Archive for the 'Teaching for Creativity' Category

Museum Forum for Teachers 2017

The art education-extravaganza that is Museum Forum for Teachers holds the distinction of being one of my favorite weeks of the summer. Each year, The WarehouseNasher Sculpture CenterModern Art Museum of Fort WorthKimbell Art Museum, and the Dallas Museum of Art work together to coordinate a week-long workshop dedicated to helping classroom teachers deepen their understanding of modern and contemporary art and develop strategies to teach, interpret, and use works of art in the classroom and in museum galleries. Best of all, each institution hosts one day of the week giving participants and fellow museum educators the opportunity to explore a variety of special exhibitions, collections, and experience different teaching styles. It’s well worth braving traffic across the Metroplex to experience the richness of DFW’s museum community!

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Discussing Doug Aitken: Electric Earth at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth.

This year, twenty-three educators embarked on a week of museum experiences, gallery discussions, and studio projects for CPE credit. Not every educator who participated has a background studying art, and the variety of perspectives enriched the quality of our discussions. In the spirit of highlighting different approaches, the museum educators brought back the “Educator Exchange” from last year and each led a session at one of the other institutions. I always find that I come away from the week inspired and energized for the upcoming school year. Check out some of our highlights from this year:

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And what do our participants have to say about their experience at Museum Forum for Teachers?

This week has felt like a vacation. It’s as though I have been on guided tours on location by Rick Steves every day. I’d love to attend next year…Well planned. Well done.

This was my favorite year so far…I don’t know how all of you manage every year to make this event a week of so much learning and fun. I can’t wait to get to each museum each day. Absolutely my favorite thing I do all year! Thank you!

This was my first year and I hope to be back! Art camp for teachers is how I will explain it when I am asked about the highlight of my summer.

I feel inspired, charged up again, and optimistic about the new ideas I’ll bring to my students. Thanks!

Once again, this Forum has completely exceeded my expectations. The content was rich, insightful, and relative, the projects were fun and accessible, and everyone on staff is an absolute joy to work with. This Forum is not only the cornerstone of my upperclassman content, but a week for me to reconnect with art and truly be myself. Thank you all so much for what you do!

Sign up to receive our emails and check the box for Information for Teachers, so you can stay connected to exciting professional development opportunities here at the DMA and join us for Museum Forum for Teachers next year!

Lindsay O’Connor
Manager of Docent and Teacher Programs

Playful Learning with SPARK!

Why teach the creative process? Last week, my amazing colleague Amy Copeland and I drove the Go van Gogh van (say that three times fast!) to the historic South Side on Lamar building to take part in the 2016 Creativity Confab hosted by SPARK!. We arrived excited to hear some of the city’s most creative minds participate in a panel discussion on the importance of creativity in a child’s education, and were greeted with an inviting maze of slides, “slinky” tubes, catwalks, and creative play stations, including a giant Lite-Brite and a recording studio. Needless to say, not even our inappropriate choice of shoes could keep us from joining in on the fun and exploring!

Inspired by the City Museum in St. Louis, SPARK! was founded in 2010 to teach the creative process and empower children through playful learning. Student visitors are invited to first fully immerse themselves in the space and loosen up by playing. Fred Peña of Booziotis and Company Architects, the space’s designer, says that his favorite part of the project is watching a cautious student finally work up the nerve to tackle the floor to ceiling slide, and then repeat the adventure again and again. After playing, the students move on to an art activity geared to teach the creative process and encourage collaborative problem solving.

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While the facility has only been open since June 2015, preliminary research reflects that students are more likely to describe themselves as creative and more likely to believe they’re capable of coming up with a valuable new idea after a visit to SPARK!. Significantly, about 57 percent of the children served by SPARK! come from low-income communities, reflecting the organization’s commitment to offering creative learning programs to underserved groups.

The panel’s consensus? Access to creative learning programs help children develop self-reliance, confidence, and resilience. They’re more like to perform better academically and in their future careers. As with sports, the arts teach children teamwork and help them develop confidence in their own abilities. Moreover, children learn not to fear failure and discover that problems often have more than one solution.

As a museum educator, my visit to SPARK! served as an inspiring reminder of how playful learning can help students make meaningful connections to the arts and tap into their own creativity. I look forward to my next visit, sans the wedge sandals.

tengo

Lindsay O’Connor
Manager of Docent and Teacher Programs

Hands-On Learning: Not Just for Kids

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” – Pablo Picasso

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The Center for Creative Connections (C3) is unique because we focus on learning by doing. That means we design activities for people of all ages to learn about works of art from the collection by participating in a hands-on way. The activities we create to accompany works of art prompt visitors to engage in ways that are different from the standard didactic approach of a wall label. In C3, we want to provide experiences where visitors can make personal connections by drawing, writing, making, and discussing works of art with each other.

