BOOK REVIEW- Experience Art: A Handbook for Teaching and Learning with Works of Art

March 19, 2010
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Experience Art is a tool that helps teachers create paths of learning art by rethinking the techniques in which the lessons are presented. In conjunction with Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, Experience Art explains techniques that introduce specific teaching methods for each intelligence type. Students need different meaningful approaches to help them succeed in learning while interacting with art. Experience Art offers “warm-up and interpretive activities” that incorporate teaching methods that may be used in the home, museums, galleries and classrooms that help the students learn about original or reproduced works of art.

What is Experience Art, the introduction asks? Well, it’s a handbook for anyone who desires to teach a lesson on a work of art, either original or reproductions. The handbook provides individualized lesson plans and activities for educators to present to a variety of learners. The book is good for parents or teachers who wish students to explore art, utilizing a self-guided tour, activities for gallery learning, or museum educators who generate lesson plans for the implementation of educational programs.

Experience Art was created by a wealth of educators, visual artists and museum professionals. The book represents a group effort of over two years of testing at three museums in Texas. With an emphasis on art as it relates to language, performing, socio-cultural, historic and multiple intelligence, these educators have developed lessons centered on different learning styles. So, in essence, the book serves as a tool for teaching art history, esthetics, process, and critique as it connects with diverse cultures and other learning areas.

Experience Art begins with what they call “Warm Ups.” This first section helps students warm-up to a work of art with various exercises designed to reach across disciplines while appealing to individual intellects. After the initial introduction, students are prepared to delve deeper for an enriched learning experience. These interactive warm-ups are grouped together by multiple intelligences based on the research of Howard Gardner. Using the premise that everyone is gifted with some form of intelligence, Experience Art uses this as another way to approach art for the diverse students of today.

The seven categories of multiple intelligences are:
  • linguistic intelligence: strength in language comprehension, writing and communication
  • musical intelligence: singers, composers, musicians or people who use music as a form of expression
  • bodily-kinesthetic intelligence: athletes, dancers, physically agile, sculptors, craftspeople, surgeons and mechanics
  • logical-mathematical intelligence: problem solving through sequential thought, scientists and logical thinkers
  • spatial intelligence: people who think visually, painters, architects, interior designers, field guides and inventors
  • interpersonal intelligence: leaders and entrepreneurs, people with a strong sense of self
  • intrapersonal intelligence: people who are sympathetic to the feelings of others, teachers, salespeople, social directors, presidents and talk show hosts
More in-depth definitions for the different multiple intelligences are found in this section. For each of the multiple intelligences, a variety of at least six different lessons are provided that begin the discussion on art. Each warm-up is broken down into four to five sections that divide the lesson into bite-sized pieces. Warm-ups begin with a “Focus,” which is the goal of the lesson. For example (intrapersonal), “To explore works of art by establishing personal, meaningful connections.” Next comes the “Description,” which includes the directions of the lesson, including where to go and what to do, along with questions pertinent to the lesson. Next are “Tips,” which are thought-provoking questions, as well information on the preparation of materials, to enhance the lesson. “Extensions” are additional activities that build on the previous work. Lastly, “Materials” includes what you will need to complement the lesson. Materials usually consist of paper, pencils and one of the provided worksheets in the resource section of the book.

The next section is called “Interpretive Activities.” This section assists in activities that increase critical thinking by taking a closer look. The students gain insight by seeing more than one point of view, and discussing themes and concepts as they apply to the work of art. This chapter has two sections: “Content Discovered,” where the instructor needs to have no prior knowledge of the work of art, and “Content Given,” which presents lessons and activities that are more suitable if there is prior knowledge of the context and content of the work of art.

Through an investigation of the work of art, children learn the context and content as it applies to the art. This section is set up very much like the “Warm Up” section, but students are asked to interpret the art and explain the content and form. It also allows the student to think about the meanings of what type of art they are actually looking at, such as abstract, self-portraits, original or reproductions. In “Content Given,” the students have prior knowledge of the work of art and are asked to compare and contrast the similarities and difference in various works, such as landscape or still life paintings. All of these activities prepare students to participate in the final chapter, which is called “Putting It All Together.”

“Putting It All Together” is where both the previous chapters are used with a variety of activities to create learning experiences in which the museum is the main teaching ground. With three themes, “One-Two-Three,” “Museum Adventure” and “Making a Museum,” Experience Art pulls it all together to provide a valuable tool for any educator who would like to incorporate art in their curriculum. The chapter begins with a list of suggested mixtures of activities that are called “One-Two-Three.” These activities are imported from the “Warm Up” section, along with ideas that adapt to the type of art that is being studied. Next, “Museum Adventure” teaches museum etiquette and what needs to happen on a field trip to the museum. Students usually need to be prepared to attend the museum, and this section does that. “Making a Museum” is where the students create a gallery, write about the art, set up an exhibit, and work as docents and curators of their work. This prepares them for what it takes to present art to the public.

Finally, the “Resource” section incorporates preprinted handouts for most of the projects. This section has many ideas that only need to be copied and incorporated into the given lessons. It is very convenient and efficient for any educator to have everything all ready to go. There are quotes from famous artists, poems and viewing strategies, along with a glossary and selected reading to correlate with the art lessons.

Experience Art is a collaboration based on extensive research between educational resources of the Dallas Museum of Art and the University of North Texas. Under the leadership of the manager of docent programs, Gail Davitt, the authors include Mary Burke, Carolyn Johnson, Cecilia Leach, Diane McClure of the Dallas Museum of Art, and Nancy Berry assistant professor at the University of North Texas. Other contributing authors include L.M. Daisy Brockman, Chelisa L. Herbrich, Anita Hillborn, Amy E. Lewis, and Elizabeth B. Reese. Acknowledgements include The Betty and Edward Marcus Foundation, Amon Carter Museum, Jane Gooding-Brown, PhD., Mary Burke, The Dallas Museum of Art, Dr. Jack Davis, Gail Davitt, Carolyn Johnson, Cecilia Leach, Melinda Mayer, Meadows Museum, Dr. R. William McCarter, Diane McClure, Camila McComb, Dr. Connie Newton, North Texas Institute for Educators on the Visual Arts, Maria Teresa Garcia-Pedroche, Kevin M. Tavin, University of North Texas and Mary Walkup.

What a great book!


Title: Experience Art: A Handbook for Teaching and Learning with Works of Art
Authors: Nancy Berry, L.M. Daisy Brockman, Chelisa L. Herbrich, Anita M. Hilborn, Amy E. Lewis, and Elizabeth Reese
Price: $15.95

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