This creativity exercise is written from an educator’s perspective, as a way to engage students in a classroom setting. But as is evident on Instagram, anyone can use art selfies to find deeper mental and visual connections to the artworks they encounter.
I introduced the concept of #artselfies the week before our class’s field trip to the Saint Louis Art Museum. I showed students many examples from Jean Boîte Éditions’ book #artselfie, and in the classroom we discussed how the viewer’s experience is changed by bringing themselves into a new artwork that both incorporates and investigates the one framed on the wall. Art selfies can be used as a tool to reflect, document, connect, share appreciation, understand the artwork more thoroughly, make viewing an active experience, make others laugh, and as an act of creativity.
I took each class separately on this trip, rather than the entire fourth grade. Each kiddo had their own iPad and specific instructions on how to take their #artselfies. We stipulated that something about their pose or facial expression had to respond to or engage with the artwork they were photographing. We also had the students work in loose pairs and small groups so that their partner(s) could step back and photograph the selfie-ing student in front of the entire artwork.
I was worried about how the iPad would play into their viewing experience (like how I cringe when I see kids at a restaurant playing on an iPad at the table). But I was blown away at how much more engaged the kids were with the art using the iPad as a tool! A gallery the students would typically walk through without noticing was suddenly turned into a creative wonderland.
The opportunity to play, laugh, and explore in the museum for an entire hour is something I had not experienced or seen before. The kids had so much fun!!! Not only were students connecting the art with the social experience of selfie-taking learned and (mostly) practiced outside school—it was also a great way for diversity to be actively inserted into an institution filled with artworks made by mostly white men.
Share your experiences using this activity in the comments below!