Patrick Higgins, Jr.

Posts Tagged ‘art’

Culling the Story from the Sources

In philosophy, reflection on July 20, 2011 at 7:41 pm

If ever there was a time to be good at telling stories, it is now.

For the past two weeks, I have been attending the James Madison Seminar in American History at Princeton University.  We’ve been immersed in the elements surrounding the birth of our nation, most specifically how the ideas of Republicanism, Liberalism, and the Enlightenment all had tremendous influence over the founding of our nation.

Most of what we have done has been fairly traditional: we’ve sat in class and been talked to, albeit by some talented and learned folks.

Today, however, looked and felt very different.

We spent the day at the Philadelphia Museum of Art exploring collections within the museum and architecture in nearby Fairmount Park.  Doing so amounted, in my opinion to some real moments of clarity regarding what we do as teachers, and specifically as teachers of history.

One of our guides, Justina Barrett, took us through two homes in Fairmount Park managed by the museum: Mount Pleasant and Cedar Grove.  The houses were distinctly different in their architecture and function, but Ms. Barrett, in her discussion of the homes crystallized something for me.  On the second floor of Mount Pleasant, she asked us a simple question about how they came to know what each of the rooms functioned as during the initial life of the home (over 225 years ago).  With that question as a springboard, she spoke about how the job of a historian, especially art/architectural historians is to cull the story from the homes, the historical record, and each room individually.  Her main role, and that of teachers of history for that matter, is to deduce an interpretation of what happened right from the primary sources.

Think about that.

We laugh at how little people in later life remember of the “stuff” of history, but I ask, if they forgot a good amount of the stuff, but could still distill a relevant story from several sources, was the stuff important?

Secondly, during our time in the museum itself, we examined the following works:

I’d forgotten what it was like to sit around with a group of intelligent folks and dissect a work of art, fully basking in the multitude of perspectives each one of us brings to the painting.  The work of Peale astounded me, and as our guide, Mary Teeling, explained, brought forth so many of the ideals we have spent time studying over the course of the last two weeks.  Peale was a natural philosopher, a true enlightened man, who brought into his work the polymathic principles of the period.

Ms. Teeling asked us to examine these pieces with playfulness, to see what came to us and what struck us.  We took stabs, we built off of one another, we contradicted one another.  I thought for a while on the way home about how much fun that was to project out those thoughts and then listen as the group interpreted them or rejected them.

Sadly, in education, whether in teaching our students or in collaborating with colleagues, we rarely get that time to build what is known as neuroplasticity–that time we take to re-shape our minds through engaging play.  Today provided a window into that for me once again, and gave me that time to wrangle with some conflicting ideas, and it took a visual medium to do that.

Picasso’s Guernica

In reflection on July 1, 2009 at 6:51 pm

I have been spending so much time with the art teachers in my district lately putting together their curriculum, and beyond the fact that my vocabulary is increasing exponentially (terms like gesso, tragacanth, brayer, and fresco are now commonplace for me), it’s been an incredible insight into a very different view of education.  They differentiate by default, and the rest of us struggle to change to it.

In many ways, I am beginning to see the realities of what people like Daniel Pink and Sir Ken Robinson keep talking about.  Art is essential to how we behave as citizens and as society.

So when Marcy Webb posted this the other day, I had to put it up here too.

Design, Sustainability, Change on Vimeo

In curriculum on March 3, 2009 at 10:58 am

I have thieved twice today.

Both from the same source, and both art related.  I don’t feel badly about it either.

more about “Design, Sustainability, Change on Vimeo“, posted with vodpod

The first has to do with my TED addiction.  Maria Popova has created a remix of some of the more passionate TED speakers in order to create a singular TED voice.  I love it’s simplicity and message.

The second is called Street Art Locator.  If you are anything like me, you stumble randomly into some amazing art on your travels.  I would, however, like to plan that out a little bit more so that I can be a little more prepared.  This may help.

streetart

Both were pilfered from Craig Roland over at the Art Teachers Guide to the Internet.  I will “sharing” from him on a more regular basis, I am sure.

AP Art History: You Choose

In curriculum, teaching on December 30, 2008 at 1:59 pm

Which would you rather teach (think 60-90 students)?  Then tell me why.  Please.

ap-art-history-lecture-format001

or

ap-art-history-small-class-section-format002

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