ELLETTSVILLE, Ind. (AP) — Most years, Nancy Goss takes her class of second-grade students to the Eskenazi Museum of Art at Indiana University for a tour.
But the museum is closed for two years for renovation. So instead, the Eskenazi came to Goss.
Throughout the school year, docents from the Eskenazi Museum have been taking a miniature version of their elementary-aged museum tour to second-grade classrooms throughout Monroe County.
Recently, tour manager Patsy Rahn and docent Kim Simpson made Goss’ classroom at Edgewood Primary School their 45th visit this school year.
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By the time they’re finished, they will have visited 47 classrooms, 1,060 students and 14 schools in the Monroe County Community and Richland-Bean Blossom school districts.
For their visits, Rahn and Simpson fired up a PowerPoint presentation featuring some of the museum’s more notable works. Simpson used each painting to talk about a basic artistic principle and some key vocabulary words.
The painting of a lobster and a platter of fruit, she said, is called a “still life,” whereas “American Harvesting” is a landscape painting, because it focuses on a field and a mountain.
“Paintings like this told stories,” she said, as Rahn pulled up a picture of a painting called “Adoration of the Magi.” ”Let’s see if we can figure out what this story is about.”
The in-class visits are very different from the actual museum tour, Rahn said. When they started out, the Eskenazi staff didn’t realize just how different it would be. For one, a docent usually has eight to 10 kids on a tour. For another, the sheer size and grandeur of the museum enchants young visitors.
But in a classroom, the docents have 25 to 30 students at a time, and there isn’t any walking between galleries to help burn some of the children’s excess energy. The Eskenazi staff have had to find ways to get the kids up and moving, such as coming to the front of the classroom to point out elements of the paintings on the screen.
“It’s a combination of knowing how to keep their energy and focus going, and being more of a guide than you have to be in the gallery,” Rahn said. “We’re learning. It’s a very, very different process.”
With dozens of visits under their belts, they seemed to have their presentation down pat. Simpson introduced students to abstract art through “Swing Landscape,” and to portraits through “Mrs. Chinnery.”
Sitting for a portrait used to take hours and hours, Simpson told the wide-eyed students — not like when you get your yearbook photo snapped at school, which takes just a few minutes.
Because portraits took so long and were meant to last a long time, the painters often included other objects to show what the painting’s subjects liked to do. Mrs. Chinnery, for example, was holding a book, which probably meant she liked to read.
“If you had your portrait done, what would you be doing, or holding?” Simpson asked Goss’ class. The answers varied wildly: “Pretending to sing!” ”Hugging my sister!” ”Playing soccer!” ”Hunting with my dad!”
“They just come up with fantastic things,” Rahn said of all the classes to which they’ve posed that question. It makes the art personal, and alive, for them. And that’s really what the museum’s visits to classrooms are all about: “For them to have a personal experience of art,” Rahn said.
Goss’ students had no trouble in seeing themselves in, or spinning their own stories out of, the paintings they saw. A student who lives on a farm talked a lot about “American Harvesting,” although it’s different from her family’s farm, she said: They raise livestock, rather than the crops depicted in the painting.
When Simpson showed the class a painting called “Old Man” — an impressionist painting of a red-faced man with a yellow beard — one student called out that he looked like an angry Santa Claus.
At the end of the visit, Rahn and Simpson gave Goss a canvas bag containing enough Eskenazi coloring books and colored pencils for all of the students. As their visitors left, the students got down to the business of coloring in their new books, which contained a few of the pieces they’d seen that day.
Source: The (Bloomington) Herald-Times
Information from: The Herald Times, http://www.heraldtimesonline.com