The Art of Experience
I believe in the experience of art and the art of experience. Traditional school is all text books, images of reproductions and slides from Power Points. I thought this was the best I could do with the public school system’s limited funds. We would do project after project and the students would learn new artists and photographers but not really get the same spark in their eyes I would, when I would tell them stories of exhibitions and museums I had visited in places such as New York City and Amsterdam. I realized the excitement and experiences were one sided. As hard as I tried, I could not translate the passion of making art. Students wanted to find a connection but presence of real art, with scale, volume and surface was missing. I knew I needed to take them to a museum on a regular basis for them to create their own experience, for them to see “real art” to build their own visual vocabularies. The Chrysler Museum of Art is a short drive away and interested students and I carpooled over after school. With the help of the museum and local pizzerias that donated pizza for the students, a colleague and I started a monthly meeting of the Urban Youth Art and Museum Project at the Chrysler Museum.
One of the artists we studied in my class was photographer writer Gordon Parks. Then the Gordon Parks’ exhibition came to the Chrysler Museum and we were there on the third Wednesday of the month, electrified. The students were amazed they were seeing before them the same famous photos we had studied in books, the same photography that was worth thousands of dollars at auction; the same Gordon Parks photos we looked to for composition, lighting and content. That was not all, on our visits to the museum we talked of Diebenkorn’s mixing of color, we exchanged ideas on the mixed Medias works by Robert Rausenberg, and how they now understood what was meant about layers, lighting surface and paint and how his recent death was the end of an era for abstract expressionists. The light went on in my students that day. They had a collective epiphany, that defining moment when an art class was lifted into a new dimension and each student’s stroke of the paint became imbued with renewed energy. I spoke with students at the museum who had never until then visited an art museum. Students picked up on the diversity of the artists they studied and related that to themselves and found common-ground for expressing their thoughts and ideas. Together we found the reasons the artists had for creating the art weren’t much different; from our own; it was all about telling their story. My students had found the connection between art and passion and that is something that will stay forever in their hearts and in mine.
This is why I believe exposing youth to art can raise their consciousness level. I believe that to teach art effectively students need to actually see the real thing which answers through images, the questions the book and I could not. If students are not looking at art, nothing I teach makes too much sense.
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