Every Artwork Tells A Story

Article excerpt

Museum trips can be rewarding events for students during the school year. Planning ahead is the key to their success.

I like to plan a pre-museum lesson and a post-museum critical essay or project. This allows students to observe fine art, learn museum manners, and apply their knowledge of ideas, artists, and concepts to real situations.

What Does the Museum Offer?

Most museums have docents on their staff who are trained to guide groups of students through the galleries with specific thematic criteria. A museum with a docent staff will be the easiest for both you and your students. These programs are highly effective in that they are focused on age and activity appropriate discussions for each group.

I especially enjoy taking my students to The American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore. It's one of Baltimore's newest museums and the only one that supports a wide variety of naive or visionary art. Most of the exhibiting artists have had little or no formal training in art and are motivated solely by a vision. Visionary artists are often self-taught. Some of these artists may not even consider their work to be art. They are intuitive people who make things in an intensely personal way. For my elementary students, the chance to see how "people just like them" have expressed their visions is exhilarating. "If they can do it, then so can we," is often what I hear. To see artwork in a museum by artists who are not considered masters gives students a boost they sometimes need.

Art That Inspires

I base my follow-up lessons on the notion that visionary artists see their creations as a fulfillment of a spiritual or personal vision or dream.

My goal is for the students to see that these are works of expression. I want to inspire my students to have a vision and realize that they are capable of creating their own messages by following their dreams and listening to their hearts. …