Teaching with Contemporary Art

Reflecting on the Art21 Educators Summer Institute

Oliver Herring gets our version of TASK Unplugged started

Time just feels like it moves a hell of a lot faster than it used to. This past Art21 Educators summer institute, which was recently held from July 2-10 here in NYC, just FLEW.

Sixteen art, science, Spanish, English, special education, language arts and social studies teachers came together with us for eight days of workshops, conversations, artist visits, studio visits and museum visits (not to mention front row seats to the July 4th fireworks at 601 Artspace and a wonderful dinner together to top it off) in order to explore ways of utilizing contemporary art to foster student learning. This is a term we all want to hear nowadays but is often tied to some horrific standardized test, assessment or evaluation. The fact remains that students learn when they have meaningful experiences, not tidy tests. Unfortunately, data is a lot easier to report than the qualities of people, things and moments in time.

But I digress!

Our summer institute, which started with Oliver Herring and a stripped down TASK party at Luhring Augustine Gallery, moved between experiences where teachers had the opportunity to learn from each other, five of our Art21 artists (Oliver, Charles Atlas, Allan McCollum, Mary Reid Kelley and New York Close Up’s Diana Al-Hadid), the superheroes at Dieu Donne Papermill and MoMA, as well as our team here at Art21.

It’s hard to explain how excited I am to work with our current group. The fact that big, important questions drove not only the units of study teachers began to develop, but also much of our time together, really is inspiring. And here are just a few of them:

  • What is beauty?
  • What is cool?
  • What is the role of the media in an election year?
  • How do we construct and express identity singularly and collectively?
  • What stories can art tell?
  • What is the nature of creativity and why is it important to use our creativity responsibly?
  • How does the media define gender?
  • Can we find beauty in the ordinary?
  • What makes a global citizen?

As you can probably tell, this was no ordinary summer workshop series, and the possibilities for teaching across disciplines in the coming year as we work with these sixteen energetic and passionate educators are, to say the least, exciting.

Very much looking forward to our first monthly online meeting next month. Love to all!

Below are a few more snapshots taken during the institute…

Jess and I get our mustaches on at TASK

Just one of the amazing floor works created at TASK on day one of the institute

Checking out the Charles Atlas video installation at Luhring Augustine

Working at 601 Artspace

… and working more.

Starting one of our days at Dieu Donne Papermill

… and making paper later on.

Wrapping up with a great night at Alias on the Lower East Side