Teaching with Contemporary Art

Ottawa Without a Passport

Mary Heilmann in her studio- production still

Mary Heilmann in her studio- production still

On Monday I had the pleasure of working with 26 teachers from a variety of settings in the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District… located in western Michigan. That’s right, Michigan. Shame on all of us for assuming you had to cross the border to get to Ottawa.

For a full day, we took the time to explore the possibilities of contemporary art in the classroom with children (and adults!) of all ages. We talked about the variety of exciting artists featured in the upcoming season and had the opportunity to work with the brand new season 5 Educator’s Guide, which definitely smells crispy-clean…. right off the press.

The Ottawa Area ISD works collaboratively with schools and communities to meet the educational needs of students in the Ottawa area. By pooling resources and working regionally, they provide important programs and services to eleven local K-12 school districts and all charter, parochial and private schools in the county. And it’s a big county, to say the least.

One of the main reasons the day was a success really had to do with the way teachers opened themselves up to the possibility of enhancing their curriculum through incorporating contemporary art. Many times we discussed using the resources Art21 has to offer in order to improve and add to what the teachers were presently teaching. I was so inspired by the range of interests in the group, the range of teaching experience, and the willingness to listen to one another as participants shared stories and questions related to teaching about contemporary art, working with big ideas, the work of Mary Heilmann, active viewing of film and video, and the work of Carrie Mae Weems. What an excellent day. I look forward to sharing some of their stories here on the blog in the coming months! Many thanks to Susan Loughrin at OAISD for organizing and scheduling the workshop, and many, many thanks to all of the teachers who participated.