Archive for the 'Education' Category

Art to Go at Angel Oak Elementary School

This semester, I have been working with Megan Sweeney’s Angel Oak Elementary School classes on a project called “Going the Distance for the Arts.” It is a wonderful feeling to go into a classroom and see how excited students are over creating something that is their own, as well as collaborating on a larger project together. As an introduction to the Gibbes Museum, classes learned about the bust of George Washington, sculpted by Giusepe Ceracchi ca. 1792, and the importance of a portrait. The students learned how to draw a self-portrait and to translate onto paper what they see in 3-D.

As a school, we are creating a large owl sculpture of the Angel Oak mascot that will be displayed on the route of the Charleston Marathon. Students learned how to make a relief print using recycled materials and created feathers for the owl using this technique. The 4th and 5th graders helped make the owl form and assemble the feathers. They also designed a large mural as a background for the sculpture.

The marathon installation goes up on Friday, January 18, and can be viewed during the marathon on January 19 in the expo center. The marathon takes place in downtown Charleston, and raises funds to support fine arts programs in our community schools.

In addition to the classroom activities, I have been meeting with the Art Club at Angel Oak. Each member received his or her own sketchbook and we discussed the importance of drawing from life, from your imagination, and from words. We have been writing about our work as well, as an exercise to examine the connection between visual art and the written word. I find each of my encounters with the students so inspiring.

Kristen Solecki, Teaching Artist and Guest Blogger

Learn more about programs for K-12 students at the Gibbes on our website or by contacting Rebecca Sailor, Associate Curator of Education, at rsailor@gibbesmuseum.org.

Read about another Art to Go—Charleston Marathon collaboration on our blog.

Back to School: Art Appreciation at the Gibbes

Museum Educators at the Gibbes Museum

Museum Educators Elise Detterbeck, Pat Burgess, Martha Criscuolo, Barbie Kratovil, and Mary Droge.

Once the school buses have parked, their exuberant passengers spill out onto Meeting Street and over the steps of the museum. We, their guides, are the first face of the Gibbes, and set the tone for their ensuing adventure. After negotiating 45–50 rambunctious students into 2 or 3 somewhat orderly lines, we’re ready to start the journey through our galleries. For most, it’s the first time they’ve been to the Gibbes, and therein lies the challenge. If this is to be successful—and hopefully spark an interest that may not be kindled were it not for this opportunity—how do you grab their imagination? How do you intertwine South Carolina and Charleston history, with its art and artists, in a memorable way in just 45 minutes?!

The collection is presented in chronological order, so usually we split groups: one starting with the earliest eighteenth century works; one in the nineteenth century; and one in the modern and contemporary galleries. It’s always so interesting to hear the children’s comments as they march along, gazing left and right down the hall of portraits; weaving around that dazzling silver soup tureen; entering the large room with the huge reclining figure of a woman in green; veering left, and finally heading up the stairs. Once settled in front of our first object, the fun begins when I ask the students questions to elicit their ideas about what they’re looking at.

Museum Educator Elise Detterbeck and students in the galleries.

Museum Educator Elise Detterbeck and students in the galleries.

Together we start a dialogue. Why is it important to actually see works of art up close and personal; to look at the brush strokes and notice how the paint or watercolor is applied, lines drawn, and shapes created? I ask the group to notice the subject’s face and hands: are they realistic or abstract? And what about the landscapes: do they appear detailed or impressionistic? We compare and contrast the different techniques. The hope is to instill in these young onlookers an appreciation for the everyday beauty of life. This visit may start the journey for some, who will discover a creative outlet to express themselves. For others, the experience may heighten their awareness of the artistry in one’s surroundings.

As funding for the arts nationwide has diminished, it is more and more difficult for schools to take field trips like these to museums. So this fall, some of the museum educators at the Gibbes will be heading out into surrounding South Carolina schools to take the museum on the road with the “Eye Spy” program, generously sponsored by the C. Louis Meyer Foundation. Each of us will be assigned to a different elementary school, where we’ll visit the third-grade art class once a month during the school year, ending with a visit to the museum. The concept is to familiarize students with art elements, techniques, and mediums by studying works of art from both the Gibbes collection and those of other museums. The hope is that multiple sessions with the same group of students will re-enforce and encourage an interest in art; and as I alluded to before, engender an appreciation of the artistry in everyday life. Sharing great works of art with young learners is both the joy, and the challenge, that makes what we do at the Gibbes so never-endingly rewarding.

