School Program Educators Meet with Question Bridge Artist

Image 2_Question Bridge_Caitlin Casey

Bayeté Ross Smith discusses Question Bridge with Phillips School Programs Educators last month.

On Wednesday, October 7, Bayeté Ross Smith, one of the creators of Question Bridge: Black Males met with Phillips School Programs Educators to discuss strategies on how to integrate the themes and content of the exhibition into school tours. On view through January 3, 2016, this documentary-style video installation seeks to represent and redefine black male identity in America.

According to Smith, Question Bridge is an effective education tool because, as a case study, it facilitates broader conversations about the identity politics operating in other identity groups and underrepresented demographics. Smith explained that the project reveals not only that indicators of identity are rather arbitrary, but also that there is as much diversity within a demographic as there is outside of it. “The only thing that black men have in common is that they are male and black,” said Smith. “You can’t say they have one thing in common. This seemed like a prime way to examine this issue and deconstruct it, as well as examine the idea of communication and healing within one community—even though it isn’t exactly ‘one community’ so to speak.”

Image 1_Question Bridge_Caitlin Casey

Bayeté Ross Smith and Phillips School Program Educators during October’s session on Question Bridge.

During his presentation, Smith exposed the group to the many ways educators can engage with the project through the Question Bridge curriculum, website, and mobile app. The curriculum aims to help students develop a variety of skills, such as building cultural, visual, and multimedia literacy. Furthermore, it allows students to engage in the essential, overarching question of how we can create equitable environments of inclusion in our diverse 21st century society. Composed of eight functioning modules with specific learning goals, based on themes such as “The Human Condition,” “Code Switching,” and “The Power of Communication,” the Question Bridge curriculum offers an alternative way for workshops to be structured and students to engage with the material. Each module includes a student workbook and teacher guide, which consists of a list of additional resources and a glossary of terms for reference.

On Thursday, November 12, the Phillips is hosting an Evening for Educators focused on Question BridgeFind details and register here.

Caitlin Casey, K12 Education Intern

Art and Healing

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, View from the Farnese Gardens, Rome, 1826. Oil on paper mounted on canvas, 9 5/8 x 15 3/4 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Acquired 1942.

When talking with visitors about the museum’s permanent collection, I often begin by describing what I refer to as the “Essential Phillips”—the significant philosophies of the study of art history, a love of natural forms, a dynamic, non-linear viewing experience of paintings and sculpture in a comfortable setting, and a commitment to experimentation, that guided Duncan Phillips’s formation, and subsequent stewardship, of the museum.

I make a point, however, to note that the most essential of “essentials” was more personal and critical to the founding of the museum: Duncan Phillips’s conviction that art could revive the human spirit devastated by loss. Phillips’s belief in art’s constancy sustained him in his darkest and most desperate hours. When his father, Duncan Clinch Phillips, and his older brother James, died within thirteen months of each other in 1917 and 1918, he lost his two greatest champions—both had encouraged and nurtured his passion for art and collecting—and his world shifted. The hopelessness he felt was inexpressible. With eloquenceand characteristic restraint Phillips wrote later: “There came a time when sorrow all but overwhelmed me. Then I turned to my love of painting for the will to live.”

Duncan Phillips’s crushing despair was the catalyst for the founding of the Phillips Memorial Art Gallery, as the museum was known when it opened in the fall of 1921. Ninety years later, the museum is a sanctuary for art lovers and a refuge for kindred spirits seeking consolation in art and the steadfast reassurance it provides when the ground in our lives seems shaky and the darkness around the periphery starts to envelope us. Whether it is Renoir’s captivating masterpiece Luncheon of the Boating Party or the quiet beauty of Corot’s View from the Farnese Gardens, Rome or Bonnard’s color cacophony The Open Window, or the restrained luxury of one of Morandi’s still life paintings or any number of works in the collection, you can share Duncan Phillips’s belief that in a favorite work of art you can find companionable comfort and be reminded of the essential truth that you are not alone and your anguish will not last forever.

-Mike Owens, Gallery Educator