I recently had the chance to observe an art class being held in the Museum. In June, three fifth grade classes from a local school took a tour of the collections and then met up for a forty-five minute studio session based on what they had learned in the galleries. In the section I observed, twenty four students created beautiful landscape drawings, focusing on the use of various forms of perspective. As a future art teacher I was eager to see how the class would be led and how the students would respond to so much information in so little time. I had assumed that a bad case of field-trip-brain may have interfered with the productivity of the class, but their attitudes and finished works proved me wrong! Needless to say, I was completely impressed. I think it was a combination of the class’s wonderful focus, their preparation in the galleries, and the masterful teaching of 30+ year veteran teacher.
The students were shown various landscape paintings, with a particular focus on A Wooded Watershed, by Daniel Garber. They were also informed of various techniques for creating a sense of perspective, for example: layering, scale, placement, and color. Students were encouraged to dream up their own landscape. Their chosen themes spanned from camping under the stars, to a mountainous hiking trail. I especially appreciated that they were able to use oil pastels for this assignment, some of them for the very first time! They learned about using color less symbolically and more naturally, in that a tree trunk is not truly flat brown, but may have undertones of blue, or splotches or orange, etc. The nature of the class also allowed students to interact with the works of art seen in the galleries, in that they broke down the formal elements of the paintings and decided what they wanted to use and did not want to use in their own work. I liked the accessibility of the source images, as well as the casual atmosphere of the classroom. Students were encouraged to talk to one another about what they were creating, as well as to embrace a truly individual approach to their work. Have you or your child taken a class at a museum? What made it worthwhile?
-Melissa Miguelez, Intern