All-Access Pass to Inspiration and Authentic Art Experiences

“Every child is an artist.” –Picasso

I couldn’t agree more with Picasso’s quote, and therefore believe every child should have access to inspiring art in a beautiful, local museum.

I am an art teacher working in two Title I schools. Through grants and donations, the Gibbes Museum of Art has been able to provide my students and so many others with an equal opportunity to tour the museum and to create art while they are there. I cannot express with words the gratitude I have for this opportunity. It’s a wonderful feeling.

When I toured the newly-renovated museum in August, I was impressed by the art and the beauty of the architecture. The knowledge and the energy of the museum educators and the joyful staff inspired me, and I decided to start my school year by exposing my students to the Gibbes.

Student tour

Students examine a portrait of the Manigault family in Rome as part of our “Face Time” tour at the museum.

Most of the children had never been to an art museum; they had never had this kind of experiential view of multiple artworks. The students were awestruck immediately by the grandeur of the architecture. They noticed the many materials—brass, wood, and marble—and of course, they loved the giant freight elevator. Before we even entered the galleries, the students had a chance to view the artworks they would see on an interactive display in the classroom. This pre-discussion increased the students’ enthusiasm for what they were about to see and provided a foundation for valuable dialogue with the museum educators in the galleries.

Mary Jackson, Never Again

Students were amazed by Mary Jackson’s large-scale sweetgrass basket, “Never Again.”

Walking through the galleries, the Museum educators did a fabulous job of summarizing the rich antiquity of Charleston through portraiture. I did not grow up in South Carolina, and I am relatively new to Charleston. I learned many things that I should have known already. I believe this field trip helped the children (and me!) have a deeper understanding and respect for the degree of Charleston’s influence on South Carolina’s history.

“The portrait of the Moultrie Family was huge and we could tell it was time-consuming!” –Destiny, Grade 2

“I liked how the sweet grass baskets were shaped by Mary Jackson. “Never Again” was huge and beautiful.” –Austin, Grade 1

“My favorite part was the miniature pictures on display.” –Victoria, Grade 2

school group tour

The Moultrie children are one of the favorite stops along our “Face Time” tour.

After a fascinating discussion about some of South Carolina’s forefathers, we switched gears to head upstairs and viewed the abstract and non-objective works of fabulous master artists such as Picasso, Kandinsky, and Chagall. I was thrilled for the students to see these works in person.

“My favorite piece was the picture with objects, “Paris Through the Window” [by Marc Chagall]. I liked the colors and the cat.” –Lilly, Grade 3

“My favorite piece of art was the one that had the man with two faces, a parachute man, the Eiffel Tower, and the cat with the human face”. –JJ, grade 3

Chagall, Paris through a Window.

A student gets up close to Chagall’s “Paris Through the Window” in the Guggenheim exhibition.

Following our tour, the students participated in a carefully planned art activity that was inspired by the works they had just seen. The hands-on experience added another layer of understanding, and the students were enamoured with their creations.

“My favorite part of the Gibbes field trip was making our own artwork!” –Jolie, Age 8

“The painting I most remember is the girl with the blanket in her hands by Jonathan Greene. She looked like she was going to a picnic.”
–August, age 8

spiral drawings

Spiral drawings inspired by Mary Jackson’s sweetgrass baskets.

I am working to bring all of my students to the Gibbes this year, because I do not want any of them to miss out on this memorable experience. So far, almost 400 of my students have toured the museum. I have loved every second, and they have too! I am grateful beyond words to the volunteers, the staff, and the benefactors who have made all of these field trips possible.

I’ve watched the children get excited, tell friends and family about the museum, and explore new ideas during art class as a result of their exposure to these real-life art experiences.

“We could bring our parents to see the museum so they can experience pieces of history.” –Addison, Grade 2

“I would like to go to the Gibbes with my grandma so she can see how the museum changed.” –Vienna, age 8

“I want to take my mom and dad to the Gibbes, because I want them to see the paintings.” –Johanna, age 6

For this, I am happy. For this, I am thankful.

—Heather Teems, Elementary School Art Teacher, Charleston County Schools

Published January 19, 2017

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