Arcimboldo-Style Portraits

Summer at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art by Phillip Haas

Artist Phillip Haas’ 15-foot-tall sculptures on the lawn of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art are amazing.  Entitled The Four Seasons, they are 3-dimensional interpretations of Giuseppe Arcimboldo's portrait series of the same name.  Arcimboldo was an Italian Renaissance painter best known for creating "composite head" paintings.  These paintings were composed of items such as tree roots, flowers, and vegetables. 

 

Exploring these sculptures with children inspires fun and creativity.  Children love to search for the things that remind them of each season.  Summer, shown above, includes leaves, fruits, vegetables, a gourd nose, and a pea pod smile. 

As part of an educational program at the Nelson-Atkins, students learned more about how Haas was inspired by Arcimboldo.  During the program, the students created still-life portraits by using oil pastels on construction paper.  After drawing an assortment of fruits and vegetables, they cut them out and arranged the cut outs into facial representations. 

 

For more ideas for creating an Arcimboldo-inspired portrait, visit the Denver Art Museum’s Creativity Resources, Composite Picture of a Leader (for secondary students) and Food Face Fun (for primary students). 

Arcimboldo-Style Portraits
Arcimboldo-style portraits
Arcimboldo-inspired portraits

Toys in the Hall:  Which One Gets Your Vote?

12 Classic Toys:  Which One Gets Your Vote?
The National Toy Hall of Fame

 

The Etch A Sketch, the Hula Hoop, and Lego are three toys that have inspired creative play and enjoyed great popularity.  They are also members of the National Toy Hall of Fame. To date, 56 toys have been inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame, which is part of The Strong, a wonderful “interactive, collections-based educational institution devoted to the study and exploration of play."  It is one of the largest history museums in the United States and one of the leading museums serving families and children.
 
Toy lovers can participate in this year’s National Toy Hall of Fame selection process by casting their votes (once a day) through November 4, 2015.

 

The twelve 2015 toy finalists are (drum roll, please):

American Girl Dolls
Battleship
Coloring Book
Jenga
PLAYMOBIL
Puppet
Scooter
Super Soaker
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Top
Twister
Wiffle Ball

 

The voting process also offers a variety of engaging learning opportunities.
Students can:   

  • Nominate a toy for 2016 consideration by reading the Hall of Fame’s criteria for induction and writing a persuasive essay that details the reasons for nomination.   
  • Use the 12 toy nominees to create a school-wide poll/experiment that also measures the impact of age, gender, favorite subject, etc. in the selection process.
  • Compute the probability of which toys might be inducted by analyzing the submission data. The percentages, the number of votes, and the total votes are shown after you've chosen your favorite finalist.
  • Graph each toy’s weekly percentage change. 

Related posts:

2014 Toy Finalists

Object of the Month:  Tickles the Monkey


Make Your Own Portrait

Make your own portrait!

Museum visitors seeking to engage with exhibits appreciate the hands-on educational opportunities museums provide.  Many of these programs include both aesthetic and emotional experiences. One example of an effective aesthetic activity was recently offered at The Phillips Collection during their American Moments exhibition.  The exhibit highlighted examples of Modernism, documentary expression, photojournalism, and street photography. 

In a room featuring portraits of artists, a simple prompt encouraged visitors to notice how each photographer used pose, setting, lighting, and props to reflect each artist’s character. After observing the photographs, visitors could make their own portraits with the following directions for guidance:

1.  Find someone in your own life you’d like to draw. It could be an artist, friend, family member, or even yourself.

2.  Select a frame.

3.  Draw a portrait.  The portrait could be realistic or abstract.  Think about the subject’s personality and include details that help tell his/her story.



Visitors of all ages participated in this informal activity

that promoted active learning and engagement with the collection.  

Make your own portrait
Draw a portrait!
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Make Your Own Portrait
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Draw a portrait!

Meet #MetKids

#MetKIds, a digital experience "made for, with, and by 7-12 year old kids."