This kind of active engagement carries a certain stigma; many people assume that it’s only for kids, mainly because we are used to seeing activities like these in children’s museums. Part of our design process is to evaluate visitors’ experiences by observation, interviewing and counting. We’ve learned that half of our participants are adults and that there is a reoccurring theme in their comments regarding why they participate. So, why do adults flock to C3 to draw, write, make, and talk about art? Because it connects them to a childlike curiosity and creativity which, as an adult, often takes a backseat to other responsibilities and tasks.

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In January 2014, we installed a large table in the middle of the C3 Gallery, that hosts three activities that rotate on a monthly basis. As a part of the evaluation of these activities, we interviewed visitors about their motivations for participating, their past experience with art making, and their view of the value derived from participating in a making activity at the Museum. I was repeatedly intrigued by the responses of the adult participants.

For example, I spoke with a couple participating in a portrait drawing activity which encouraged close looking at the proportions and scale of the human face.  The couple, in their mid-thirties, each claimed to have no artistic experience. Through our conversation, they divulged that they both graduated from arts based college programs. “I went for fashion, like a BFA in Design, and he went for Graphic Design. We don’t really draw in our free-time though, I mean, he does for work,” the woman stated as she looked over at the man who accompanied her. He added, “Yeah, but just on the computer.” Then the woman broke in, “And I do for work, but it’s not the same. Like, I do fashion sketches, not this kind of drawing.” I prodded them a bit to understand what “this kind of drawing,” meant. “Well, it’s like… it’s fun. Like drawing before was so serious and it had to be perfect, cause you were doing it for a grade. But this is just for enjoyment.”

This idea was reinforced by further conversations with other adult participants: drawing, making, and discussing in C3 is fun in a freeing kind of way. I interviewed another thirty-something couple drawing at a light box activity designed to assist in the making of hybrid imagery. The man began with, “I’m guessing this was made for children? It’s fun and different and I didn’t expect to see this here.” The woman with him agreed, “Yeah, it’s like that spark of creativity, kind of… childlike. I didn’t think I’d spend as much time or get into it like I did.” A sixty-something man participating in the portrait drawing activity remarked, “I used to take art classes, but it’s been so long ago… it’s like I forgot that and I saw this and I remembered.” This feeling of nostalgia for something that is no longer a part of someone’s everyday life was also a common response from adults. Many adults responded that they enjoy drawing or making but, “don’t do it enough.”

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Aside from drawing based activities, the Center for Creative Connections also has a drop-in art making area with large communal tables called the Art Spot, which we say is the place for “anytime art-making for everyone.” We invite visitors to explore their creativity by making creations out of unexpected or everyday materials. Every two months we change the materials and provide a prompt to inspire ideas. Each time I’m hesitant and wonder, “What will people make with this?” But, I am always delighted and surprised by the imaginative creations that are made and left behind. Children often come to C3 and head straight for the Art Spot, while adults can be a bit more tentative. However, regardless of age, most visitors stay anywhere from 5 minutes to two hours, with an average of about 20 minutes. Once they gather their materials they become immersed in their creation. For some it is a hands-on problem solving activity while for others it is about manipulating materials. How can you combine these objects (cups, spoons, paperclips, wire, egg cartons, cardboard, etc.) into something unique and surprising? This kind of open-ended activity, reminiscent of childhood playing and pretending, is not often made available to adults. I frequently watch my eight-year-old daughter take something like a toilet paper roll and turn it into a piano for her dollhouse, or repurpose a cardboard box to make an enormous rocket ship. This nostalgia for childhood play was brought perfectly into perspective by a recent Art Spot creation.

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At the DMA, learning can take many approaches and forms. We strive to be inclusive so that we can reach visitors with a multitude of interests and experiences and preferences for learning. In the Center for Creative Connections, our mission is to engage visitors of all ages with works of art and the creative process of artists. We hope that by designing participatory ways to learn we will provide fun and playful activities for all of our visitors, regardless of their age.

Jessica Fuentes
C3 Gallery Coordinator

Measuring the Immeasurable

In January 2014, the Center for Creative Connections (C3) launched a series of activities which take place at a large table in our gallery space.  Each activity is related to a work of art in the C3 Gallery and offers resources to assist in visitors’ creative process.

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  •  The Portrait Drawing activity, which focuses on two portrait paintings by William Henry Huddle (Old Slave and Self Portrait), includes mirrors for self-portraiture and facial proportion handouts.
  • The Hybrid Drawing with Light Boxes activity, which focuses on The Minotaur by Marcel Dzama, includes four large light boxes and printouts of works of art from the Museum’s collection so that visitors can combine human and animal figures to draw a hybrid creature.
  • The Patterns with Felt Triangles activity, which focuses on Starry Crown by John Biggers, includes 9×12 inch black felt backgrounds and a colorful assortment of small felt triangles that visitors can use to create patterns similar to those represented in the painting.