Barbie Kratovil, Museum Educator, Gibbes Board Member, and guest blogger

Same Eyes but a Different View

Working as an intern at the Gibbes has been an incredible experience for me. It has given me a whole new appreciation for art and the people who are behind-the-scenes making this museum a success. Although my internship is only six weeks, I have the amazing opportunity to spend each week with a different department head. Being the first high school intern to work at the Gibbes I had no idea what to expect, my only hope was to find the department that interested me the most so that I could further my studies in it when I go off to college next fall.

I spent my first week working with Rebecca Sailor, associate curator of education, helping with the Gibbes Summer Art Camp. I came here as a camper at age four and now I’m back fourteen years later with the same eyes but a different view. I didn’t know the challenge that came with teaching a class of four year olds, but I loved getting to know each of the kids and seeing them improve on their drawings and ideas every day. Helping with this class made me realize that even though I was in the position of a teacher, I would always be a student of art, learning new things about famous paintings I had seen multiple times before.

Mary Whyte Tour at the Gibbes Museum

Artist Mary Whyte leads a tour of her watercolor exhibition, Working South, on view at the Gibbes through September 9, 2012.

I spent my next weeks working with curator, Sara Arnold and the director of collections administration, Zinnia Willits. I had the unique opportunity of working at the Gibbes during the Mary Whyte: Working South exhibition. I loved learning about the process in which the exhibit was shipped and installed in the Main Gallery by only a few members of the small staff here. To me, the most fascinating aspect of this exhibit was that the Gibbes is offering a series of tours to museum visitors led by Mary Whyte herself. Working with the curatorial team, I was also able to assist with the upcoming exhibit Willard Hirsch: Charleston’s Sculptor. I was not only involved with researching and learning about the sculptures, I was able to test out a walking tour of public sculptures by Hirsch, and take photographs of each of his incredible sculptures. I enjoyed seeing the connections between the Gibbes Museum and the locations where these sculptures are installed.

Do-Si-Do, 1981, by Willard Hirsch

Do-Si-Do, 1981, by Willard Hirsch (American, 1905–1982). Bronze. Washington Square Park, Charleston, S.C. Photo by Douglas M. Pinkerton

This has been an unforgettable experience for me and I look forward to the upcoming weeks where I will assist Executive Director Angela Mack and work in the Museum Store. I have learned more about the inner workings of an art museum than I ever imagined I would. The amount of thought and work that the staff puts into each idea is truly admirable and I hope to one day pursue a career in the museum world.

Lexie Meyer, Porter-Gaud High School Intern and guest blogger

2012 is the first year of a partnership between Porter-Gaud School and the Gibbes Museum of Art. Made possible by the generous support of past Porter-Gaud parents Mr. and Mrs. Charlie Wendell, this internship is designed to enrich a student’s knowledge of art history and the museum profession.

On the Timelessness of Art and Creativity

My name is Jessica Orcutt, and I am an assistant teacher for the wonderful children’s art camp that the Gibbes hosts each summer. I am a junior at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York. Though my school is over a thousand miles away, I will always be thankful that I spent most of my childhood in Charleston. My years in this beautiful city have given me a deep appreciation for its impressive historical and artistic heritage, and it has been my pleasure this summer to introduce our next generation to Charleston’s creative traditions.

Eliza paints a self-portrait after studying Egyptian mummy portraits.

Eliza paints a self-portrait after studying Egyptian mummy portraits.

Gray paints a self-portrait in the style of Egyptian mummy portraits.

Gray's self-portrait is in the style of Egyptian mummy portraits.