Terracotta statuette of a girl, 3rd century B.C., On view in gallery 171, Metropolitan Museum of Art, OASC image


The Metropolitan Museum of Art recently launched a new digital feature “made for, with, and by 7-12 year old kids."  The multimedia project was created by children from all five boroughs of New York City and around the world in collaboration with specialists from the Museum.  Designed to enhance the museum experience, #MetKids features three primary navigation options that lead to explorations with fascinating objects, intriguing facts, and child-created videos. The experience offers plenty of ideas for creative projects and activities.  You can have fun posing like a sculpture with Olena, age 7 or creating a thaumatrope with Durga, age 11. And where else can you find the powerful god Eros taking a snooze? (It’s rare to spot a sleeping god in ancient Greek art.)  

#MetKids, a new digital feature "made for, with, and by 7-12 year old kids."

What Does Your Visionary Learning Environment Include?

American Visionary Art Museum.  What does your visionary learning environment include?
American Visionary Art Museum, Baltimore, MD


If you have visited the American Visionary Art Museum (AVAM) in Baltimore, you have experienced an environment filled with self-taught, intuitive artistry.  “Since its opening in 1995, the museum has sought to promote the recognition of intuitive, self-reliant, creative contribution as both an important historic and essential living piece of treasured human legacy.”  The museum’s education goals include “increasing awareness of the wide variety of choices available in life for all . . . particularly students.” This emphasis on self-exploration and creativity is even mirrored in the building’s mosaic exterior.  


Reading AVAM's education goals creates a sense of possibility. They believe that “being indoctrinated with ideas of what is not supposed to work, or what cannot work, only stifles human innovation and idea making.”


Possibilities. . . Imagine your visionary learning environment. What does it include for your children/students (and yourself)?

Mine includes: 


  • Opportunities for students to challenge themselves and to make mistakes.
  • A curriculum that promotes creativity and the arts.
  • An environment that cares for and values others. 
  • Time to experiment, try new things, and reflect. 
  • Exposure to the natural world.
  • Time for play.
May this new school new bring new possibilities

Museums are Catalysts for Discovery

Visit a Museum!

Engage and Educate:  International Museum Day, 2015

International Museum Day, 2015
International Museum Day, 2015

Object of the Month:  Tickles the Monkey:  Prototype for Tickle Me Elmo

Tickle Me Elmo, How an idea becomes a product

 

A few years ago, my fifth grade gifted and talented students completed a unique research project.  Specifically, we sent letters to museum directors asking for input about one object, artifact, work of art, or a creative selection from their museum's collections.  The selection could be a personal favorite, possess significant cultural relevance, be a "best" example of its kind, tell a story, promote a new idea, or expose students to a new experience.

The purpose of the project was to provide resources for interdisciplinary learning, to present opportunities to think in new ways, and to enhance subject matter with activities that promote creativity and provide cultural relevance.  Most directors were eager to participate, and many provided supplemental information and resources.  Their thorough responses are best characterized by the words of one director, "Thank you for reaching out."

Below are the four questions we asked.  (Since some respondents have moved on to different institutions, I share only the museum position, instead of the person's name.)

 

May's object of the month is from The Strong, National Museum of Play.  The Collections Manager answered our questions as follows.  (Excerpt)  

 

Selected ObjectTickles the Monkey, Prototype for Tickle Me Elmo, 1993

 

1.   What information and essential understandings should students know about your selection?


Tickle-Me-Elmo had a long history before he appeared on any store shelves. Toy inventor Greg Hyman created the toy based on a simple idea of a toy that laughed when squeezed or tickled. Hyman created many designs for the toy and finally created this prototype – a model of the toy made from things he had readily available in his home. The prototype is important because it helps others to visualize and understand the idea. Most often, the final product is very different from the prototype, as inventors find many challenges along the way and problem solve by making changes here and there. Tickles the Monkey evolved into other shapes (including Warner Brothers Tasmanian Devil) before finally emerging as Elmo on store shelves.  Toy manufacturers thought Taz was an easily recognizable character but didn’t seem quite as friendly as others. Eventually, Elmo was chosen as he is a common favorite among many, many children and is known to be quite friendly and lovable. The combination was a hit, and in 1996 Tickle-Me-Elmo enjoyed tremendous success, bringing that contagious laughter to the lives of children everywhere.

In the years since—even to this day— Tickle-Me-Elmo has remained in production and has even grown to include other variations of the toy such as  Jumbo Tickle-Me-Elmo , Sesame Street Tickle Me Ernie Extreme T.M.X. Friend, and Kitzel Mich Samson, a German version of Tickle- Me-Elmo.