After each of the three activities had a one month trial period, we felt certain that they were successful, but wanted to learn more about why and how these activities were successful.  As art educators, we know intrinsically that experiences with art make a difference in people’s lives.  Yet, when we are asked to prove this it can seem an unattainable task.  Proving the importance of art education is perhaps made even more daunting in an informal learning environment where visitors come for various reasons, but generally not to be quizzed about their experiences with art.  So, we sought advice from our evaluator to determine goals, indicators, and potential interview questions for each activity and immediately set to the task of measuring the immeasurable.  Since April, we have observed and interviewed participants at the gallery table each Saturday from 1:30 p.m. until 4:00 p.m.  During that two and a half hour block of time we have found the following averages:

  • Portrait Drawing– on average 23, adults and 18 children participated; visitors spent about 13.8 minutes drawing with times ranging from 1 – 30 minutes.
  • Hybrid Drawing – on average 27 adults and 36 children participated; visitors spent about 10 minutes drawing with a time range of 1 – 50 minutes.
  • Patterns– on average 11 adults and 9 children participated; visitors spent about 7 minutes creating patterns with a range of 1 – 33 minutes.

Though these averages tell us a lot about how much time people spend and how many people engage in our activities, the most interesting aspect of this evaluation has been hearing our visitors’ feedback and seeing the images they post of their work on social media.

Visitor Feedback:

“Well, it’s like… it’s fun.  Like drawing before was so serious and it had to be perfect, cause you were doing it for a grade.  But this is just for enjoyment.”

“I’m guessing this was made for children? It’s fun and different and I didn’t expect to see this here. Yeah, it’s like that spark of creativity, kind of… childlike.  I didn’t think I’d spend as much time or get into it like I did.”

“People think patterns have to be rigid, like red, yellow, blue and then repeat, but by playing with this you can be more creative.”

“This is more interactive than other galleries. [In] the other galleries you’re just looking, but here you get to do something.”

“I like to do the activity because it gets the kids interested in art, and if I do it, they’ll probably want to try it too.”

“It’s nice to make everyone focus.  I would have never gotten him [points to husband] to do this at home.”

Through this evaluation we have come to better understand our visitors’ habits and motivations. For example, we found that most visitors do not read instructions.  If the instructions are read it is only the main text at the top of the document that catches a visitor’s eye.  This could be because these activities tend to attract visitors who prefer some amount of active doing or making rather than passive looking.  Furthermore, visitors will spend more time participating in activities that provide seating and social interaction.  Regarding motivations, we found that visitors who participate in these activities are likely to have some underlying interest in the media or subject matter presented.

As we move forward and continue to develop activities for the gallery table we will take these lessons into consideration.   We will make our instructions more concise, we will offer activities that involve a social component, and we’ll branch out to include a variety of media so as to appeal to visitors who are interested in diverse artistic processes.

Jessica Fuentes
C3 Gallery Coordinator

 

 

Teen Learning Lab

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The DMA, in partnership with the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, is a proud recipient of a 2013 IMLS Learning Labs in Libraries and Museums Grant! This grant is for the planning and design of a joint, media-based Learning Lab for middle and high school students to collaborate, create, and connect with peers, experts, and mentors in an environment that is comfortable, social, and cutting edge. One of only twelve projects to receive funding this year, ours will examine the question, “Where do art and science intersect?”

The most exciting part is that the entire project–from its design to its programs–will largely be teen-generated. In addition to getting feedback from local teens, a teen council will be formed that will work directly with Museum staff to shape a more specific vision and plan for the Lab. It will be especially interesting to hear the specific aspects of art and science teens want to explore.

The Learning Lab will be informed by research on teen participation in new media such as the concept of HOMAGO (Hanging Out, Messing Around, Geeking Out). So not only will teens be able to participate in programs centered around issues that interest them, they will also be able to experiment, tinker, and learn on their own using state of the art media tools in the areas of audio, film/video, drawing, photography, communication/writing, and design.

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All of this represents an exciting shift in the way we think about our audiences and it’s our hope that the Lab truly gives teens a sense of ownership in the DMA and the Perot. Having them generate their own content instead of participating in what we think they want is a concept that’s at once scary and exhilarating; but above all, it’s one that’s long overdue.

The Learning Lab Team is just beginning the planning phase of the project, so we will post updates as our ideas grow and develop. In the meantime, check out the Chicago Public Library’s YOUmedia, an amazing Learning Lab example. And tell us what you think–where do art and science connect? What types of programs involving the two would you want to see?

