POSTED BY Grace M., ON May 25, 2011, Comments Off
We’ve heard from many museum visitors that they have enjoyed experiencing Public Notice 3 by Jitish Kallat, an installation made up of 68,000 LED lights set into the risers of the Woman’s Board Grand Staircase. The lights spell out the words of an 1893 speech given at the Art Institute by a Hindu monk, Swami Vivekananda, about tolerance and understanding across religious and cultural boundaries. During the time the installation has been open, Kallat has been very interested in how Chicagoans respond to his artwork and has engaged in several museum education programs.
Teens in the Art Institute’s Teen Lab program had the rare chance to connect with both the installation and the artist firsthand last fall. Teen Lab is an after-school program run by the Art Institute in collaboration with After School Matters. Thirty dedicated and creative Chicago high school students meet at the museum three days a week to make art, learn about works in the Art Institute’s collection, and meet the people who work behind the scenes at the museum. The teens create visual art and audio pieces, write, design museum guides, talk about art in the galleries, and experiment with new ideas and media. The teens viewed Public Notice 3 in the museum, discussed their ideas, prepared questions, and then used Skype to interview the artist in his studio in Mumbai, India. Kallat was incredibly generous in taking the time to speak to the teens, even though the interview took place at 4:00am his time! Speaking to the artist himself definitely expanded the teens’ understanding of the piece and their view of the world beyond Chicago. You can watch highlights of their conversation here.
Kallat participated in another exciting event last Sunday in conjunction with the exhibition called “The Museum Recoded.” High school students involved with the organization Young Chicago Authors read poems inspired by Kallat’s installation at the museum. Their writing grew out of workshops led by graduate students in the School of the Art Institute’s “Museum as Critical Curriculum Class” held during the spring 2011 semester. The poems touched on the pervasiveness of racism, intolerance, and violence in Chicago and around the world and included rousing calls for action. Kallat was present to listen and responded enthusiastically, saying that the teens’ words further refracted and amplified both Swami Vivekananda’s original speech and his installation. It has been truly exciting to work with an artist who is so interested in the public’s engagement with his work.
Click here to learn more about the Art Institute’s teen programs.
—Grace M. and Hillary C., Museum Education
Bottom image: Jitish Kallat (seated wearing white shirt and vest) on stage with teen poets and Young Chicago Authors Artistic Director Kevin Coval. Image courtesy of Rachel Harper.
When I work with K-12 teachers in the museum, one of the most common things we discuss is how to make connections between art works and different subject areas. Although language arts and social studies curriculum connections are seemingly endless (Walter Ellison’s Train Station and the history of the Great Migration, Ivan Albright’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray” and Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, you get the idea), linking other subjects like math to art can be challenging. Arts integration, instruction that blends content and skills from an arts discipline and an academic discipline, is a buzzword in education, but how does it really work in practice? I had the chance to explore this question recently with a brilliant group of teaching artists from Project AIM, a program of the Center for Community Arts Partnerships at Columbia College Chicago. These artists collaborate with classroom teachers in Chicago Public Schools to teach innovative arts-integrated units, and together we brainstormed new ways to connect the “big ideas” of middle school math— ratios, proportion, series, symbols, measurement, patterns, and relationships—to art concepts.
Leading our discussion was Luke Albrecht, a math teacher at Crown Community Academy. When asked to choose an artwork that represented math concepts, Luke skipped the typical choices (tessellations, works with obvious geometric shapes and angles) and instead went for Monet’s Stacks of Wheat. What do these paintings have to do with math? Well, plenty according to Luke. They are an example of a data set; multiple representations of the same phenomenon at different moments in time. By looking at them as a group we can begin to perceive change occurring over time. By comparing the effects Monet created in each painting we can see patterns and make predictions about the future, just as mathematicians do when they create a graph or an algebraic equation. As Luke pointed out, understanding math is all about seeing relationships; so is understanding painting. “Teaching math through arts integration is an amazing and effective way for students to learn. It addresses math in a social context that kids can really relate to,” he observed. Teachers like this inspire me to think about how works in the Art Institute collection can support classroom learning in increasingly creative and complex ways.
