Teaching with Contemporary Art

Moving Pictures

Charles Atlas, "The Hanged One" 1997 Video installation. Courtesy the Artist.

Chalkboards are disappearing everywhere and interactive whiteboards are taking their place (or, in some cases, chalkboards are disappearing as interactive whiteboards are simply being pasted, nailed and everything short of duct taped in front of them). The days of getting a good, healthy whiff of chalk dust up your nose is slowly becoming a thing of the past. With news like this, it’s no wonder that bulletin boards and display cases are also getting a facelift in many schools.

Now don’t get me wrong- bulletin boards can continue doing a fine job of displaying two-dimensional works of art that aren’t too heavy, or fragile, to leave in the middle of a crowded hallway (and before someone suggests it, I have to admit I’m not a big fan of Saran wrapping displays so they look like astronaut food. You’ve seen it… an entire board is covered in plastic and you feel like you’re looking at art through a clear shower curtain). Sculpture display cases can certainly continue cuddling ceramic works and small sculptures that fit within the depth and width that the teacher has to work with. But there’s SO much that can’t be placed in these venues, especially if you are teaching with contemporary art, and that’s where digital displays can help.

Recently, we traded a sculpture case for a fairly large digital display that now scrolls works by alumni and current students. Each month, or perhaps even more often in the coming semester, students and teachers will take turns to curate exhibits that can be thematic or perhaps focus on one student artist. Some digital exhibits can feature works tied together with a question, while others can feature film and animation- forms of art that never saw the bulletin board or sculpture case before! Larger-scale sculpture can also be featured and even details from installations.

Teaching with contemporary art involves finding ways to work with big questions and ideas, but it also involves creating spaces to share this work effectively with the whole school community. Trading some of your old exhibit space for a little technology-driven space can open up doors to sharing much more than before.


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