I am a History major, but I have always enjoyed creating and studying art. Interning with the museum’s Education and Outreach department has allowed me to learn more about art right alongside my campers. In the first camp session, the children learned about many different ancient civilizations— we painted our names in Egyptian hieroglyphics, created rustic cave paintings, constructed fantastical African masks, pieced together Roman mosaics, and sewed Native American medicine pouches. Every day before we began our art projects, the children would sit together on the rug and learn about a particular civilization. Perhaps the best moment of this camp was when, after studying ancient Roman mosaics, the campers discovered present-day mosaics all around them, from the floor of the entrance into the Gibbes, all the way to the dome crowning the top of the museum. I greatly enjoyed laying down on the carpet of the Rotunda Gallery of the museum with the campers, and staring up into the green stained-glass dome. The kids were one hundred percent positive that it was made to look like the eye of a dragon; that the entire building made up the creature’s body; and that we were currently lying in the dragon’s belly.

Nikos' fish design ismade from small squares of paper, emulating Roman mosaics.

Nikos' fish design is made from small squares of paper, emulating Roman mosaics.

Ella creates a mosaic based on ancient Roman designs during "Art of the Ancient World."

Ella creates a mosaic design during Art of the Ancient World.

The second camp session was called “Go Green,” and was centered around teaching the kids about the importance of recycling and protecting our environment. We created all of our art projects in this camp purely out of recycled materials. Both the younger and older age groups greatly enjoyed tie-dying shirts, creating magazine collages, and putting together sculptures made from discarded objects. Many of the older campers made impressive and imaginative sculptures, such as a surfing scene, rockets, and a positively adorable giraffe. The younger campers, aged between four and seven, had the opportunity to make instruments from recycled materials— it was obvious that they greatly enjoyed this project. They proceeded to create an instrumental band and give us teachers a wonderful concert in the recess area!

Shep paints a papier-mache globe during Go Green week.

Shep paints a papier-mâché globe during Go Green week.

Alex creates a collage with recycled screw-caps during Go Green week.

Alex creates a collage with recycled screw-caps during Go Green week.

The third session, called “Charleston’s Gardens and Wildlife,” is perhaps the most popular of all three camps. Both weeks are completely full, and there is a waiting list a mile long! But I am so glad that children and their parents find interest and joy in Charleston’s natural beauty. In this camp, we will be learning about and drawing examples of the Lowcountry’s native flora and fauna. We will also be visiting several local gardens so that we may sketch and paint in a pleasant outdoor environment. The campers will also be taking home personal terrariums. We will focus on one particular temporary exhibition in the museum, Places for the Spirit: Traditional African American Gardens of the South. The black-and-white photographs that make up this exhibit are truly beautiful, and though I have seen them several times (we take each group of campers to the museum every Friday), the wonder and mystery of the photographs never fail to touch me. Truly, if you have not yet had the chance to visit either this exhibit or Mary Whyte’s watercolor masterpieces, please consider doing so. Such art should not be missed, and I am so glad the children who participated in each of these camps have had the opportunity to experience such beautiful creations.

Campers take an outing to Washington Park for plein-air painting.

Campers take an outing to Washington Park for plein-air painting during Charleston Gardens & Wildlife.

The museum provides the next generation with an invaluable opportunity to discover Charleston’s artistic history, and also provides them with a more modern view of the world they live in. From what I have gathered in talking with campers’ parents, the kids have truly enjoyed creating personal masterpieces. I feel truly blessed to have been given this opportunity to work with such wonderful and enthusiastic young artists over these past several weeks.

Jessica helps campers during a plein-air painting session.

Jessica with campers during a plein-air painting session.

Jessica Orcutt, Gibbes summer intern and guest blogger

Art Connections, Collaborations, and Community: 2012 Mary Whyte Art Educator Award

Detail from a mechanical drawing shows the design of a mechanical arm.

Detail from a mechanical drawing shows the design of a mechanical arm.

