Teaching with Contemporary Art

Dear Oliver

Oliver Herring, "Chris After Hours of Spitting Food Dye Outdoors", 2004 Courtesy Max Protetch Gallery

You know what I like about Oliver Herring? Pretty much everything.

Oliver was generous enough to join us for the 2nd year in a row to jump-start the Art21 Educators summer institute and set in motion (again) his signature TASK project last week. All of the institute participants, along with members of the Art21 staff, came together for TASK at the Chashama Gallery on 44th Street in Manhattan. After over two hours, we not only had a layered and stimulating installation of art works, but also a sensational setting for the start of our summer institute.

But besides Oliver’s work with Art21 and TASK, I truly believe, especially in light of recent student experience with his work, that there is more to talk about than simply celebrate TASK. Oliver is a photographer, sculptor and mixed-media artist who appeals to a variety of students and artists. His approach is one that investigates possibilities through media that best serve his ideas. Students who engage with his collaborative and commemorative work can learn about installation, performance, and work that highlights process as part of what the work is about.

The very first question posed on Oliver Herring’s page in the season 3 educator guide asks, “In art, is the process or the product more important?” Teaching and learning through his art allows us to think long and hard about that very question, because in some works, like TASK, the process is clearly more important. But in other works such as “Chris After Hours of Spitting Food Dye Outdoors” (2004), one could certainly make a case for both. The photo is stunning. The end product seems to be a crowning achievement after longs hours of photographing and working with this stranger as he literally spit into the wind.

As we complete the second half of the Art21 Educators summer institute this week I just want to publicly thank Oliver for his expertise and assistance with this important initiative that now involves thirty teachers in ten cities across the United States. Many thanks also go to Lois Hetland (Project Zero), Olivia Gude (Spiral Workshop), Susan Rotile (Walker Art Center),  Lisa Mazzola (MoMA), Ursula von Rydingsvard, and Allan McCollum for their help in the first few days…

More next week!


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