struggle.”
To engage with the artworks by Ms. Roux and the other artists, Ms. Weiner and Kristina Schaaf, associate director of education and digital content, introduced a “view finder” activity. According to Ms. Weiner, “a photographer uses a view finder to focus on a subject. When we talk with students, we talk about the artist process, the deliberateness of what he or she does.”
Participants were given a donut-shaped disc and instructed to look through its hole like a photographer looks through a view finder (above). “Move it around until you find the right spot,” said Ms. Schaaf. “What first draws you to an artwork may be the color. But take a deeper look. With the view finder, you must ask yourself, ‘what am I really looking at?’ In the process you might find out more about the artist. In life, we often generalize. But art makes us individualize.”
Learning More About Art and Artist
Participants held a "view finder" up to an artwork and asked: "What am I really looking at?" Here's a sample of their "deeper looks" at art and artist.
Afterwards, participants moved into the museum’s third exhibit, entitled “The Art of Narrative: Timeless Tales and Visual Vignettes.” Here, participants were asked to choose a painting and create a story about it. Afterwards, several educators shared their stories with their colleagues.
For the afternoon session, Ms. Reeder divided participants into three groups and assigned each one to a different gallery. The groups were told to create an activity or presentation to engage either a group of visiting poets, scientists, or people of all ages. Simple materials—paper, scissors and markers—we given to the groups.
For the “Walden Revisited" exhibit, educators created a presentation with an acrostic poem to engaged visiting poets (video below).
For the “Earth Muse: Art and the Environment" exhibit, the teachers created pathways, each representing a different basic element—earth, water, air—to draw scientists into the gallery’s artwork.
The group also created a few original artworks (below, left).
To engage visitors of all ages, the third group created a fun scavenger hunt for the “The Art of Narrative: Timeless Tales and Visual Vignettes” exhibit.
After these presentations, Ms. Reeder gathered the teachers and teaching artists to reflect on the day’s experiences. “Let’s talk about what we learned today,” she prompted. One teacher said: “I learned to be a better listener.” Another said: “You can’t do any wrong, if you’re really in it. Don’t question yourself.” Still, another participant observed: “All subject areas can be related to art.” And finally, an educator reflected that “Everyone has a different view, perspective, reaction. Everyone sees something different.”
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