2.  What questions would you ask students to stimulate curiosity and/or creative thinking about your selection?


•    Have you ever wondered how an idea becomes a toy or product?
•    How long do you think it takes for an idea to reach the final stages of production/store shelves?
•    What original ideas/inventions have you thought of that you would like to see made/produced?
•    Have you ever tried to invent or build a toy/product from an idea you’ve had?

3.  Do you have any suggestions for incorporating your selection into a specific subject? 

 

Tickles the Monkey is a great way to demonstrate:
•    Perseverance
•    Creativity
•    Discovery
•    Invention
•    Science (Greg Hyman loved science and electricity as a kid, and would advertise lessons with him where his classmates could “learn to invent!”)
•    Electricity
•    Trial And Error


4.  Are there other resources to help us learn more about your selection?


 Many of the items mentioned are available through our online collections, complete with photos, dates, and manufacturer information; some include brief essays about the items.

 

Iris, Tulips, Jonquils, and Crocuses

A few years ago, my fifth grade gifted and talented students completed a unique research project.  Specifically, we sent letters to museum directors asking for input about one object, artifact, work of art, or a creative selection from their museum's collections.  The selection could be a personal favorite, possess significant cultural relevance, be a "best" example of its kind, tell a story, promote a new idea, or expose students to a new experience.

The purpose of the project was to provide resources for interdisciplinary learning, to present opportunities to think in new ways, and to enhance subject matter with activities that promote creativity and provide cultural relevance.  Most directors were eager to participate, and many provided supplemental information and resources.  Their thorough responses are best characterized by the words of one director, "Thank you for reaching out."

Below are the four questions we asked.  (Since some respondents have moved on to different institutions, I share only the museum position, instead of the person's name.)


  April's object of the month is from the National Museum of Women in the Arts.  The Assistant Educator answered our questions as follows.  (Excerpt) 

 

Selected ObjectIris, Tulips, Jonquils, and Crocuses, 1969 by Alma Woodsey Thomas (1891-1978)

 

1.  What information and essential understandings should students know about your selection?


Iris, Tulips, Jonquils, and Crocuses in an example of Alma Woodsey Thomas’ signature style.  Her abstract paintings exhibit intense colors, irregular patterns, and rectangular brushstrokes arranged like a mosaic (she called them “Alma’s Stripes”). She was inspired by nature, particularly what she saw as the wind blew through the holly tree outside her living room window. “Light reveals to us the spirit and living soul of the world through colors,” she said.


Thomas moved from Georgia to Washington, D. C. in 1907 with her family and spent the remainder of her life working as an educator and an artist.  In 1924, she became Howard University's first fine arts graduate and the first African American woman to hold a fine arts degree. For the next 35 years, after receiving a master’s in arts education at Teachers College, Columbia University, Thomas taught at Shaw Junior High School, where she also organized the School Arts League Project and established the public school system’s first art gallery.
Thomas retired from teaching in 1960 to focus on her art, but it wasn’t until after a major solo show at Howard University Gallery of Art in 1966, when she was in her 70s, that she developed her signature style of painting. Thomas became an important role model for women, African Americans, and older artists. She was the first African American woman to have a solo exhibition at New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art, and she exhibited her paintings at the White House three times.

 

2. What questions would you ask students to stimulate curiosity and/or creative thinking about your selection?

  • What do you see in this painting?
  • What was the artist’s process? How do you think it was made?
  • How would you title this work of art?

3.  Do you have any suggestions for incorporating your selection into a specific subject?

 

Other than using this work in a fine arts class, Iris, Tulips, Jonquils, and Crocuses could be used in subjects across the board. Thomas and her family left Georgia to come to Washington, D.C. because of segregation in the south, and this coupled with her status as “first” in many areas could be integrated into a social studies/ history class. Thomas not only found inspiration in nature, but also from the space program—these two ideas could also be incorporated into a science, biology, or astronomy course.

 

4.  Are there other resources to help us learn more about your selection?

 

Contact Information

Debra Lemieux

If Then Creativity

debra@ifthencreativity.com

 

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