JC
C3 Program Coordinator

Teaching for Creativity: Questioning Coloring Books

Perhaps you enjoyed coloring books as a child or have coloring books around your home for your children. Creativity specialist and University of Texas at Dallas professor, Magdalaena Grohman, provides insight into the creative value of coloring books and ideas for enriching the coloring experience.

As a psychologist and a mom of two, I have an unrelenting tendency to look for games, toys, and activities that teach children to think and communicate, that develop imagination, and that shape creativity and multiple intelligences. And recently, coloring books have caught my attention.

For the past couple years my two sons, ages 6 and almost 4 years old, have been bringing coloring sheets home. I’ve been thinking: What do coloring books teach our children? What is their educational value?

For starters, the act of filling in the color within boundaries plays an important role in the development of hand-eye coordination, a crucial component in mastering handwriting. I’m afraid, however, that’s about it. How so? Well, let’s look at the most accessible coloring books you can buy in a supermarket. Most of them include outlines of  popular movie and book characters. If a child is familiar with a given character, it may significantly restrict the color palette. Spiderman, for example, will most likely be red, blue and black. There are even more restrictive activity books, in which a specific color pigment is already embedded in the pages and ready to use. Just dip a brush in water and you’re good to go. How convenient! Not only does a child remain clean (so do walls and floors), she doesn’t have to think what colors need to be used. At the very least, coloring books reinforce mindless copying and schematic color use.

So, shall we throw them away? Well, here’s a caveat. Children do like coloring, and—let’s admit it—it is a perfect activity to keep them busy so we can catch up with chores or steal 10 minutes to pause and think.

But, if you have some time to sit down with your children and play with them, I suggest you try the following fun activities with your ordinary coloring book:

  • Use an atypical color scheme (Spiderman is yellow, pink and green) and discuss the character “wearing” different colors
  • Add different elements to the picture
  • Change a given outline into something completely different and give it funny titles
  • Glue small pieces of torn magazine pages within the outline

Thank you, Dr. Grohman for your ideas!

Dr. Grohman leads Think Creatively! workshops in the Center for Creative Connections on the first Thursday of every month.

Andrea V. Severin
Interpretation Specialist

Teaching for Creativity: Exquisite Corpse

At last week’s Go van Gogh training session, we decided to get everyone’s creative juices flowing with a fun warm-up exercise.  Volunteers got the chance to spend some time exploring works of art they had never seen before through a group writing exercise. During this experience, volunteers each contributed one line of a poem without knowing what the others had written. This collaborative technique was originally created by Surrealist artists interested in incorporating elements of chance into artistic expression. Known by the Surrealists as Exquisite Corpse, this activity can be done as a narrative or drawing game with several people contributing to one poem or artwork. After participating in a written version of this exercise, the volunteers were eager to learn more about the artworks they had written about. Their genuine enthusiasm and sense of wonder made me think that this could be a great way for students to get excited by works of art as well. I hope you will try it out with your students! Here’s how:

1.  Create at least one template with five lines of writing prompts. These are the prompts that we used for three different templates:

  • Noun, two adjectives, three words ending in “ing,” phrase, noun
  • One word, two words, three words, four words, one word
  • Two syllables, four syllables, six syllables, eight syllables, two syllables

2.  Divide into groups of four or five and take a few moments to look closely at a work of art (each group should look at a different artwork)

3.  Provide each participant with one template and a pencil to start

4.  Fill in the first line and then fold it so that your written response is hidden from view

5.  Pass the template to your neighbor

6.  Fill in the next line on the template passed to you, fold it, and pass again

7.  Continue these steps until all the templates have been filled out. At the end of this exercise, each participant should have a completed narrative that they can unfold and read aloud to the other writers. After reading all the templates, each small group should choose one to share with the larger group.

Here are some collaborative narratives that Go van Gogh volunteers wrote:

Starry Crown, John Thomas Biggers, 1987, Dallas Museum of Art, Museum League Purchase Fund

Gorgeous

Traditional

Ladies talking quilt

Stars, hats, hands, feet, toes, fingers, shine

Perfect

.

Bougival, Maurice de Vlaminck, 1905, Dallas Museum of Art, The Wendy and Emery Reves Collection

A fall day in Europe

Landscape of a village

Peaceful

Sunflowers and seawater

Apples

.

That Gentleman, Andrew Wyeth, 1960, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas Art Association Purchase

Somber

Serious, somber

Sitting, relaxing, contemplating

Why is he so sad?

Man

.

June Night, Henry Koerner, 1948-1949, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, gift of Joshua L. Logan

Colorful

Everyday, wedding

Marrying, dreaming, loving

A busy art building

Hope

I hope you all have as much fun with this as we did!

Hannah Burney
Community Teaching Programs Assistant


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