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Art Comes to You

In my first years as an English teacher, bringing art into my classroom took a lot more effort than it does today. Of course there were pictures in textbooks (some of them even in color)  as well as poster and postcard reproductions, but to get a really good look, I wanted big pictures, glowing with color as close to the real thing as possible. That meant slides. And I do mean slides, literally. I had to make an appointment with the art library at the nearby university and establish a teachers credential to borrow slides of works of art. I used a card catalog, flipping through the little cards that correspond with every slide they had in their collection. Once checked out, I arranged these magical, transparent squares in the carousel of the slide projector (upside down and backwards) and turned the machine on. Dust motes drifted in the light beam as the projector whirred and clicked to project the images onto the retractable screen over my blackboard. This description seems like a scene from Dickens now–it is so old fashioned and dusty.

Last week I put together a Google Slides presentation about surrealism in about twenty minutes. I didn’t even need to put my shoes on to accomplish the task. And neither did my students! They could view these masterworks while in bed or while they ate a pizza, on their computers or on their phones. 

Right now, while we are all tired of being confined to our own bubbles, discouraged from traveling, unable to take field trips, it’s the perfect time for art to come to us. 

While we all may be experiencing some screen fatigue right now, looking at a painting or drawing online is different from reading text or dragging and dropping answers into a box. You can let your eyes relax and take your fingers off of the keyboard for a minute. You can wonder. You can discover. You can contemplate. 

Certainly there are advantages to viewing art in person. You will not experience the scale of a Rothko or Wiley on your phone screen as you would in person. Knowing that you are looking at the original canvas or marble the artist has touched does not translate through the laptop screen. But there are several advantages to viewing art virtually: you will not wait in any lines nor have your view blocked by another viewer; you won’t be worried that the guard will hush you or scold you for being too close to the art; you won’t be limited to museums in your town or that you can afford to visit. And you won’t need to wear a mask. 

Even though most museums are closed, they are still delivering beautiful images online. Grab a snack and put your feet up: the art comes to you!

A few ideas:

The Dali Museum. Lots of digital resources on Dali and surrealism. https://thedali.org/visit-virtually/

“Uncovering America” from The National Gallery. Dozens of topics and themes. https://www.nga.gov/education/teachers/lessons-activities/uncovering-america.html

Kihinde Wiley’s website is full of beautiful portraits. https://kehindewiley.com/

Vermeer’s paintings grouped by theme with details on each. https://artsandculture.google.com/project/vermeer-paintings

In the mood for some armor and illuminated manuscripts? Check out The Met. https://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/objects?exhibitionId=29b3e659-2e87-44ec-9ae1-91d5ae039d15&pkgids=595

-Wendy Robinson

Wendy Robinson is an educator, currently teaching English in Columbus City Schools. She is married with two sons and a new puppy named Monkey. She loves to make things–even when she’s not good at it. 

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