“Across Hope is living rent free in my head right now. I think that is quite possibly one of the most profound works of art that I have seen in a very long time.”
I couldn’t agree more with Shannon, a high school social studies teacher and one of the participants in the workshop I presented: “Teaching with African American Art.”
Several area teachers gathered after school recently at the Artists’ Cooperative Gallery of Westerly where Westerly ARC is hosting an exhibit titled “Conversations with African American Art.” The exhibit is stunning, and the first of its kind in Westerly. If you are in the area, I highly recommend stopping by.
Five years ago, thanks to the Dalio Foundation, I attended one of the most impactful professional development experiences of my 35-year teaching career. It was a week-long institute at Lincoln Center, titled “Aesthetic Education Immersion Lab,” where I learned Lincoln Center Education’s method of centering a work of art to teach concepts in any subject area.
Since then, I have been able to use the methods I learned in my classroom, specifically for photography and social studies lessons. When I saw the works of art that were to be displayed at “Conversations with African American Art,” I jumped at the opportunity to write lesson plans relating to three of the works of art based on Lincoln Center Education’s method. The workshop I presented was a way to get the lessons into teachers’ hands.
Back in the gallery, teachers completed a couple of pre-viewing activities before I tore down the paper covering Across Hope by artist Charly Palmer.
The small gallery was silent as we all absorbed the piece before us. Charly Palmer’s work has been described as both beautiful and mournful, and that is certainly true of Across Hope. Soon the silence ended as teachers shared their reactions, connections, questions, and more.
Our conversation could have lasted another hour, but it was a school night and our time had ended. The teachers who attended left with much enthusiasm about using the lesson plans and even bringing the works of art to their schools. As I told them more than once, I could not have asked for a better class.
Do you know a teacher who is interested in using the power of art to reach their students and promote rich conversations that lead to deeper learning in any subject? Teachers of any subject or grade level can download three sets of lesson plans from Westerly ARC’s website, each focusing on a different work of art from the exhibit, to use in their classrooms.
While it is ideal to view the work of art in person with your students, it is certainly possible to use the lesson plans without doing so.
Contact me if you have any questions or would like to bring this workshop to your school (email@example.com).
- the Artists’ Cooperative Gallery of Westerly for allowing us to have the workshop and exhibit in their beautiful space.
- Bill and Paula Alice Mitchell, collectors of African American art, who have not only loaned the works of art for the exhibit but have also provided guidance, support, and their expertise for the exhibit and lesson plans.
- members of the Westerly Antiracism Coalition who provided much support for the workshop and feedback regarding the lesson plans.