As an art educator, one of my goals is to help students identify and develop the necessary skills for a rewarding and productive career that will benefit them, their community, and the world in general. I am often asked where art fits into this endeavor. The world is changing so fast and our definition and understanding of the purpose of art has evolved tremendously. Art is so much more than a pretty picture on the wall. The definition of an artist is broader. A favorite quote of mine from Transformation of Nature in Art (1934) by the philosopher Ananda K. Coomaraswamy (1877–1947) reads “The artist is not a special kind of man, but every man is a special kind of artist.” It speaks to my belief that we all have access to creativity within. Research shows that art-making activities —which use the right side of the brain—support and foster creativity, which is essential to innovation. Visual design and creative thinking are incorporated into all careers—from scientists to carpenters and homemakers to engineers. Companies want workers who can brainstorm, problem-solve, collaborate, contribute, and communicate new ideas. In the field of education, art becomes more powerful when it is used in conjunction with other subjects. I feel like part of my purpose is not only to educate my students, but also to teach the people around me about the impact of art on their lives.

This image, entitled Light Art, shows a student experimenting with time exposure in photography.

This image, entitled Light Art, shows a student experimenting with time exposure in photography.

The project I presented for the Mary Whyte Art Educator Award is based on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics)—one of latest movements/initiatives in education based on hands-on, reality-centered, interdisciplinary collaboration. Working with the engineering teacher, I developed a unit for a design team consisting of visual art and engineering students. The cross-curricular project involved engineering, computer technology, industrial design, commercial art, innovative thinking, competition, teamwork, and creativity.

The art students came up with an invention and drew it from different angles (incorporating spatial intelligence). They wrote a description of the object (incorporating literacy and writing) and identified the measurements (involving math skills). The designs were then sent to the engineering class who selected the most appropriate designs for their task. The engineering students transformed the sketches into CAD (computer-aided design) digital images using a program called Inventor. Engineering students were encouraged to communicate with the artists on specifications and clarification through email. Engineering students created a PowerPoint to present to the student teams and a potential client/engineering team. Some of the digital designs could be printed on the school’s 3-D printer—Amazing!

A digital image of the coffee table inspired by the visual arts student’s sketch and was created by an engineering student using the program Inventor.

A digital image of the coffee table inspired by the visual arts student’s sketch.

Educators are discovering the power of the arts in all subject areas. My project’s goal was to create, incorporate, and infuse multi-disciplinary units that incorporate Science, Technology, Engineering and Math into the Arts and academic subjects. People have realized that life is not divided into subjects but involves integration, collaboration and connections in order to make something “big” happen. Art focuses on Benjamin Bloom’s highest intelligence trait: creativity. Without creative minds scientists would not take the risks to discover; engineers would not have anything to create; and just think of all the “creative” math that we use each day. Art education involves not only drafting, composition, color-theory and 3-D modeling—art teachers employ math, literacy, science, history, design, as well as social and emotional learning.

Computer Geek was created by a sculpture student using machines and parts.

Computer Geek was created by a sculpture student using machines and parts.

As I plan my day-to-day lessons, I incorporate science activities such as sketching from nature and the chemistry of paints and clay. We explore technology in our use of Photoshop for photography sessions, and we research artists and images on the classroom Smart board. My classes study design elements, environmental aesthetics, and architecture connected to engineering. Art instruction includes mathematics by utilizing geometric shapes, perspective, and the Golden Ratio in compositions. I try to impress upon my students the need to be innovative as they pursue fields about which they are passionate. I believe that when people realize the power of the arts and how all things connect in life, the arts will become more relevant, appreciated, and supported.

In order to promote these ideas to my peers, I designed three graduate classes that provide opportunities for teachers to share ideas and teaching strategies that integrate the arts into other subjects. I will also be teaching a graduate painting class in the fall sponsored by the Berkeley County School District and Charleston Southern University. The class, titled Teachers as Artists: Community, Collaboration, Connections, is a studio experience emphasizing STEAM connection. I’ve discovered that when people collaborate—their ideas become larger and their projects more powerful.

iPod Addict was created by an Advanced Placement Studio Art student illustrating the concept of our addictions to technology.

iPod Addict was created by an Advanced Placement Studio Art student illustrating the concept of our addictions to technology.

