An Art Adventure for students

NEW ULM – “What does it look like?”

“What does it make you think about?”

“Does it look planned or unplanned?”

With these and many other questions, volunteer Jerilyn Kjellberg led fourth-graders in Brandee Schoemaker’s class at Washington Elementary School through an hour-long art adventure on Wednesday.

Kjellberg showed the students reproductions of several paintings – including Georgia O’Keeffe’s 1956 “Pedernal – From the Ranch #1,” Junius Brutus Stearns’ 1860 “A Fishing Party Off Long Island,” and Yves Tanguy’s 1943 “Through Birds, through Fire but Not through Glass.”

As part the Minneapolis Institute of Arts’ Art Adventure program, she directed the class into a deeper understanding and appreciation of the pieces. By first having the students take “a silent look” and then asking questions and encouraging a discussion, Kjellberg guided them into learning about the themes reflected in the pieces, the artists, and their techniques.

The Art Adventure program is a way of bringing works of art that cannot leave the museum into elementary classrooms, explain program proponents. Each of 10 reproduction sets developed by MIA experts features eight works of art chosen around a theme. Students and teachers are encouraged to follow up classroom presentations with a class visit to the museum to see the actual artworks.

Trained community volunteers present the reproductions in classrooms. At training, the volunteers receive printed background material and learn presentation techniques.

Presentations are intended to provide students with an opportunity to spend time looking at art and express what they see in words. Students are encouraged to gain confidence in their ability to find meaning in artifacts from a wide range of world cultures. They practice seeing things from another person’s point of view. They feel the thrill of meeting an old friend when they later come upon familiar objects at the museum.

At Washington Elementary School, about half a dozen volunteers visit fourth-grade classrooms for an hour a week in October, and fifth-grade classrooms for an hour a week in November. This year’s theme is “Artists’ Inspirations.”

“Kids enjoy Art Adventure very much,” said Shoemaker, the fourth-grade teacher who hosted Kjellberg. “We have great volunteers, and really appreciate what they do. Having the program makes our [traditional annual] trip to the museum much more meaningful.”

Kjellberg noted that the program gets the children talking about the artists’ perceptions. The students often end up looking at art differently – seeing the “whys,” “hows,” and “whens,” rather than simply “liking” or “not liking” a specific artwork, commented Kjellberg.

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