Claude Monet. Stack of Wheat (Snow Effect, Overcast Day), 1890/91. Mr. and Mrs. Martin A. Ryerson Collection.
POSTED BY Grace M., ON September 16, 2010, Comments Off
Tens of thousands of school children visit the Art Institute every year, and they are served by the museum in part by programs for educators. In our workshops, K-12 teachers learn strategies for engaging their students with original works of art at the museum and integrating art across their curriculum back at school. One recent teacher program was the three-day workshop Exploring Green Architecture and Design, which used the architecture of the Modern Wing as a starting point for broad-ranging discussions about sustainability, design, and education. The group consisted of educators from Chicago Public Schools and other local school districts, with subject area specialties ranging from art to technology and foreign language.
In this workshop, we asked: How can learning to think like a designer build skills for problem solving and critical thinking? And what exactly is sustainable or “green” design? Over the three days we explored what sustainability means in terms of objects, buildings, and cities. Teachers examined designed objects in the Modern Wing galleries and learned about the green features of the building, which received a Leadership in Energy Efficient Design (LEED) Silver Rating from the US Green Building Council. You can see a video about that here.
After looking at the Modern Wing and some of the design objects in the collection, the group visited the Lurie Gardens in Millennium Park with a landscape architect and toured the Chicago Model City exhibition at the Chicago Architecture Foundation to consider the role buildings and landscape design play in the city as a whole. They also visited the Chicago Center for Green Technology to see even more green building strategies in action, and left inspired by the green roof, rain barrels, alternative energy sources, and permeable pavement that we saw there. I’m happy to say the group left abuzz with ideas for implementing some of these features in their own homes and schools.
On another day of the workshop, the group was joined by architect Linda Keane of the School of the Art Institute, who has developed a fantastic K-12 design curriculum called NEXT. Linda led the group in several activities; they created models of architectural pavilions based on natural forms and developed plans for greening their existing school campuses by adding features such as green roofs, gardens with native plants, stormwater management systems, solar panels, and recycling facilities. Teachers then created digital versions of their designs using Google SketchUp, a free online three-dimensional modeling program. Some examples of the projects they created are here and here:
From the museum’s perspective, one of the most satisfying things about a workshop like this is how teachers react to what they learn and make plans to incorporate it into the classroom. These teachers have big plans to make art with recycled materials, help students formulate ways to be more responsible with energy and resources, and teach creative thinking in terms of the environment. We’re excited to see what they do!
POSTED BY Guest Blogger, ON September 08, 2010, Comments Off
On September 1, the Art Institute participated in a Twitter-hosted Q&A called “Ask a Curator.” Over 300 museums and galleries around the world (23 countries!) solicited questions from their fans and beyond, each with curators on hand to answer burning questions like “what’s paint made from?” and “how do you become a curator?” We were lucky to have Lisa Dorin, Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art, at the helm. In case you aren’t glued to our Twitter feed during the workday (or don’t know the difference between a tweet and a hashtag) here are a few of our favorite questions and responses in 140 characters or less—de-twitterfied, for your reading pleasure:
Q: Art seems to rotate in & out of the galleries. How do you decide what/when to put a piece out?
A: In my dept, it’s a combo of conservation requirements, loans, & rotating to highlight best works in collection.
Q: What is the most difficult challenge for a curator? How do new technologies influence the curatorship task?
A: 2 part answer: Biggest challenge is actually seeing & keeping up with everything happening in Contemp art world.
A: 2/2: Pervasiveness of technology can be a hindrance if it replaces seeing actual art.
Q: How can we best approach and interest children and teenagers in modern and contemporary art?