I invite YOU to reflect on how your job requires creativity and connects to the arts, and encourage you to become aware, teach your children, get involved in your school’s STEAM programs, and come visit my graduate class this fall to make more connections. Please share your thoughts and suggestions in the comment field below on how we can ALL make the arts stronger.

Robin Boston, 2012 Mary Whyte Award Winner, art educator/Artist, and guest blogger

The Gibbes Goes Global!

Last month, the Gibbes, along with 151 other museums of the world, began sharing its historic collection with a global audience through the Google Art Project. Officially launched on April 3, 2012, the Art Project is a unique collaboration between Google and the world’s most respected and acclaimed museums, enabling visitors to virtually explore museums, discover and view hundreds of artworks online at incredible zoom levels, and even create and share their own collection of masterpieces with a few clicks of a mouse. The Gibbes is one of 151 museums in the world participating in The Art Project, of which 29 are in the United States, and 2 are in the Southeast.

Gibbes logo on the Art Project screen in the Musee d'Orsay, Paris.

The Gibbes logo lights up the screen during the Google Art Project press conference at the Musée d'Orsay, Paris.

The Gibbes was invited to participate in this exciting new endeavor last August. We knew that the Google Art Project would offer an unprecedented international platform to show-off our collection so our goal was to feature some of the true treasures our collection has to offer. In order to demonstrate the long history and stellar quality of art in the South, we chose a diverse, cross-section of works to represent our collection, from easel paintings to miniature portraits, sculpture, and watercolors. Over forty works from the Gibbes Museum are highlighted on the site and more will be featured in the future.

For this phase of the project, we received final specifications for uploading our data and images of works of art in November 2011. Our team worked feverishly through December to finalize selections and format our data according to Google’s program specifications for the January deadline. Thanks to our social media expert and program and events manager, Lasley Steever, who promoted the vision and helped me coordinate many of the technical aspects of the project with Google representatives; Joyce Baker, curatorial assistant, who handled the formatting of image files; and our dedicated volunteer Rebecca Hiester, who assisted me and curator Pam Wall with the details of inputting and proofing data fields, we are now virtually in the company of the world’s most revered museums!

Angela Mack, Gibbes Executive Director, at the press conference in Chicago.

Gibbes Executive Director Angela Mack attended the Art Project press conference at The Art Institute, Chicago.

Launch parties were held in Chicago, Illinois, at The Art Institute, and in Paris, France, at the Musée d’Orsay, and were attended by museum representatives from all over the world including Gibbes staff members Angela Mack, executive director, and Lasley Steever, respectively.

I hope you will take time to peruse the works of art included in the Art Project. Visitors to the site can view works across museum collections, search by artist and medium, and zoom in to images to see fine details. Make your own gallery of favorites and share it with our online community via Facebook, Twitter, or in the comments field below.

—Sara Arnold, Curator of Collections, Gibbes Museum of Art

Summer Fundays

Campers create artist palettes.

Campers create artist palettes.

Summer Art Camp may just be my favorite part of my job. With six weeks of camp throughout June and July I have plenty of opportunities to be around the excited 4–12 year olds. I guess you could say it takes me back to my teaching days, and even though I am not the camp teacher I get to meet and greet the children and their parents and oversee the days. We always have returning campers that I have enjoyed watching grow not only physically but also as artists.

At some point during the week the campers are brought from Circular Congregational Church classrooms to the museum galleries. Watching the way they engage with the artwork, it is so different from our school group tours. The campers are in summer mode and typically are more talkative. They have become instant buddies with one another and their camp teacher seems to be thought of as more fun than their school teacher. At the end of each week, a mini exhibition is held in the classrooms so parents and friends can view the artwork that has been created. It is amazing to see all that is accomplished in five days.

Designing a Charleston Single House.

Designing a Charleston Single House.

Teaching camp for the first time this summer is our wonderful teaching artist, Chessie McGarity. She has worked with the Gibbes for a year on our Art to Go program and has taught our Painting the Masters class. She has a great line-up of camp session themes including Art of the Ancient World, Go Green, and Charleston Gardens and Wildlife. Each session will include its own unique aspects of visual art education.

Lucky for you we still have spots available in some of the sessions! Don’t miss the opportunity to register your child, grandchild, niece, nephew, or any child you think would benefit from a fun-filled week of art education with the Gibbes Museum of Art! Call 843-722-2706 x41 or email me rsailor@gibbesmuseum.org. I would love to get to know the special child you have in mind!

—Rebecca Sailor, Associate Curator of Education

You can also download a camp registration form from our website.

Career Day

I recently had the pleasure of speaking to my son’s second grade class at Blessed Sacrament School as part of their 2012 Career Day. I love talking about what I do and enjoy watching people of all ages consider (often for the first time) what goes on behind the scenes in a museum. As Director of Collections Administration, one of my primary responsibilities is care of the art collection. Whether art objects are on the walls, in storage, moving throughout the museum or traveling nationally or internationally, it is my job to make sure they are safe and cared for properly. It is a great job and I was excited to share my experiences with a lively group of 7 and 8 year olds. I decided to present a modified version of the Behind-the-Scenes Program that Greg Jenkins, Operations Director and Preparator, and I have been offering at the museum for several years. My collections road show included several examples of archival storage containers which prompted discussion on how we preserve (a new word for second graders) art work in a museum. I also brought several small, easily transportable works from the collection to review the proper way to handle art. Miniature portraits were a big hit with this group; the children were amazed by the extraordinary details miniature portraitists produced using water color paint (a medium familiar to second graders).

Showing the class a 19th century miniature portrait painted with water color on ivory

Showing the class a 19th-century miniature portrait painted with water color on ivory.

As part of the program, I also had a selection of reproduction miniature portraits. Each child chose one of these pieces to examine more closely. I explained that all works in the collection have a computer record. These records contain information about the object including its identification number, title, the name of the artist who created it, the object’s location in the museum, a thorough description of the object and notes on its physical condition. The process of recording and describing an object is referred to as cataloging; references to its condition are the condition report. I asked each child to describe their miniature portrait (what the sitter was wearing, hair color, background) and also look for any condition problems (scratches to the frame, loose glass, etc.) Cataloging and creating condition reports are a daily part of my job; this exercise gave the class a basic idea of the process. With their observant eyes, the children provided detailed descriptions of their miniatures and alerted me to many flaws on the frames of our reproduction collection.

BSS second graders Leo Sparacino, Lauren Nadeau and Maria Alexander consider their miniature portraits.

BSS second graders Leo Sparacino, Lauren Nadeau, and Maria Alexander consider their miniature portraits.

Throughout the program I encouraged questions and was both amused and amazed by the variety of queries. Below are a few of my favorites from the Blessed Sacrament second grade.

Q: What would happen if you went to get a painting [from a borrowing institution] and took the wrong one home? (This question was in response to my description of outgoing loans and the fact that I occasionally travel with works from our collection when they are borrowed by other museums.)

A: Great question! If I took home the wrong painting I would probably be in big trouble because it would mean I was not paying attention. Every painting in the Gibbes collection has its own individual identification number called an accession number. The accession number can be found directly on each painting or work on paper. When retrieving a painting from a borrowing institution I have images of the painting as well as the accession number to make certain I take the correct work of art!

Q: Do you run the whole museum? Do you have any help or do you take care of all 10,000 works by yourself?

A: More good questions! I most certainly do not run the entire museum. We have thirteen full-time staff members at the Gibbes, several part-time employees and multitudes of dedicated volunteers and auxiliary groups. All of these individuals form “the Gibbes” and do everything from manage the staff to raise funds for museum operations, create exhibitions and educational programs, organize and manage museum events, keep the building and artwork secure, process museum memberships, oversee finances, lead group tours and much, much more! The Gibbes Museum is fortunate to have such a great team.

The short answer to the second question is yes, I do have help taking care of the art collection! While I oversee the details surrounding care and movement of the objects, there are other members of the curatorial, collections and security staff that help out. For example, Greg Jenkins, our long time museum preparator, hangs all the works in the galleries and makes sure that they are secure on the walls. Our curators contribute to the care of artwork by thoroughly researching the provenance of each piece and sharing that information with the public. They also choose what works will be hung in the exhibitions and decide how they will be arranged, keeping in mind the different sizes and types of objects and how they fit together. And of course our security team plays a huge role in helping me care for our collection. You can find the security crew in the galleries and behind-the-scenes keeping a watchful eye on the artwork.

