I recently had the opportunity to teach art at a family program at the Neuberger Museum of Art at Purchase College, SUNY in Purchase, New York. (Yikes, mouthful!) This was an exciting day as I have been seeking out places, people and events to work with to gain more Teaching Artist experience. I am currently employed at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum supervising their weekend family programs and the 28 Teen Volunteers who help out. This is an amazing position! And, as a part of such a wonderful art institution, I am collecting contacts and pursuing what I want to do more of, which is teaching with art materials and having hands-on discussion. So, when I received an email from a colleague at the Metropolitan Museum of Art searching for talented Teaching Artists for this event, I jumped on it!
The program upstate is a Second Saturday Family Day, which happens…every second Saturday of the month! Families in the area can stop by the museum for a docent-led tour, then they pop up to me and my team in the studio and make art based on what they’ve just seen in the galleries. There is food, drink and live music, to boot!
The topic varies depending on the art being displayed at that time in the museum. This time, I was given the artist Forrest Bess. Now, if you don’t know anything about this artist, you would be in the majority. He was little well-known, created small, abstract paintings during the early 1900’s and lived along the water in Bay City, Texas, where he sold fisherman’s bait for a living. There are many interesting stories to tell about Bess, but one is that he thought he heard from a supernatural power while dreaming. He would wake up, sketch out what he had seen and then over the next few days, translate that sketch (often containing symbols) into a painting. He felt that these visions could give us as humanity the answer to immortality.
Although his painting career was somewhat secluded, he had caught the eye of a gallery owner in New York City, Betty Parsons, who often showed his work. This allowed Bess to travel from time to time and experience being fairly well-known in the art world during his lifetime; not all artists get to see that!
For our family programs project, I typed out a worksheet of prompts, leading children and their parents through detailed steps to create a visual story using only colors and symbols. *See attached handout. The exercise was multi-tiered and a bit complex, but I really felt like I should believe in the many possibilities of these kids and not limit them. I wanted them to walk away with an abstract work they could be proud of and that only they and their family could understand, due to their personalized code! This is definitely what happened!
See the images of these children of all ages holding up their final pieces. They latched onto the concept and were excited to move ahead and paint their final product, something they uniquely designed with the inspiration of artist Forrest Bess!
It was a great day. For my final images, I’ll share the piece that I created, but will include my lexicon, so that you can understand the story I am telling a bit more. Try it out for yourself! You may be surprised what you can create.
Thanks for reading! I hope to be sharing a lot more with you in the future on the topic of being a Teaching Artist.