Monthly Archives: December 2010

Educating Artists II

By Gail Spaien
Maine College of Art
Associate Professor/Chair, Painting Program

Last spring I had the opportunity to work with Julia Einstein, Coordinator of Youth and Family Programs at the Portland Museum of Art, on a family project for the exhibition Objects of Wonder. She asked me if I knew of a few students who would like to create a Family Event with her at the Museum. I immediately thought of Nicole Stroumbos, Maggie Muth, Hannah Godbey, and Meg Gervasio because they all have the studio skills, the organizational skills, the people skills, and the energetic spirit to collaborate on a project like this.

My favorite part of “Educating Artists: MECA students/PMA Family Project” is that the whole Museum becomes the studio. I love to see these boundaries blurred. Kids and families are engaged in a more personal way. Instead of passive viewing, there is active looking and doing. The Museum, which is usually a hands-off kind of environment, becomes accessible in a new way.

There is an inner life to the artist’s process that museum goers usually don’t get to see. Museums present finished work. It’s when artists are making stuff that we are passionately engaged. Each time I produce work for an exhibit, as soon as it see it hung in the gallery I’m on to the next project. I experience an openness in my thought process when I’m designing a project or problem solving a painting. Seeing a piece completed uses my brain in a totally different way—much less fun.

A family activity like this encourages adults and children to experience their own imagination. Instead of aiming for a single, correct solution to a problem, it’s okay to come up with multiple answers. Everyone accesses their intuition and reasoning skills. Those who come to this event get to be creative, create, and have a glimpse into what occurs in an artist’s studio.

One more thought. I have to mention how great it is to work with Julia. I know this first hand, and the MECA students Nicole, Maggie, Hannah, and Meg say the same. She is an excellent facilitator and collaborator who is always looking for innovative ways to use our Museum. She has a loose idea, invites collaborators, and then she let’s the brainstorming begin! The projects she puts together make a difference for visitors to the Museum. She develops ways to engage members of our community in thoughtful, productive, and fun ways. This is what this project is all about. I can’t wait to make something! See you there.

Collaborate with Gail and art students during February Vacation: Family Days in the Museum, Tuesday through Thursday, February 22 through 24. Drop in between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Free with Museum admission. (All children must be accompanied by an adult.) Learn more…

This blog post is the second in a series on a collaborative project between art educators at Portland Museum of Art and Maine College of Art.

Looking with Head Start

By Julia Einstein
Coordinator of Youth and Family Program

“Oh my gosh, these pieces of artwork are breathtaking! Who would even imagine they were created by preschoolers!!!” -Dorothy Kosinski, LSW, Children’s Services Team Leader at Child & Family Services, a program of PROP—Peoples Regional Opportunity Program.

As you look at young artists’ interpretations of the art of trompe l’oeil (meaning to “fool the eye”)—a style of painting in which objects appear to be real rather than rendered—you’ll see the happy faces and the visual artist signatures of Jesel, Adrianna, Marwa, and Tristan. You’ll see how each object has been carefully arranged onto a real wood board and placed together like pieces of a puzzle. Is it real? Notice a feather—as if from a William Harnett still life, coins and currency from the world of artist John Haberle and torn cards and paper like those found in the rack paintings by Frederick Peto. See them as the young children from Head Start did—as a looking game.

Head Start in the Museum is a new community partnership with the students and teachers of three Pre-K classrooms in Portland’s PROP Program. Fifty-three students (ages 3 to 5) and six teachers participated over the course of three visits meant to celebrate the joy in sharing Museum experiences with the very youngest of audiences!

Portland Museum of Art gallery teachers, Nancy Marino, Barbara Hoppin, Wendy Seltzer, and Cricket King helped us create a child to adult ratio of 2:1, and we began in the children’s Deering Place classrooms on Cumberland Avenue and Parkside. We liked exploring our Museum neighborhood and helping each child use a special artist’s viewfinder to look through and discover the Museum as walked, holding hands, up High Street to Congress Square. Once inside the Museum, we went into the special exhibition John Haberle: American Master of Illusion and spent about five minutes with four different paintings. As each painting represents a different approach to the artist’s subject, this gave us the opportunity to take a different approach to looking and “reading” art. We carried small toy binoculars and asked, “Can you believe your eyes?” We look longer and we smiled as we discovered the illusion. We continued on to our Community Studio for an art-making activity. The most fun was making new friends and working with wonderful teachers, Sharon Roach, Sarah Noyes, Carrie McLean, Lenore Hilton, Missy Wlodylo, and Julie Sullivan-Drouin.

“All the children have enjoyed the experience. They recognize the museum when we have taken other walks. One child, who understood the concept of the images being pretend, was looking at the artwork and trying to tell if it was real or ‘a trick’ as he put it.” -Sharon Roach, Teacher/Family Advocate at Deering Place Child Development Center.

PROP, People’s Regional Opportunity Program administers the federal Head Start program in Cumberland County for children aged 3 to 5. This program is FREE to qualifying families. In Head Start, children learn through play.

Jenny Holzer Lecture & Projection — Huge Success!

On Tuesday night, world renowned artist Jenny Holzer gave a lecture for 722 people at the Holiday Inn By the Bay. From 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., a special projection that Holzer created called For Portland lit up the front of the Museum. It was a spectacular night for Portland! Many thanks to Jenny Holzer for bringing her art to the Museum and Portland.

This evening celebrated a decade of programs made possible by the Nelson Fund for Social Justice at the Portland Museum of Art.

Check out Wednesday’s cover of The Portland Press Herald!

© 2010 Jenny Holzer, member Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY