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An Expanding Network

Julie Mehretu, "Stadia III", 2004. Image:

Julie Mehretu, “Stadia III”, 2004. Image:

I like a teacher who gives you something to take home to think about besides homework.  – Lily Tomlin

For four years now, and going on our fifth, the Art21 Educators program has been building a network of teachers who want to think about more than homework assignments. In just a few days we will welcome a fifth cohort of teachers, this time including museum educators, who will spend an intense week with us here in New York and then a full school year exploring ways to think about and utilize contemporary art in order to teach with big ideas and questions- across disciplines and across curricula.

But rather than talk about our new, Year 5 cohort, I would like to take a moment and talk about our network of teachers so far from years 1 through 4.

In just four years our Art21 Educators online Ning network has grown to 77 members, most of whom have participated in a full year of the program. They have shared lesson and unit plans about teaching with contemporary art, shared war stories about the things that can happen when you take the plunge and teach with contemporary art, and helped one another take worthwhile risks in order to push their practice. Teachers have shared student work, workshop ideas, virtual tours of their classrooms, videos of students at work, videos where students are the filmmakers, and important reflections on the changes taking place over time in their classes.

Perhaps one of the most exciting things about our network of Art21 Educators so far has to do with those teachers who are building momentum and reaching out to other cohorts in order to collaborate. Yesterday I had the chance to talk with two of our outstanding Art21 Educators, Jack Watson (Year 3) and Don Ball (Year 4), about a project we started this spring and will continue in the fall (Jack will have more info later this month when he takes over the column for our July 31st post). More and more I see teachers reaching out to their colleagues in order to share knowledge, ask great questions, and explore how to effectively use Art21 education materials in and out of the classroom. It’s exciting, and being part of just one small group over this past year has energized my own teaching and planning.

Over time, I can see this network of teachers not only influencing each others practice but also contributing to new national arts standards, helping others to understand the importance of contemporary art in the curriculum, advocating for arts education programs in schools that have none, and continuing to facilitate workshops at national and statewide conferences in order to spread the love.

Looking forward to starting up our fifth year in just a few days…


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