True Life: I’m an Education Department Intern

Photo of Caroline Seabolt, Education Intern

Photo: Margaret Collerd

Since January, I have interned in the Phillips’s education department as part of the k-12 team that focuses on school, outreach, family, and teacher programs. Sadly my internship is coming to an end as I prepare for a fall semester studying abroad in Florence, Italy. I’ve been thinking a lot about what I learned over the past eight months, and share with you here my top five takeaways from interning at The Phillips Collection:

1. Unglamorous work can be rewarding

I expected that administrative tasks like stuffing gift bags and assembling packets would be part of my internship, but I did not anticipate the great satisfaction of seeing a little boy’s face as he opened his new magnifying glass at a Young Artists Exhibition Community Celebration or teachers, aided by resources I put together, in stimulating conversation about art in the classroom.

2. Art brings families together

I worked in the art workshop during Jazz ‘n’ Family Fun Days, helping families make prints inspired by Jasper Johns: Variations on a Theme. During those two days, I saw families make art together without distraction from cell phones or outside interactions. Watching families spend quality time together and bond over the art they made will remain one of my fondest memories of the internship.

3. Arts education is pretty cool

I knew I liked both arts and education separately, but I had no idea how powerful the two could be together. Observing Art Links to Learning school tours, as well as DC Public Schools Teacher Professional Development Days, has opened my eyes to the power of arts education both in and outside the classroom.

4. Kids are insightful about art

On the first school tour I participated in, we stopped at Morris Louis’s Seal (1959), and the kids blew my mind with their insights on where the “seal” might be in the painting. A couple months later in front of Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party (1881), a 1st grader explained how the painting should be renamed The Luncheon of the Disrespectful Party. After further reflecting on the painting, I’ve decided she may be right.

5. I want to pursue a career in the arts

I began college two years ago with no idea what I wanted to do but will leave The Phillips Collection passionate for a career in the arts. Though the internship was unpaid, I don’t think you can put a price tag on discovering what you love to do.

Caroline Seabolt, Education Intern

Learning Language through Art

At the Phillips we like to experiment with art as a jumping off point for language learning. Tonight’s Phillips after 5 event will be the latest in the series to include a fast-paced, mini language lesson, this time in American Sign Language inspired by imagery in recent work by Jasper Johns. Later this month, the Phillips and the International Club of DC team up to offer weekly French, Italian, Spanish, German, and Russian meet-ups with expert native speakers in Tryst at the Phillips cafe. In this guest post, Magali Bufferne, French language instructor at the Alliance Francaise de Washington, shares a teacher’s perspective on the benefits of integrating art with language learning.

Photo of Magali's class in front of the Alliance Francaise de Washington.

Magali (second from left) and her students in front of the Alliance Francaise de Washington

I have taught three sessions of French language through art history at the Alliance Francaise de Washington. This class’s main goal is to use a new angle to improve the linguistic abilities of students in French. Instead of a book, the pedagogical support is artwork.

My class is divided into two parts. First I focus on art history, teaching the students about specific artistic movements.  Second, I teach them how to analyze a specific painting or sculpture. During these lessons, students use French in a variety of ways–speaking, reading, listening, and interacting.

This class is unique.  I avoid the classic pattern where the teacher speaks and the students listen. I consider the classroom a place where we can exchange ideas about art. The class’s objective is to give students the confidence to describe a work of art and share their own opinions about it.

The Phillips Collection is a fantastic place to teach this kind of class. The collection focuses on a limited period, which simplifies the choice of artistic movements and paintings to study. Moreover, a large percentage of artists with works in The Phillips Collection are French. Analyzing their art, therefore, is a way to learn about French culture at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century.

One of the paintings discussed by Magali's class. Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas, Melancholy, late 1860's. Oil on canvas, 7 1/2 x 9 3/4 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Acquired 1941.

One of the paintings discussed by Magali’s class. Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas, Melancholy, late 1860′s. Oil on canvas, 7 1/2 x 9 3/4 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Acquired 1941.

During the final session, the class was composed of six people. This small group allowed us to engage in real debate at every class. Each student chose a painting on view and discussed it in the gallery where it hung. Using this method, the students were able to concretely use the language and tools that they had learned during the class.

In addition to modern French paintings, the Phillips  embraces contemporary art. I think it is extremely important to increase students’ awareness about art that asks questions of our society and be able to talk about these works. Language is made to express thought–through learning about the preoccupations of contemporary artists, students can learn to discuss today’s world in French.

Magali Bufferne, French language instructor

I moved to D.C. because . . .

Visitors looking at Jacob Lawrence's The Migration Series (1941) at The Phillips Collection. Photo: Max Hirshfeld

Visitors looking at Jacob Lawrence’s The Migration Series (1941) at The Phillips Collection. Photo: Max Hirshfeld

This spring, Jacob Lawrence‘s art inspired second graders in Mr. Frazell and Ms. Crossons’s classes at the Inspired Teaching Demonstration School to study the migrations of those around them. Using a worksheet created by their teachers, the students interviewed family members or friends who had moved to Washington, D.C., from another place, asking about their first memories of arriving in the city and what they remembered about their old homes. Then they studied their interview notes and chose one sentence to serve as the caption for artworks they would create. Then they identified the shapes, lines, and colors that would best communicate the emotion of the piece.

Students used color pencils to sketch designs. Since many of the drawings were rich in detail, students were encouraged to simplify and identify a focal point to translate into a painting. Following Lawrence’s process, students created outline sketches on panels and used small Post-it notes to label which color would go in each shape. Maintaining Lawrence’s method of working, students painted one color at a time. They applied light colors first , added dark colors the next day, and finished with final touch-ups.

Second grader Alexandria interviewed her Auntie Marian for this piece. Take a look at her worksheet to learn more about Marian’s migration and how Alexandria selected her caption, Marian: “I decided to move to D.C. to seek a good job.”

Marian: “I decided to move to D.C. to seek a good job.” Alexandria, 2nd Grade Tempera paint on illustration board. Photo: James R. Brantley

Marian: “I decided to move to D.C. to seek a good job.” Alexandria, 2nd Grade Tempera paint on illustration board. Photo: James R. Brantley

Second grader Jonas interviewed a man by the name of Joe Howard who had moved from Japan. For his artwork, he chose the caption Joe: “I moved from unique Japan to the crowds of D.C.” Take a look at Jonas’s worksheet for a map he drew of Joe’s route.

Joe: “I moved from unique Japan to the crowds of D.C.” Jonas, 2nd Grade Tempera paint on illustration board. Photo: James R. Brantley

Joe: “I moved from unique Japan to the crowds of D.C.” Jonas, 2nd Grade Tempera paint on illustration board. Photo: James R. Brantley

In June, students celebrated with a community celebration at The Phillips Collection, where they got to see their artwork on the walls of the museum in a Young Artists Exhibition, which you can currently see in our Sant building (level L2).

Paul Ruther, Manager of Teacher Programs

Photo of second grader Jonas and Phillips educator Paul Ruther during a community celebration at the Phillips in June 2012. Photo: James R. Brantley

Jonas and I looking at his artwork in the Young Artists Exhibition together during the Inspired Teaching Demonstration School Community Celebration at the Phillips in June . Photo: James R. Brantley