Behind the Scenes, Education, J. Paul Getty Museum

Art Education Isn’t Just for Kids

Teachers join Getty Museum education specialist Veronica Alvarez to discuss Jean-Joseph Carriès's Self-Portrait as Midas

Teachers in the Art & Language Arts program join education specialist Veronica Alvarez to discuss Jean-Joseph Carriès's Self-Portrait as Midas.

I’ve always appreciated art, but creating art never seemed like something I could do. Creating a drawing or painting was what talented people did, not me.

Professionally, I first became involved in art 10 years ago when I left the practice of law to become a teacher at Canterbury Elementary School. I included art activities in the classroom and took many art workshops at local museums so I could bring the ideas I learned into my classroom.

Still, it wasn’t until I participated in a summer seminar at the Getty Museum’s Art & Language Arts program that I started to believe that I, and not just my students, could create art and make it a part of my life. I loved learning about different artists and artistic styles, but I particularly loved the program’s many hands-on art activities. After all, how better to inspire our students to creativity than to experience it ourselves?

After the summer with Art & Language Arts, I enrolled in a 14-week course in figure drawing at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. I’d never taken an intensive art class before—but now I’m hooked. Next month I’ll start another 14-week course on advanced figure drawing.

In short, I’ve become an artist.

Untitled life-drawing sketch / Paula Rucker

Untitled, a figure drawing by Paula Rucker

The culminating event of the 2011–12 Art & Language Arts program took place on April 14 (see photos on our Art & Language Arts blog), and I returned to the Getty Center to present a lesson focused on a topic that has always been a favorite of mine, Impressionism.

I began my lesson by showing Wheatstacks by Claude Monet. Utilizing the questioning techniques I learned from the Art & Language Arts program, I helped students to observe the painting and come up with descriptive words and phrases about the artwork. One student said the wheatstacks in the painting looked like muffins. Another said the painting made them feel cold and lonely. I then had the students use the descriptive words and phrases to create a cinquain poem about the work of art. Later, students created their own Impressionist-style paintings with cotton swabs and tempera paint and wrote cinquain poems to accompany their own works of art.

The students’ excitement in creating their own original work was contagious. They had so much fun sharing their artwork and poems with their classmates. But this time, I knew exactly what they were feeling—because I’m an artist, too. We’re all artists, just waiting to give ourselves permission to create.

Painting of a whale - student artwork created at the Getty's Art and Language Arts event

Cinquain poem about a whale - student artwork created at the Getty's Art and Language Arts event

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  1. Posted May 11, 2012 at 3:54 am | Permalink

    “How better to inspire our students to creativity than to experience it ourselves?” – What you say reminds me of something Anne Lamott wrote in her book “Bird by Bird”; that the biggest benefit of becoming an author was learning to genuinely enjoy good books written by others.

  2. Rebekah Albrecht
    Posted May 12, 2012 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

    What a wonderful story. I believe that we are all artists and that we have a need to express creativity and that there are multitudinous ways in which to do so. Your drawing is quite beautiful. Hard to believe that this was your first art class. Your students are fortunate to have you as their teacher. Their work is lovely, and their poetry is heartfelt and thoughtful.

    Well done, Paula!

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      All Hail Tiberius, Least Media-Savvy of the Roman Emperors

      Tiberius was proclaimed Roman emperor on September 17 in AD 14, exactly 2,000 years ago.

      He was also a bit wacko. “He was the least media-savvy emperor you could imagine,” says curator David Saunders, who has been in charge of this bronze portrait of Tiberius which leaves us on September 22. He point to this description found in the writings of Cassius Dio:

      Tiberius was a patrician of good education, but he had a most peculiar nature. He never let what he desired appear in his conversation, and what he said he wanted he usually did not desire at all. On the contrary, his words indicated the exact opposite of his real purpose; he denied all interest in what he longed for, and urged the claims of what he hated. He would exhibit anger over matters that were far from arousing his wrath, and make a show of affability where he was most vexed…In short, he thought it bad policy for the sovereign to reveal his thoughts; this was often the cause, he said, of great failures, whereas by the opposite course, far more and greater successes were attained.

      Moreover, David tells us, “Tiberius’s accession itself was a farrago: Tiberius sort-of feigning reluctance, the Senate bullying him, he being all, ‘Well, if-I-have-to,’ and in the end—according to Suetonius—saying he’ll do it as long as he can retire.”

      Suetonius is full of great, albeit spurious, anecdotes about poor old Tiberius, David reports. “When someone addressed him as ‘My Lord,’ it is said, Tiberius gave warning that no such insult should ever again be thrown at him.”

      Happy accession, My Lord!

      Portrait Head of Tiberius (“The Lansdowne Tiberius”), early 1st century A.D., Roman. The J. Paul Getty Museum

      Statue of Tiberius (detail), Roman, A.D. 37, Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Napoli e Pompei – Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli, Laboratorio di Conservazione e Restauro. Currently on view at the Getty Villa following conservation and study.


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