A: Through exposure, education, hands-on projects. Our Museum Ed dept offers great resources http://ow.ly/2y7mW
Q: What are the benefits of “shared” exhibitions, such as Cartier-Bresson show?
A: Primary benefit for traveling exhibitions is greater exposure for the exhib and/or artist.
Q: What do you remember about your first visit to an art museum? How old were you?
A: It was a gesture drawing class at LACMA and I think I was 6?
Thanks of course to Lisa for her time and expertise, Jim Richardson for organizing, and to the dozens of people who wrote in with questions! It was so fun that we are even considering making curator Q&As a recurring feature on our Facebook page. Leave a comment if you’d like to see that happen!
—Jocelin S., Social Media Coordinator
I took my first art history class as a sophomore in high school, right around that sacred time when teenagers begin forging what scientists and psychologists once courageously deemed “an identity.” Today, of course, most of those scientists and psychologists work in television advertising and utilize a rotation of terms for that awkward transition into adulthood. This year, I believe, they’re calling it Glee.
Whatever the name, my unique identity at the time was Eddie Vedder. And I was very cool and my pants had lots of pockets. I was also one of two male sophomores in an art history class full of hot female seniors. This led me to three very important life lessons: (1) where there is art, there are beautiful women; (2) those beautiful women usually have artist boyfriends; (3) it is best to focus on the art and not on the women, as some artists sculpt quite well with their fists.
As it turned out, the history of art provided more than enough drama and intrigue—or should I say angst and rebellion?—to keep my teenage attention. I loved the stories, the lives and the histories entangled and embodied by these creations the artists left behind. Studying the history of art was like studying the history of humanity—the cultures, religions, politics, technologies, revolutions, evolutions—only the entry point, for someone without access to a major art museum, was essentially based on faith. As a sixteen-year-old kid squinting at a Rembrandt reproduction the size of a business card, I remember thinking, “What’s this look like for real?”
Millions of years later, in a post-post-post-grunge world, here I am, on my last day as a staff member at the Art Institute of Chicago, where I routinely walk past many of the unreal artworks reprinted in that tattered old Gardner book from high school. I still find the optical magic of Seurat’s dots fascinating or the slick sheen of Brancusi’s Golden Bird both alien and captivating, yet what I’ll miss most aren’t the works I recognized on my first museum tour or the few anecdotes I remember from class. Instead, I’ll think back on my secret favorite works, the ones I discovered on my own or researched as an employee, like the charming and functional 14th-century Lion Aquamanile in Gallery 203A (profiled in this month’s Member Magazine, for all you members out there) or Frans Hals’ chuckle-inducing Rommelpot Player (the drummer from June’s Making the Band self-guide) in Gallery 208. During my first stroll through the Modern Wing, I probably stared at Vincent and Tony for ten minutes, a painting where the size of the canvas seems to directly match the potency of the emotion.
My point is—and surely I’m preaching to the choir here—the thing every art history book leaves out of its grand survey of human creativity (besides everything after, say, 1965) is an explanation for that bond that occurs, that unique connection between people and certain works of art, how some painting made in a stuffy, un-air-conditioned room centuries ago can still spur the imagination. Sometimes we have clear reasons (“See how the smoke turns into clouds right there? Isn’t that cool?!”), and sometimes we don’t even have words. In the museum’s recent Matisse exhibition, I absolutely loved his portrait of a balding man with glasses and a mustache. Why? I have no idea. Maybe I was looking into the future.
Anyway, I’ll miss the museum, my wonderful colleagues, and the daily opportunities to discover new secret favorites. Oh, and by the way—check out one of our Rembrandts when you get a chance. They’re way cooler than any book reproductions.
Or Pearl Jam.
–Zach G., (now former) media assistant. [Ed. note: we'll miss you Zach! Godspeed!]
Image: José Guadalupe Posada (Mexican, 1851-1913). Goodbye, Goodbye, n.d. Relief print on paper. William McCallin McKee Memorial Collection.