Q: Do you take care of artwork like you take care of your children?

A: My answer to this is “not exactly.” However, there are similarities in caring for artwork and caring for children. As a parent, it is my responsibility to know where my children are and who is caring for them. Similarly, as Director of Collections Administration, I need to know where the artwork is (what gallery, what storage location, what other venue) and keep track of any location changes. As a parent I make sure that my children are always in a safe environment (at home, at school, with friends). Likewise, at work I constantly monitor the environment in which we exhibit and store the art collection. Museums maintain specific temperature, humidity and light levels to prolong the life of an object. Finally, when my children take a trip, I make sure they are prepared to travel, pack their suitcases and arrange details of how our family will get to our destination. Similarly, when artwork leaves the museum, I oversee all the details regarding packing and transportation to its destination. While I do not pack a suitcase for a painting going out on loan, I do make certain that it is clean, fit for travel, has an appropriate shipping container and is looking its best!

An example of a miniature portrait case which contains a lock of the sitter’s hair.

An example of a miniature portrait case, which contains a lock of the sitter’s hair.

Q: Have you ever seen a miniature portrait with pet hair in the back of the case?

A: This question arose after an extensive discussion of miniature portraits and the surprises that are often found on the backs of miniature cases. I brought a miniature from the museum’s collection that had a lock of the sitter’s hair in a special compartment on the back of the case. This sentimental nineteenth century tradition fascinated the children and generated much speculation as to why people did this. Regarding the question about pet hair, I have seen miniature portraits of animals (we have a lovely miniature by Leila Waring of her cat Dick) but have not come across one that contained a lock of the pet’s hair. I will keep an eye out!

Dick, 1910, by Leila Waring (American 1876–1964). 2008.005.0001

Dick, 1910, by Leila Waring (American 1876–1964). 2008.005.0001

Q: Why don’t you have enough space to show all the paintings in the collection?

A: I informed the second graders that at present, the Gibbes is only able to display about 2-4% of the permanent collection. The reason we cannot exhibit more works is that we are simply out of space. The existing museum building was constructed in 1905 when the art collection contained significantly fewer works. While more gallery space was added over the years the current layout can only accommodate a certain number of works. We rotate objects every six months to give the public a wider view of the depth and breadth of the permanent collection but long for more exhibition space. Thankfully, the Gibbes is headed for a major building renovation and expansion that will finally provide more room to exhibit and store the collection! We are excited to share a larger number of objects from the Gibbes collection once the renovation is complete. Stay tuned for future posts on this exciting project!

Q: Do you work on the weekends?

A: This question made me laugh but the class felt it was extremely important. No, I do not generally work on the weekends. However, there are occasions when a large exhibition installation with a tight schedule necessitates weekend hours to finish on time. There are also occasions where incoming art shipments must occur on a weekend due to the lenders schedule, the shipping route or the numbers and size of crated works. I am always front and center (along with Greg Jenkins) for those weekend deliveries.

Speaking at the Blessed Sacrament Career Day was a great experience. The children were genuinely interested in my job at the Gibbes and their enthusiasm was infectious. Describing your daily work to children and fielding their many questions is a great way to gain perspective on the importance of what we as museum professionals accomplish each day and why we do it. Many of the children told me I had the coolest job in the world. Without hesitation, I have to agree.

Zinnia Willits, Director of Collections Administration

“EYE SPY” Something Fun in the Classroom

When I was asked to write a post for the Gibbes Museum’s blog I was very excited. It’s fun to be able to share the terrific pilot project I am doing called ”EYE SPY.” This new program teaches art history to students in local elementary schools using the Gibbes collection.

Debby Passo in the classroom at St. Andrew's Math and Science Elementary School.

