MAT Students Introduce Children and their Parents to Women in the Arts

Posted: March 21, 2008 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Ryann Doyle

This past Sunday, Washington D.C. metropolitan area children and parents peered deeply into the depths of Louise Nevelson’s sculpture “Reflections of a Waterfall” as Mason student Abby Eisenberg emphasized the negative and positive space as she cast shadows with a flashlight playing across the sculpture.

Children tapped to the beat on a drum as they danced and made music to “Africa” by Lois Mailou Jones led by Mason student Olivia Sanchez-Dawson. Families carefully planned poses reflecting on their personal familial relationships as they created their own portraits after studying Annie Leibovitz’s photograph of actresses Gwyneth Paltrow and Blythe Danner.

This is how Maria Cuzzocrea Burke, Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) student and graduate teaching assistant for Renee Sandell’s ‘Teaching Critical Response to Art PK-12’ class, described Artful Adventures for Families, a program that she and the rest of Sandell’s class created for The National Museum of Women’s Art (NMWA) Annual Family Festival on March 2.

Along with twice presenting their museum tours, the nine students in Sandell’s class broke up into teams of three. Each chose a piece of artwork, researched it and developed an activity to go along with each one. These exciting and educational games in the galleries helped parents and children discover connections between the artworks in an interactive way. For example, the children formed the shape of sculptures with their bodies and wrapped each other in crepe paper while examining a woven and wrapped piece of art by Harmony Hammond. Others drew and learned about different symbols when examining Ida Kohlmeyer’s painting “Symbols.”

The students trained for this program by studying the art of responding kinesthetically to art with Gail Herman, an educational consultant who emphasizes the arts in her work with teachers. Their object-specific strategies were also inspired by working with education curators of NMWA’s Deborah Gaston and Mieke Fay, as well as Heidi Hinnish from the National Gallery of Art.

The Family Festival is a yearly event put on by the NMWA for children ages 6 to 12 and their families. During the festival, participants enjoy performers, musicians, dancers and many other interactive and hands-on activities. The purpose of the festival is to introduce children to art and female artists, and have them feel comfortable in a museum atmosphere.

Burke also participated last year. “The most rewarding part of this experience for me is to see the children make personal connections to the artwork, and to see the families connect with one another,” she says. “This is why I want to teach.”

“Artful Adventures for Families went fantastic,” says Meike Fay, director of Family Program Services. “We loved having the class here and having them be a part of our program. We look forward to doing it again in the future.”

For more information on the Master of Arts in Teaching Graduate Program, visit their web site.

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