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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