I walk up and down this staircase almost every day. Today, I saw a new reflection, a new light.
Here’s an invitation to see something familiar in a new way.
Check out the Museum Questions: Reflections on Museums, Programs, and Visitors blog here. The blog “is dedicated to questions about museums and thoughts on creating a reflective practice.” The creator has some great insight into museum education and school visits to museums from her fifteen years of experience in various museum education departments.
“The Educational Value of Field Trips,” an article and study done by faculty and researchers at the University of Arkansas offers some enlightenment into the benefits of school visits to cultural institutions like a museum. Using the newly opened Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, researchers were able to gauge the impact a museum experience had on students of all ages. Here is what they discovered:
“Students randomly assigned to receive a school tour of an art museum experience improvements in their knowledge of and ability to think critically about art, display stronger historical empathy, develop higher tolerance, and are more likely to visit such cultural institutions as art museums in the future.”
Check out the full article here.
During our first visual literacy consortium meeting this year, we began with time in the galleries. Each teacher found a work of art that reflected their own experience beginning the school year. Many found that the experience helped shed new light on the work ahead. Here are some excerpts from the conversation.
Charlice Culvert, art teacher
“Given the fourth floor to explore the concept of what were our expectations for the new school year and where was it going, I knew immediately that I would focus on the abstract art in the Long Gallery. Abstract art allows me to reflect more deeply than representational art; there are no boundaries for the interpretation.
Barbara Hepworth’s stone sculpture is located in front of a window, causing the black surface to seem even darker with the light behind shining through the openings. I thought about how to get through to the other side of the curriculum, expectations, students and everything the new school year brings; would there be surprises on the other side, would I be able to enjoy the journey? I could see some glimpses of what might be, but could not tell exactly what awaited me on the other side.
Next, I viewed John Walker’s, Untitled Collage NYC No5. With all its different textures, it reminded me of all the students who enter my classroom and all their different personalities. The complexity of one student could also be seen through this collage. We are all complex in our personalities. How do I respond appropriately to them all?
The last piece of art I viewed lacked a label so I gave it the title, All Eyes on Me. Scattered all over the painted are three dimensional circular shapes which are eye-like. Red forms, reminiscent of figures, stand facing outward. Black lines move through the composition conveying the feeling of jazz music. My students’ expectations are high, they are energetic and they demand attention. I need to be on my toes at all times.”
Nick Mead, 2012
Daron Cyr, kindergarten teacher
“Chaotic best sums up my year; lots of lines and colors that seem to never come together. I view visual literacy as a “safe” place for those colors, textures, and lines to play, arrange, rearrange, mingle, change, morph into something visually appealing. The eyes in the piece … like my 4 year olds eying everything – the good, the bad, my reaction, the day, the mood … all the eyes.
I hope to let their creativity shine unstifled with textures and tools in their desperate fingers. It’s a mindset really: That we are valuable thinkers and creators of ideas and art.
I sought abstract art because the lines and boldness were almost soothing – a means of decompressing and a way to visualize my room as an art form even amidst the chaos.
I gave my students their sketchbooks for the first time last week and asked them to do a self portrait – which was exciting and a great first time in their books. Last friday I put up A Couple of Foxhounds from the YCBA collection and after reading the painting together (which is getting better every week) I asked them to use only pencil (which normally would be “boring”) and either try to draw the painting, focus on their favorite part, or draw what it reminds them of.
I was in awe of how well my young and challenging learners handled it! Many copied the shadows and shapes in the painting but even more drew their own dogs or family because the dogs reminded them of home. Everyone was doing something and whether or not it was recognizable to me wasn’t as important as the fact that they were moved to draw something based on what they saw.
Next week I’m getting ready to start a “Work on Art” center as part of literacy time because it fits perfectly with their need for Oral Language but also because they are engaged and will enjoy choosing a picture card and spending time in their sketchbooks.”
Rebecca Looney, art teacher
” The piece I chose to talk about and connect with my students was Peter Howson’s Farewell, Farewell. I felt that this work would invite the most conversations about the back story of all that I looked at. Beginning this year, I’ve noticed conflicts between students occurring much earlier in the year than in years past. Usually they are one student against a couple of others, which seemed to be exemplified by the number of people in this painting. This painting would be a great bridge to talking about relationships and communication.”
Karen Williams, art teacher
“The beginning of the year can be exciting and intimidating at the same time: new students, new school procedures, new administrators, new colleagues, new materials – all new experiences to bring to a new year.
This past YCBA workshop was a reminder of what I took and want to keep from the summer institute.
The art room is a place where things can move S L O W.
The art room is a place where you observe, notice, question.
The art room is a place where individuality is honored.
Although the rush of school year can cause me to overlook these very important things, the meeting served as a good “huddle” time for us, as educators, to reflect on why we are doing what we are doing: To help our students, ourselves and others to learn, to grow and to deepen our experiences not only in art but in all other areas of life as well.”
Patti Darragh, reading specialist
Launching the Year
“As I wandered the galleries, thinking about starting the school year with my reading students, this painting jumped off the wall at me.
The Sense of Sight, Philippe Mercier
It emphasizes the power of a visual image. Just as the characters in this narrative are intent on studying this map, my students stretch and move their seats to get a better view of images I present to them.
Looking does not put my challenged readers on the spot. Everyone can look and looking naturally leads to thinking and talking.
I don’t know who is more amazed at students’ responses to art; me or the students themselves.
My advice- try it and be amazed!”
Please share your own experiences “launching” visual literacy this year.
