Academic journal article Studies in Art Education

Art of Local Radiance: The Teacher's Guide to the Toledo Museum of Art Glass Pavilion

Academic journal article Studies in Art Education

Art of Local Radiance: The Teacher's Guide to the Toledo Museum of Art Glass Pavilion

Article excerpt

Glass has been central to the economic and cultural development of Toledo, Ohio since the late 19th century. This dual history of art and commerce is embodied by the figure of Edward Drummond Libbey, the industrial glass manufacturer who co-founded the Toledo Museum of Art with Florence Scott Libbey in 1901. The Resource Center for Educators at the Toledo Museum of Art has followed tradition by creating teacherdesigned educational materials that integrate math, social studies, geography, and local history into the study of art. Together, these lesson plans function in prismatic relation to the Libbey-donated glass collection, providing a multi-faceted view of the local through the structure and substance of glass.

Exploring the Glass City: The Teacher's Guide to the Glass Pavilion (Glass City), published in 2008 to celebrate the opening of the Toledo Museum of Art's latest architectural showpiece, the Glass Pavilion, has been a fine example of the Center's multidisciplinary and place-based approach to public art museum education. In its preface, the guide stated that the architects dedicated the building to "the spirit of social transparency" (p. 2). The placement of this information so early in the text implied that the guide was designed with a similar intent. Likewise, it is in the spirit of social transparency that I present this essay on my interaction with the teacher's guide.

The interactive dynamic at the center of this essay unfolds on three levels or planes. The planes do not unfold sequentially to make a linear argument based on cause and effect. Rather, they overlap and interact through resonances that may vary by reader. The first level, auto-ethnography, relates aspects of my personal history with the Toledo Museum of Art and the Glass Pavilion. My interest in the Glass City teacher's guide began the first time I visited the Glass Pavilion. In a gallery devoted to Libbey glass, I recognized a piece of flatware very much like a saucer that had belonged to my grandmother (Figure 1).The building had just opened and not all of the pieces were labeled. Docents who might have been able to identify the piece were busy managing the crowd, but an attendant at the information desk gave me a copy of the teacher's guide, a document that continues to inform my practice as art educator as it unveils new facets of my identity in relation to place, art, and history.

At another level, the essay links four generations of family history to the social history of Toledo. Pivoting between the personal and the political is a feminist tactic and methodology reflective of feminism's commitment to social justice. This means a refusal to sidestep considerations of race, class, and gender: urban architectural spaces are redefined as racialized and gendered spaces. For me, the curricular questions in the back of the guide, which were designed for primary and secondary grade levels, became a catalyst for rethinking family history in relation to highly charged social movements, labor struggles, economic disparities, environmental changes, and migration patterns over time. The curricular questions, thus, overflowed their intended purpose and audience by having as much educational value to a college professor as to a fourth grader.

A third plane links the conversation to action: the action of teaching art in ways that allow students to make connections between self, family, place, and society through the study and creation of art. Furthermore, no question or problem is too simple. Without being prescriptive, this article suggests that one's story is the thread from which the whole cloth of teaching is made. This thread is in constant motion, weaving together two imperatives: to develop a embodied sense of self in relation to the world; and, to let this embodied self, in its openness to the world, inform and transform one's art teaching. Examples of teaching methods I have used in the classroom are interspersed throughout the article. …

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