Teaching & Learning in the museum district
Portrait of Isabella D'Este, Titian
I visited a 7th grade elective this week and the topics of conversation included the dangers of in-breeding to royal bloodlines as well as jousting, the fine line between entertainment and exploitation, the differences observed between the utilitarian and the ornamental and the Caravaggesque style, or chiaroscuro. This was their third class meeting.
"When you take an art history class in high school or college," the teacher instructed the semi-circle of twelve year olds standing beside her, "you'll see this painting by Titian in your textbook. Do not forget that in seventh grade, you stood here in front of it and it was hanging on walls that were painted this particular green." As Jeryn Mayer, MS Museum District guest teacher and PS parent, explained to the students at the major exhibition Habsburg Splendor: Masterpieces from Vienna’s Imperial Collections, this is a rare occasion for these pieces to travel outside of Austria to be accessible to us.
After standing in front of paintings by masters such as Caravaggio, Titian, and Velázquez and studying arms and armor, court costumes and carriages, the students went, in this case, from the sublime to the ridiculous. On the way out of the MFAH, they playfully created their own art in the interactive installation Shadow Monsters by New York-based British artist Philip Worthington. They went from observing and contemplating art objects to fully immersing themselves in creating temporal art of their own, all within the forty-five minute 7th grade Museum District elective.
Shadow Monsters Andrea Estrada and Carson Clingman
Sendero de maravillas, Puebla (1989)
"Heaven, just heaven" this is how Professor Geoff Winningham describes the incense or "copal." Really, in my perspective, it is how he describes all of Día de Los Muertos. A few years after he first came to Mexico, he met his forever friend, Felix. Prof. Winningham sat down in a chair in Felix's home and he waited for the evening, which is when your loved ones' spirits come back to life. When it happened, Prof. Winningham said that he could feel the presence of his lost parents. "If you believe it will happen, it will." His Día de Los Muertos presentation wasn't just a speech, it was a memory to hold on to, a trip to Mexico, but most of all, to me, truly it was one of those times that makes your childhood worth remembering.
-Eve Kroencke, 5th grade
Professor Geoff Winningham is an award-winning journalist, filmmaker and photographer based in Houston. He has taught photography at Rice University for over 45 years and has been studying Mexico and Mexican festivals for over 30 years. His photographs have been widely exhibited and collected by major museums throughout the United States and Mexico and he is the recipient of two Guggenheim Fellowships and five grants from the National Endowment for the Arts. Invited by Spanish teacher Eby Harvey, he came to Presbyterian School on October 22 to speak to the entire 5th Grade class as well as one section of 7th Grade Spanish.
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