I moved to Charleston from Ohio three years ago and decided I wanted to bring a project into the Charleston schools drawing from my experience as an art history minor in college. I approached the Gibbes and worked with Rebecca Sailor, Associate Curator of Education, and Elise Detterbeck, a Museum Educator, for over a year to launch EYE SPY. I am grateful to both ladies, especially to Rebecca for her hard work to secure a grant from the C. Louis Meyer Family Foundation which provides funding for us to partner with two schools this year. Elise teaches at Springfield Elementary School, and I work at St. Andrews Math and Science Elementary School with a wonderful art teacher named Valerie Garrison. My approach is to compare and contrast works of art from the Gibbes with the artworks of some of the most recognized masters of the 20th century, which was my emphasis in college.

I visit the second and third grade art classrooms once a month. The importance of having an art teacher who is enthusiastic and supportive of this project is essential. For this first year, Mrs. Garrison and I selected a theme of famous artists’ birthdays. In the classroom, Mrs. Garrison displays many pictures of iconic artworks so it has been fun to use these in our project. Each month I select one or two masters who have a birthday that month. I then pick an artist from the collection of the Gibbes Museum and help the students to identify some similarities and differences between the two artists’ works. I emphasize the fundamental elements of art, such as basic shapes, lines, colors, and styles. The goal is for students begin to appreciate and talk about the art. Fortunately, the creative hands-on aspect of the class is left up to Mrs. Garrison.

This has been wonderful for both the students and me. I spend a great deal of time preparing because I am still learning about our treasured artworks in the Gibbes Museum. The reward—after only a few months—is encouraging a dialogue between the students, and expanding their world of discovery. It is so exciting to see their hands go up to share an idea or a question. They are incredibly focused on each piece of art and they want to know the backgrounds of the artists—mostly when and where they were born and how old they were when they died. They remember previous works that we have studied, and they bring these ideas into our discussions. I have introduced the works of Picasso, Matisse, Cézanne, Monet, and Pollock, comparing them to works by Jonathan Green, Merton Simpson, Alice Ravenel Huger Smith, and William Halsey. Sometimes I forget that these students are only second and third graders with their remarkable comments and pertinent thoughts. It was a nice reminder to me of their ages when after only one class they wanted to know if I had met any of these artists—imagine how old they must think I really am!

I am looking forward to the remainder of the school year. The time goes by so quickly because we are so engaged in discussion and the groups stay very attentive. I feel so fortunate to be able share my love of art history with these students and in return I am the one being rewarded by their enthusiasm. They are looking forward to their visit to the Gibbes, which is funded by the grant. Some of these students have never been to a museum and I cannot wait to see their faces when they see some of the paintings in person that we have discussed in class. Working with the museum, I hope to expand this pilot program to reach more students with the aid of additional funding and volunteers. There is nothing more thrilling than watching the smiles on the faces of these students as they explore the grand world of art.

Debby Passo, museum educator and guest blogger

To learn more about EYE SPY and other in-school programs organized by the Gibbes Museum of Art, please contact Associate Curator of Education Rebecca Sailor at rsailor@gibbesmuseum.org or 843.722.2706 x41.

Hunley Park Elementary Adds Scenic Views for Charleston Marathoners

Mrs. Coyle’s fourth grade art classes at Hunley Park Elementary School have been on a “Grand Tour” in true Charlestonian fashion, visiting Greece, Italy, Egypt, Japan, and Africa to learn about the art and culture of these far away lands. After touring the world, we decided to construct our own globe. Over the past sixteen weeks, eighty fourth graders have constructed a paper-mache globe that is six feet in diameter!

I am very proud and impressed with how hard these students worked, and how enthusiastic they were about the project. Every day, they come to class eager to get to work. I have enjoyed working with Mrs. Coyle and her students immensely. I hope they have learned half as much from me as I have from them.

The globe will be on display January 13 – 15 along the course of the Charleston Marathon, which benefits the Youth Endowment for the Arts. I could have not done this project without the support of the teachers and parents of Hunley Park Elementary School. Thank you so much!!

—Chessie McGarity, Gibbes Museum Teaching Artist and guest blogger

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