I had a great time at work yesterday, organizing and leading an Art Gallery Hop. I took four of my students to view the art in several local art galleries in the Exchange District, taking the bus to the heart of downtown, and then walking from gallery to gallery. It was a great opportunity to not only discuss art created by local artists, but also to discuss the history of the city.
I had called the galleries in advance, so they knew we were coming, and some owners were especially eager to share their love of art with my students, taking them behind the scenes in the workshops where they do custom framing and where several exhibits sat waiting to be put on display.
Before we had finished our tour, each student had found a piece of artwork that especially resonated within them.
One of my students loved a group of 4 multi-media pieces, one blue, one green, one black, and one red. They looked kind of like branches to me, and she said the reason she liked them so much was because how well they all fit together.
Another student was particularly drawn to a painting of an Eden-like setting, full of different kind of animals. The closer you looked at the painting, the more creatures you could see.
Another student was in love with all things dragons, and there was a painting made entirely of tiles, with little bits of black on them. When all of these tiles were set together, they took on the form of a regal looking black dragon.
The last student had two favourites. One was an etching of a frozen river, where many stories were intersecting. The more attention you paid to the piece, the more stories you could see. There were also some well-known landmarks in the background, and my student remarked, “This one is all about US.”
The other painting this student particularly enjoyed was a painting of a woman in a red coat. Her back was turned to the audience, and her face was hidden. She looked like she was waiting for maybe a taxi, but the background was also hidden in darkness. She told me she liked this painting because you could tell what it was, not like some of the other abstract paintings that surrounded it. We talked about it for a bit, and I tried to help her see that this picture was telling a story, just like the abstract ones, and that what it was could change depending on the story you created for it.
My favourite painting was a symbolic piece. I didn’t even get the significance until one of students pointed it out. At first it looked like a human breaking out of an egg, until this student pointed out that the egg from which it was hatching was actually the world, and that the breaking out of the egg was destroying the world. We looked at it again, from a different perspective, and it appeared that the arm of the person was coming out of North America, and that it was North America who was destroying the earth while an emmaciated woman stood by with an arm raised, watching.
I want to do this again, perhaps in the summer, with another group of students. It was particualarly rewarding, and this experience may very well be my favourite activity we led at work over the holidays.