Of course, many schools are nowhere near a big city and/or a large, prestigious and internationally acclaimed gallery.
For eight years I taught art in a school situated on the lower slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro – the excellent and unique International School Moshi – and we visited small local galleries or the workshops of local craftsmen. That is also fine. And there may now be art galleries in Moshi or in the larger neighbouring town of Arusha!
In addition, art does not have to be put into a gallery, and you don’t have to go to an art exhibition to see art. However, for many of us the exhibition remains a good, accessible and logical way to see art, and visiting exhibitions is obviously a great way for you to gain an understanding of communicating visual arts
It may be difficult if your school is geographically isolated without easy access to art galleries/art museums – but I urge you to at least try.
And if your school is near a gallery (or ideally galleries) I strongly encourage visiting – as frequently as possible. Getting to know a gallery and/or getting to know an artwork is a fantastic experience.
If/when you DO visit the gallery, spend some time wearing a curator’s hat: think about how and why the works have been displayed, consider the nature of “exhibition” and think about the process of selection, the reason these artworks were chosen.
Also think about the viewer, and the potential impact of the work on different audiences.
Visits to museums, galleries etc provide first-hand encounters with real art. You may not be allowed to touch it but there is nothing to stop you examining it in detail as an art object (if it is an object).
While in the Tate I thought about:
- The scale and size of the art: large scale are frequently has a big impact – far more, obviously than just seeing it online
- The immediacy of being there – allowing for example close scrutiny of colour, texture, detail etc
- Space and light, the gallery experience
- Audience response and interaction, including their conversations and exchanges about the art before them
- The exhibition text – offering a brief and potential useful summary of the work (and one you should consider)
- Other valuable documentation – pamphlets, guides etc – anything like a curatorial rationale
- The impact of a collection by an individual artist and the question of coherence
- The range of art on show – video art, installations, etc as well as more traditional media
This is also a great opportunity for investigation: find out about the artwork and the artist. Identify and learn about individual artists’ purposes, influences and inspirations. If possible read the artist’s own words – locate any artist statements.
Visual Arts Journal
Have you got one? Do you use it frequently? It’s the best place for you to record personal responses to the art that you encounter.
As you may know, there are three main “Core” visual arts areas:
Visual arts in context
Visual arts methods
Communicating visual arts
This area involves you investigating and understanding processes involved in selecting work for exhibition.
Of course at some point you will be making decisions about the selection of your own work – so seeing artwork on display helps you explore the role of the curator; the concept of an exhibition has many variables, but most importantly is the potential impact on audiences and viewers: consider the relationship between artwork and audience
Gallery visits can deepen your understanding of the ways in which visual arts can communicate and enable you to appreciate that presentation.
In turn these experiences may influence the way you value/understand individual works. And there are frequently great practical repercussions – what you learn can then inform your work.
It can also be very useful for you to share feedback after such visits. This could be done in a variety of ways, ranging from an informal discussion with other students about perceived strengths and weaknesses of the gallery and the exhibition, to more formal class presentations…
So – go to see an art show!
All the photographs were taken by me either in the Tate Modern or the Tate Britain.