Art is the only way to run away without leaving home. ~Twyla Tharp

Sunday, July 14, 2013

AP Art History and the AP Institute

I just got back from the AP Summer Institute at Marist School in Atlanta, Georgia.  Teachers from all over the southeast converged on this beautiful campus for a week of intense training and I am now certified by the AP Institute to teach AP Art History!  I minored in Art History when I was in college and in fact, had I taken 2 more classes, I could have had a double major.  The sound that you hear is me kicking myself.

I have always had a great love of art history and I am pretty sure that comes from growing up in New York.  I can remember from a very early age, probably third grade, taking multiple yearly field trips to visit the many museums in Manhattan.  As soon as I was old enough, I was allowed to take the train into the city with friends and we would spend the day at the Met or the MoMA.  Really?  What were my parents thinking?  I can remember getting lost in the art and thinking about the people in the paintings and what was going on in the world at that time. As I got older, I discovered The Frick, The Whitney, The Brooklyn Museum, The Guggenheim and my favorite, The Cloisters to name a few.  One quick story and then I'll tell you about my week at Marist.  When I was old enough to drive, some friends and I decided that we would drive into the city.  Thanks to my mom who let me borrow her car.  Really?  What was she thinking?  It was a brand new Cadillac Eldorado.  Seriously.  I wouldn't let me do that.  Anyway, my dad, doing what all dads do gave me strict instructions on how to handle myself.  Have your toll money ready, park in the open parts of parking garages, be careful on the West Side highway because it gets narrow and don't let the cobblestones freak you out. His strictest admonition was that I was IN NO UNCERTAIN TERMS to make a left when getting off of the George Washington Bridge.  NO LEFTS!  Bad neighborhood!  Beware!  I was 17.  What do you think I did?  Yep.  Made a left.  A big one.  But it was then that I discovered the glory of The Cloisters.  If you've never been, please go.  Please.  Tell all the art that I said "Hello" and have a nice picnic lunch on the grass over looking the Hudson.  Sigh.  It's just so lovely.

Fast Forward a couple of decades (or a few, really) and I am on my way to Atlanta, Georgia.  I've been to Atlanta many, many times but it has been a while and I have to tell you that if you have ever heard anything about the traffic in this city, and what you heard about it was that it is bad, well, that doesn't even begin to describe it.  The last hour of my trip took me about 2.5 hours or so.  I had reserved a room at a nearby hotel that offered discounted rates for those attending the Summer Institute.  By the time I got there, I was exhausted and the last thing I wanted to do was go get something to eat, but my lunch from the Cracker Barrel in Greenville, SC was long gone so I decided to splurge and got some room service.

 OMG. Chicken Cobb Salad.  Worth every penny.

I unpacked a little bit and went for a swim in the hotel pool.  I figured that since this was going to be my 'Big Vacation' this summer I was going to take advantage of every amenity. 

The hotel provided a shuttle to the school and I thought that I would take it since I had no idea where I was going.  Turns out the school was just a mile down the road and I ended up driving myself the rest of the week.  We were provided with a 'light' breakfast of pastries, bagels and fruit each morning.  Yum, but lacking the protein that I usually try to eat.  I ended up getting a jar of peanut butter to smear on my bagels each day.

Our instructor, Dr. Michael Bieze, came to get us and brought us up to his classroom where we would spend the week.  There were only 6 of us, 2 studio art teachers, 2 art history teachers and 2 English teachers, so it was a nice, small group. We got our materials, which included the 13lb. current version of Marilyn Stokstad's Art History. We spent the day discussing expectations and getting to know one another.  We looked at slides and I suddenly felt like I was in school again.  A little bit older and achier (have I mentioned the enormous hill I had to climb to get to my car and all the stairs at the school?  No? I'm not as perky as I used to be.  Let's just leave it at that).

On day 2, we went on a field trip to the High Museum to see The Girl With A Pearl Earring and other Dutch Masters exhibit.  Sigh.  Who doesn't love a field trip?  My heart leapt a little bit when we got there.  We spent the morning wandering around the museum.  It is easy to forget how beautiful and intense it is to look at art in person.  I feel so lucky to be teaching in a time where it is so easy to find a work online and project it to share with my students. It's just so convenient.  But, you just don't get the same feeling that you do when you can see the depth of color in person, the texture that builds up from layer after layer of paint, the true size of the works, to walk around a sculpture, to look behind a tapestry.  Sigh.  I was in Heaven.

The Shade ~ Rodin Located on the lawn outside the museum, this piece was donated to the High by the French government to honor the 106 Atlanta Arts Patrons that perished in a plane crash while on a trip to Paris.  Surrounding the sculpture is a wall that bears the names of the men and women that died in the disaster.

House III ~ Roy Lichtenstein 

Mobile ~ Alexander Calder

The Girl With A Pearl Earring exhibit will be at the High until September 29.  If you are planning a trip to Atlanta, please be sure to go.  And if you are driving, in the words of my niece Paula, 'Drive it like you stole it!'.

Dr. Beize drove us around Atlanta in his little beemer after we left the museum, pointing out all the amazing architecture in the city.  If anyone is looking for a business opportunity, buy a couple of 10 passenger vans, brush up on Atlanta architecture and start yourself a tour company.  There are no 'formal' architecture tours which is surprising for a city with such a rich architectural history.

The next couple of days were spent going through the vast amount of works that we need to present to our students to prepare them for the AP Art History exam.  I took the exam when I was in high school, way back when it first started and I don't remember it being half as intense.  Most of the art that we looked at was familiar and I loved every minute of being in that class.  We learned the structure of the exam, how to write questions and what the readers are looking for.  One of the other art history teachers from Spartanburg, SC shared his list of works that he teaches his students, which was so helpful.  Dr. Beize is probably one of the most knowledgeable art history instructors that I have ever had.  His love for the subject was evident and I was so excited to be in the class absorbing as much as I could.  I have copies of exam questions, Dr. Beize's syllabus, his list of works and so many materials that should set me up to win right out of the gate.  The AP exam will be changing in the next couple of years, limiting the canon of works on the test to 250.  If I remember correctly, the Summer Institute is planning a trip to Tuscany next summer where instructors will learn the new test and be immersed in the Italian countryside.  I am going to do everything that I can possibly do to go on that trip, even if I have to eat nothing but red beans and rice for the next school year. 

I will tentatively be teaching this class on line in the spring.  My district is trying to come up with ways to offer more diverse classes to our students and it seems that online learning is the way to go.  I am so excited about sharing my love of Art History with the students in my county.  I am a little bit anxious about this whole online thing, but I guess it will be good to get outside of my comfort zone.  I am also taking an online class this summer to learn how to teach online classes.  I feel confident that our intrepid instructor will have us ready by the spring to bring all of these amazing opportunities to the kids in our district.  It's exciting!  And it's scary.  But I think that is a good thing.

My only problem is trying to figure out how in the world I am going to get my students to visit some of the amazing art that we have here in the area.  We will need to go to The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art and The Mint Museum of Craft and Design and The Mint Museum and The Ackland Art Museum and the NCMA and The Weatherspoon and...Sigh.  There has to be a way.

Projected and print images are fine, but to really fall in love, you need to see it in person.

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