Saturday, April 25, 2015

PD fun at the Tang

A group of 15 art educators from my NYSATA region had a wonderful PD experience yesterday, at the Tang Museum at Skidmore College.  I made the initial contact with the museum, and contacted our region membership to invite their attendance, but Ginger at the Tang took care of all the rest!  All we had to do was show up.
 Currently in their main gallery is a vibrant exhibit of work by Nicholas Krushenick, called Electric Soup.  Focusing on one particular work (below left), we were led in a discussion using "Visual Thinking Strategies", or VTS, to "dissect information from the image".  I had heard the term VTS before, but didn't know exactly what it meant.  I was quite pleased to discover that I had been using the VTS method for many years, just without knowing there was a name/label to the method.  (You might recall that I'm not big on educational jargon and terminology.)  I was even further pleased to learn that data shows that looking and talking about art using VTS improves thinking skills, improves writing, and results in kids score higher on standardized tests!  YAY!  Do you use Visual Thinking Strategies when looking at art with kids and questioning them to describe what you see?   If you don't know what VTS means, check it out here
 We had some time to tour the rest of  the exhibit.  The work is large, colorful, and fun.  (Even the titles of the paintings are fun.)  I tried, when possible, to photograph the pieces with people for size reference.  The piece on the right, below, is extremely tall (for size reference, since there's no person, note the eye level placement of the tag on the wall to the left of the painting).
 After our tour of the exhibit, we were given time to create our own work.  What art teacher doesn't love a hands-on opportunity?  We used colored foam, glue sticks, and scissors to create on a colored tag-board background.  Look how serious everyone is!
 Ooh, this piece below is gonna be REALLY cool!!
 Below, right, is the gal who replaced me when I retired!  I love the piece she made; it is still 'in progress' in this photo.
 This piece below went 'beyond the frame' and I really liked that element.  
It looks like it is breaking free of the confines of the square.
 Nobody was ready to stop working when our time was up!  Before we left, we spread out our work (much of it still 'in progress') on the floor for some quick VTS discussion.  The piece on the red backing actually has some 3-dimensional elements, with some bends and twists in the pieces.  What do YOU see in the artwork pictured below?  I see everything from bananas to video game elements to ribs to shapes reminiscent of Matisse's cutouts. 
 The piece on the yellow backing below is my unfinished creation. 
It was a marvelous afternoon, from seeing work of an artist with whom I was previously unfamiliar (and now am a big fan of!), to learning about VTS, to having time to create with other art teachers.   Thank you to Ginger at at the Tang for facilitating this for us, and thank you to the Tang for being our host for the afternoon!  We are so lucky to have the resource of Skidmore College just a few miles down the road. 


  1. What a totally perfect way to spend a day!!! I would have LOVED to have been with you all!!

    Way back in the 70s (I think) I got to be part of a series of professional development sessions with a man named Harry S. Broudy. At the time, he was advocating that aesthetics should provide a basis for integrating the arts into all education. His work later became the basis for the Getty Institute's Discipline Based Art Education program. Part of that body of work incorporated discussions similar to Visual Thinking Strategies, although we often found ways to emphasize how (and why) artists used color, line, repetition, etc. That experience definitely helped to shape my thinking about art education and I have always been so grateful to have had the chance to participate. I know that part of Common Core in reading instruction now is to have kids do "Close Reading", where they make inferences and justify their thinking based on text. The first thing I thought about when I heard that term, was how similar the process was to the visual scanning we used to have kids do when viewing (and discussing) a work of art. Interesting how good ideas persist, or are reinvented with new jargon attached.

    1. Yes, Christie, I agree. But I also think so much of VTS is intuitive. It just makes a lot more sense to me to ask kids what they see than to tell them what is there. I don't think I was ever instructed in this style of questioning, but it came very natural to me and it keeps kids engaged, for sure.

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks, yes it was! Just a couple of hours, after school for everyone but retired me!!

  3. Phyl,
    You have inspired me, with this post, to share this with the Director of School Programs at the Joslyn Art Museum, in Imaha,Ne, where I live. The museum has a program called, Thursday's 4 Teachers, during the school year. We meet at the museum once a month for lectures and workshops that are make and takes. I am going to recommend that we try to get an exhibition of this artist and maybe the PD workshop too! I can always count on you to come up with something new and exciting! I had heard of VTS, but really hadn't explored it's meaning. I know you're right when you said we've been using it without knowing the name for our entire careers as art teachers. Thanks again, pal😀😀

  4. What a great experience to make an art piece at the exhibition spot

  5. Thank you for inspiring Don Masse with this post... he then inspired me with his project he recently posted. Love, Love this artist (and shrinky dinks)... I'll be sure to cite you when I post on what we are about to make.

    1. Glad we've all discovered a not-so-new artist to inspire us!

  6. I did this project with the new elementary art teachers professional development day...they loved it! Thanks Phyl