Teaching with Contemporary Art

Outside Alias

Alias Restaurant at the corner of Clinton and Rivington

On July 13th, after a full week of the Art21 Educators summer institute, I took the opportunity to interview teachers about their experiences attending workshops, meeting Art21 artists, and beginning their year-long professional development with us. Our conversations focused on highlights from the week and what they expected to happen vs. what actually happened. Below are some quotes from “Conversations Outside Alias” on the lower east side.

Expectations vs. Reality…

It was such an intense week… It was kind of like boot camp in a way. – Todd Elkin

I was ready to be seated in the back doing my own thing while things just proceeded around me. But you had to throw yourself “all in” to this process. I think that’s going to be the case metaphorically and physically through the rest of the year.- James Rees

I’m so used to standard professional development-type things but this was so unique in a way that I can’t even begin to describe the dynamic that went on this week. The staff was amazing. Someone earlier in the week called you guys a brain trust. The tone you set from the start created the dynamic week we had. My brain is buzzing. – Mary Curry

I thought we’d be sitting around listening to lectures. There was a lot more active involvement where we were forced to really dive into this thing.- Jethro Gillespie

I didn’t realize how deep we were going to get into the content. You know, working with contemporary art in the classroom, using videos in a strategic way, actually going to an artist’s studio. To meet Oliver and learn about how an artist actually works and being in the space that he works was amazing. I didn’t realize how intense this was going to be. It was probably one of the most intense weeks I’ve ever had…. I have a lot to think about on the plane. – Jack Watson

Highlights and Other Thoughts…

I really enjoyed the community and being able to play off one another. I didn’t really think about that coming in. The greatest thing about this is bringing a lot of talented people together and being able to pick their brains. People were just forced to perspire ideas.– Chris Tourre

I feel like I have this burden, in a good way, for being a resource. – Maureen Hergott

This is a think-tank for depth… I’m so tired of teaching “surface”. – Kim Timmons

There are moments when you’re sitting with your colleagues talking about curriculum or thinking about what it means- why you do what you do and how to make it better- and I just thought after a dozen years teaching, how many more opportunities will there be besides, you know, the humdrum conference? This is really neat because it’s become a vehicle for the kinds of stuff I’ve always wanted to do and the kind of intellectual rigor that I have desired. – Karen Melvin

As art teachers we have the potential to engage our students with something bigger than just creating artifacts. – James Rees

Being creative is something that’s near and dear to me but in this past year of teaching I just didn’t hit it in a way that I wanted to. Now, after seeing so many artists speak about their work, being in the studio with Oliver Herring, and after talking with so many passionate educators I see there is a framework for setting that up. – Derek De Haan

When we took a couple of hours to share our big questions and the activities we planned, everyone got to respond and had something to offer in terms of ideas. As someone who doesn’t have the art background that others do, it was really powerful because I made connections that I wouldn’t have been able to make on my own, even through research. So that experience for me was really helpful in shaping my unit. – Sue Carris

When I thought about it I realized that I was just skimming the surface. I’m so excited about this new way of approaching problems- the ideas- about what art is. – Samantha Melvin

We feel like we’re going to look at art differently with our students. It’s a whole different conversation that we’re going to have. – Maureen Hergott and Julia CopperSmith

Visiting Oliver Herring’s studio was a highlight. There’s something about that guy that’s just special. He just radiates some kind of superhuman compassion. It was really inspiring.  – Jethro Gillespie

The artists that we met (Oliver Herring and Shahzia Sikander) really surpassed anything I could have hoped for. – Todd Elkin

Speaking to Oliver… it was really a treat. To listen to someone who is so earnest and so forthcoming about his work, I don’t know of anyone who can come in contact with a human being like that and not be touched, moved, and inspired not only to create, but also to just live. – Derek De Haan

I feel like I am part of something really big. This is something that’s really important and big. – Jeannine Bardo

Jessica Hamlin, Marc Mayer, Flossie Chua and myself are eager to continue our work with the sixteen educators that joined us for the institute from July 6-13. Next month, we begin our monthly online conversations with the entire group as each teacher continues shaping a unit of study inspired by our week together. Can’t wait. Truly.