Teaching with Contemporary Art

Wrapping Up Art21 at NAEA 2011

Mark Dion gets set to give the keynote speech to over 3,500 attendees at the NAEA annual conference in Seattle on March 18th.

It was suggested that perhaps the TWCA column could provide a a wrap-up of the National Art Education Association’s annual conference in pictures this year, and while I would like to take a crack at it, so much went on that I can’t help but include a recent summary of the conference written by my colleague, Jessica Hamlin:

This year’s annual NAEA conference in Seattle, WA boasted over 3,700 participating art teachers, museum educators, academics and student teachers in attendance. The theme of Imagination, Creativity, and Innovation was intended as an opportunity to see connections across the arts disciplines in terms of the role of art education. Mark Dion’s participation was a natural extension of this theme and an attempt to contribute new ways of thinking about art education in light of contemporary artistic practice.

Over the course of three days, Art21 presented a series of incredibly well attended (and often packed) presentations, workshops, and sessions featuring Mark Dion and other Art21 initiatives.

During the conference’s opening keynote speech, approximately 3,500 participants watched Mark Dion’s Season Four Art in the Twenty-First Century segment featuring his Seattle-based installation the Neukom Vivarium in anticipation of his comments. In his keynote speech, Mark discussed his interests and work in relation to the categories of archeology, museum collections, natural follies, and his educational project Mildred’s Lane. At the very end Mark presented a passionate stance on not only the significance of, but the urgency for, art education that develops informed, creative and critical citizens. Many in the audience were literally moved to tears.

Doris Salcedo's "Shibboleth" (detail) at the Tate Modern. Image: kala.org

Immediately following Mark Dion’s keynote Art21 presented a teacher workshop at the Seattle Art Museum titled Art21 in Context: Teaching with Contemporary Art on Film and in the Museum Gallery. The fifty participants who were lucky enough to secure the sold-out tickets for this workshop explored the art and working methods of Art21 artist, Doris Salcedo. In a guided tour by Seattle Art Museum educators Jennifer Willson and Caroline Walker, participants made connections between the themes articulated by Doris Salcedo with artwork on view in the museum by El Anatsui  and Matika Wilbur.

That evening, Art21 trustee Sam Ketcham and his wife Sylvia hosted a cocktail reception to celebrate Mark’s participation in the conference and recognize Art21’s contributions. A festive group of local artists, public art advocates, city cultural affairs representatives, participants in the Art21 Educators program, Art21 Education advisory council members and Seattle Art Museum representatives enjoyed both the hospitality and the fabulous art collection of the Ketchams.

Mark Dion talks with NAEA conference participants at the Neukom Vivarium

Day two of the conference focused on Mark Dion’s installation Neukom Vivarium at the Olympic Sculpture Park (OSP). Three sequential programs introduced this work from various vantage points. Part one consisted of a talk between Mark and former Project Manager for the OSP, Renee Divine. After taking in the gorgeous view of the water and the park, a packed room of 65 participants squeezed into the Alvord Art Lab in the PACCAR Pavilion to hear about the conception and realization of this Seattle landmark. After learning the back story to the work, participants had the opportunity to experience the Vivarium first hand in Part Two of the sequence. With a team of trained Ambassadors to facilitate, teachers had the opportunity to investigate not only the changing landscape of the nurse log, but to find out more about the process and daily facilitation of the log.

The final event of the day was a panel conversation with Mark Dion on scientific method, artistic process, and visual inquiry.  This conversation asked panelists to consider how they personally defined and understood the Vivarium and how that translated into their own experiences of engaging students, the general public, and museum-goers with it. This conversation took the Vivarium as a starting point to explore how we engage students in definitions of art and issues of sustainability, and the multiple ways that the Vivarium addresses issues of conservation in relation to art production and ecology.

Questions greeting visitors at the Neukom Vivarium

The last day of the conference included a presentation of the Art21 Educators initiative. In collaboration with 4 of the teachers currently participating, Art21 gave an overview of the program and facilitated a conversation about their experiences. This was an important opportunity to differentiate the program from traditional notions of professional development and summer institute experiences and to concentrate on the learning community that is generated with each year of the program.

Many, many thanks to everyone who helped make Art21’s participation at NAEA in Seattle a success this year!


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