Teaching with Contemporary Art

Wrestling with the Past: A TwCA 2008-2009 Roundup

Eleanor Antin, Art21 production still

Eleanor Antin, Art21 production still

It’s been quite a year. Quite an academic year, that is. Between the country voicing a collective NO to four more years of the same Bushed policies and Bernie Madoff being sentenced to the equivalent of a few lifetimes in prison, a lot has happened and been written about. While I haven’t had any obsessed music fans calling to threaten me lately (haven’t I mentioned the response to The Billy Joels of Art Education??) I just wanted to take this opportunity at the beginning of summer to provide a TwCA roundup of sorts….

The year started back in September 2008 with an article on Mining Ideas – examining the use of sketchbooks in the classroom. Thinking Through Possibilities shared a variety of student sketchbook work as result of this popular theme, and students continued to use sketchbooks in order to respond to and create work influenced by the highly controversial Bodies exhibit.

I was honored to be given the opportunity to interview Eleanor Antin for the TwCA column in December, and right through the holidays she and I e-mailed back and forth (and back and forth… thank you Eleanor!) to create Myths, Metaphors and More: An Interview with Eleanor Antin, which was then published in two parts on January 14th and 15th, 2009.

As winter literally plowed along it became necessary to tackle the bizarre nature of art competitions in What’s an Art Contest? The following week led to a post highlighting how contemporary artists are relying more and more on others to make their work. It Takes Two… or Two Hundred was inspired by the highly coordinated and detail-obsessed season 4 artist Mark Dion.

TwCA investigated the understated art of Robert Ryman and listened to him discuss his work live before writing the post, What Light? in February. Only a week later I came across a Scholastic Art magazine featuring five Art21 artists and was thrilled to see the periodical break free from it’s staple of Van Gogh, Cezanne and O’Keeffe. I love the artists, but don’t necessarily need classroom resources dedicated to them once a year. Working Without Warhol examined how Scholastic Art and other magazines like it can indeed incorporate contemporary art and artists meaningfully.

As spring began I was excited to share my work with students creating paintings driven by an investigation into what exactly is power? Power(ful) Painting highlighted the initial steps they took to create work about a big question and theme, which then allowed students to demonstrate skills they learned in previous lessons. Immediately following this unit, we made our way to the newly redesigned Museum of Art and Design to see Second Lives: Remixing the Ordinary. Classes were in the midst of changing gears and working with everyday materials to create works of art that were more than just another project about the principle of rhythm. Remixing. Transformation. highlighted the importance of this influential museum visit.

In April, the TwCA column began reporting on the work Art21 was doing with teachers at the Bard College Center for Curatorial Studies. The post Teaching with Film, Teaching with Objects was the first of these updates on the three-part workshop series titled Teaching and Learning with Contemporary Art, which concluded in May.

The spring also saw the Education and Public Programs team at Art21 travel to Minneapolis for the National Art Education Association’s annual conference, punctuated by our work at the Walker Art Center and with season 4 artist, Mark Bradford (see Burn Baby Burn). The conference itself provided many possibilities for the TwCA column, and I spent the following three weeks looking into questions posed at our panel discussion with Mark Bradford, Olivia Gude and William Crow. These questions are highlighted in the posts Getting Beyond, Authoritarian?, and Make Less Art.

It summer now. Time to relax and read. Two recent columns, Summer Reading Part 1 and Summer Reading Part 2, suggest a variety of works to inspire you as we get some collective distance from 2008-2009 and prepare for beginning all over again in September. Enjoy!


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