My sixth-grade art education was sorely lacking. The entire year was spent making pre-designed crafts and ceramic ducks. Since I’d never been one to like crafts, this year cemented my perpetual disgust with all things kitschy.
However, there is one thing that my art teacher did perfectly. Around her room, in chronological order, she hung a labeled representation of each art period (baroque, impressionism, pop, etc.). “The Blue Boy” by Gainsborough was one of my favorites. As I sat day after day in that classroom, I got my only formal experience with art history . . . until now.
I don’t have access to 22 by 26 prints to hang in my house, but I have created my own little traveling art history exhibit using my refrigerator. Here’s what I do.
How I Teach Art History and Appreciation Using My Fridge
1. I download art prints from Ambleside Online‘s yahoogroup. You have to request to join the group, but once you do, you have access to many prints grouped by artist. The quality is better with some prints than others, but I love it when I can find a free resource where someone else has done the work.
2. I take the pdf files to the local copy store and pay to have them printed on cardstock. (I figure this is a heck of a lot cheaper than using my own ink.) I also have them laminate the prints for me to protect from those inevitable “Mom, I just dropped the pitcher of grape juice” moments in front of the fridge.
4. I also print a picture of the artist (thank you Wikipedia!), along with the name and dates, to post along side the prints. (I frame this in black, as well.) I print a smaller version of the artist’s picture to go on our timeline.
5. When I switch to a new artist, I check one or two picture books out about the artist so we can learn about their life and their art style.
6. Every so often (probably about every two weeks), I change the print.
7. At some point, I try to do at least one major art project that reflects the style of the artist we’re studying. The best book I’ve found to help me do this is “Discovering Great Artists” by MaryAnn F. Kohl.
8. I also like to look at and talk about the prints with my kids. Recently, I found the site AwesomeArtists that has some excellent games that you can play with your kids using the prints. There are also a couple of ideas on the AmblesideOnline site.
Standing in my kitchen, amidst the smells of cooking chicken and running water, sometimes I feel like I’m in sixth grade art class all over again. It’s not a bad place to be after all.