July, 2017

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The Art21 Experience, by Marie Elcin

Philadelphia art teacher, Marie Elcin, was one of ten art teachers from across the country to attend the Art 21 Summer Institute Workshops in New York City. What an honor for Marie, and how exciting for us to hear about her experience!! Perhaps it will inspire you to be one of the next Art21 educators? Thank you Marie for putting this blog entry together (and on such short notice!). Here in her words, Marie tells us about her Art 21 experience in NYC:

“When I attended Joe Fusaro’s session about ART21 at NAEA in New York this past March, I knew this was the year I had to go for it: apply to be an ART21 educator. The application involved writing about my viewpoints on contemporary art and how I use it in the classroom, and writing up a sample unit plan for a contemporary art experience. The fun, but challenging part of the application was filming and editing a 5 minute introductory video (https://youtu.be/D4b61PPRLvI )to explain why I wanted to be in the program (they like to see your personality and tech skills!). When the acceptance announcement came out, (https://art21.org/2017/06/06/welcome-to-our-new-art21-educators/ ) I was over the moon with excitement and anticipation, and I couldn’t wait for the school year to hurry up and finish already so I could get to New York City.



Left: Leonardo Drew’s Studio

Right: Selfie with Calder at the Whitney



After traveling up to Manhattan on the 4th of July, we had a whirlwind week through the Whitney Museum of Art for workshops to Brooklyn for a visit to the studio of Leonardo Drew and Dieudonne for a paper-pulp painting workshop, to the Museum of Natural History for an institutional/curatorial critique with artist David Brooks, to a New York Public High School classroom to brainstorm with teens, and to the Kitchen for a performance by artist Aki Sasamoto.


Left: David Brooks and Joe Fusaro at the Natural History Museum

Right: Dieudonne Paper Pulp Painting Workshop




Left: Open Spaces Brainstorm

Right: Glen Ligon at Harlem Studios Museum




Along the way we had time to explore NYC museums on our own (hello Harlem Studio Museum!) and time to work and process the experience to start developing our own resources to use in the classroom. It was the best professional development I’ve ever had because we got to see art, meet artists, make art, and learn best practice from our peers through hands-on learning- not boring lecture.

I thought when I applied to the program that it would be just a one-year experience. What I’ve really become a part of is a community of educators around the country who are dedicated to ongoing professional development and collaboration with the focus on how to use contemporary art in the classroom. Not only was my 2017 YEAR 7 cohort of 10 educators from around the country attending the institute, but nearly 20 other educators joined us from past cohorts to introduce us to the practice of being an ART21 educator. Throughout the next year I’ll be collaborating intensely with members of my cohort and our mentors, but once an ART21 educator, always an ART21 educator.

I’m still figuring out what that will mean to me moving forward. The goal is to think about how to make learning in the art room inquiry based and not merely expressive. Contemporary artists research and explore ideas and questions that drive their practice- so students should be working in similar ways. How can we get students to ask questions and be motivated to find out the answers or experiment with ideas and artistic processes? How can we  create dialogue and reflection in the classroom when those big questions lead to difficult conversations? How can we encourage innovation and creativity among our students?

Fortunately, there is a wealth of resources available on the ART21 website to use as inspiration. Check out the Learning Library page, which has questions and prompts with related artists to look at:

https://art21.org/for-educators/tools-for-teaching/learning-library/?filter-media-material=The educator guides that accompany each season are all available as pdfs: https://art21.org/for-educators/tools-for-teaching/guides/educators-guides/

And now that the website has been revamped, each video is cross-indexed so you can see everything about a single artist that is available, including videos, image libraries, and articles.

Finally, ART21 puts out a monthly online magazine with info about artists and increasingly, articles by ART21 educators about how they are implementing contemporary art-based curriculum in their classrooms. http://magazine.art21.org/