In The New York Times article, “Writer Brings in the World While She Keeps It at Bay,” Julie Bosman sits down with novelist Donna Tartt to talk about her latest book, The Goldfinch. Here is what she had to say about her experience with images and writing:
“Taking copies of National Geographic, she would cut out pictures of a zebra or a child, and write a story about the picture. “I wrote books in this way, around images,” Ms. Tartt said, something that didn’t occur to her until “The Goldfinch” — a book that surrounds an image of a luminous yellow-tinged bird — was complete.”
One of our goals here at the Yale Center for British Art is to encourage teachers and students to make these connections between image and writing on a daily basis. Novelist Donna Tartt encapsulates this goal with her novel centered around a Dutch painting. Take a look at this article and see how art has influenced this successful writer. You can also buy a copy of The Goldfinch here.
Patti Darragh is a reading specialist and the Reading/Language Arts coordinator, at the K-5 level in North Branford, CT. Patti began integrating visual literacy strategies as a first and second grade teacher and continues to use them to make literature and writing more meaningful to the remedial reading students she works with today. Patti has shared her beliefs and knowledge about visual literacy through various professional development workshops with the teachers in North Branford and an instructor at the University of New Haven MAT program, training new teachers. She is a liaison for the Museum/School Partnership with the YCBA and is an instructor at the YCBA Summer Teacher Institute. Additionally she had presented visual literacy workshops at Yale Center for British Art, New England Museum Association, and American Alliance of Museums, and Examining the Intersection of Arts Education and Special Education. She holds a B.S. in Elementary Education and Advanced Certification as a Reading Specialist from Southern Connecticut State University and an M.S. in Education from University of Connecticut.
Darcy Hicks was an elementary classroom teacher and art teacher in Massachusetts and in Connecticut for ten years. She has since worked as an educational consultant and teaching coach, with a focus on the integration of art and writing. Hicks uses art in the classroom to help children discover their own topics, and to develop skills in reading and writing. She developed a literacy approach called Doorways to Thinking, which integrates all the senses into the writing process. For the last three years she has been part of the Visual Literacy team at the New Haven Public Schools and the Yale Center for British Art. She conducts workshops for teachers, coaches one-on-one, and this year worked with a small group of children to explore the use of art as a way to develop their writing voices.
Hicks, Darcy. Choice Matters. Teaching K-8, pub. NCTE October 2001
Hicks, Darcy; Levenson, Cyra. Opening the Door: Teaching Towards Creativity. Creativity in Art Education, pub. NEA 2013.
National Conference of Teachers of English,1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2003.
Cyra Levenson, Ed.M., is Associate Curator of Education at the Yale Center for British Art. Prior to Yale, Ms. Levenson held positions at the Seattle Art Museum and the Rubin Museum of Art focused on gallery interpretation. She has worked closely with schools and teachers throughout her career and has researched and published on the topic of visual literacy in museum practice. Ms. Levenson is a also the co-curator of the upcoming exhibition, Figures of Empire: Slavery and Portraiture in Atlantic Britain and is author of the article, “Re-presenting Slavery: Underserved Questions in Museum Collections”. Ms. Levenson has a degree in Art Education from Teachers College, Columbia University and has been working in the field of museum education for 15 years.
James Shivers (Ph.D.) is a poet, visual artist, and literary critic. He teaches at William H Hall High School in West Hartford, CT. In 2012-13 he developed with YCBA a visual based pilot program called Expanding Literacies, Exploring Expression for students in lower level English Courses. At Hall, he also co-developed of a senior level media course, 21st Century Studies: Media and the Critical Eye which receives college credit through University of Connecticut’s ECE program where he serves on the English advisory board. He also teaches courses at University of Hartford and University of Connecticut.
Hallie Cirino is engaged in a teaching career that has spanned over three decades and has included students from the ages of two to ninety-two. Currently, Hallie is working as a 5’s teacher at CHT Preschool in Westport, CT. While working on her masters in teaching, curriculum, and learning environments at Harvard, Hallie conducted and published research about young children learning to write for the first time. This led to her emphasizing the incorporation of visual arts into literacy learning with her classes, and the process of doing so with her current 5-year-old students has a very natural, organic quality. Hallie firmly believes that all students, regardless of age, can enhance their learning while improving their writing through the use of visual supports such as fine art.
Yinan “Eva” Song is a senior at Yale University. She majors in Art (with a focus on Graphic Design) and Political Science. She worked as a Nancy Horton Bartels intern at the Department of Education of Yale Center for British Art for the 2012-2013 school year, and continues to work as a student assistant at the Department.
Sara Torkelson is a junior at Yale University majoring in American Studies with a concentration on visual art and literature. She is a student assistant at the Yale Center for British Art in the Education Department. Sara will be posting on the YCBA Pinterest page; these posts will explore the British Art Center’s vast collection and focus on specific themes with each post.
A camera is a great tool to help see closer, see more, see different. When you slow down and really focus on what you see, even the everyday and the familiar look new. For me, looking through a lens and within a frame helps make that happen. This column, “through the lens” will focus on what new things emerge to look at through my camera. I hope it becomes a jumping off point for you to take out your camera and do the same.
Today, I got to thinking about frames, borders, edges.
The places we don’t usually look first. What treasure are there, waiting to be seen?
This is how I saw today.
This is how you saw.
We experimented with point of view.
Donald Graves wrote, “When you use your hand to see, you will encounter your life differently.” Can you find a way to see the familiar, the everyday this weekend? Feel free to add your photos and drawings to the comments section.