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Open Gallery program brings public school students and at-risk youth into the world of art
Hundreds of students will view the photography exhibition Black Panthers, 1968 this winter as part of the innovative outreach program at Reed College
Portland, OR (February 4, 2005) - A group of teenagers stands murmuring softly as they stare at the photo of young African American women raising their fists in defiance. The photo is of a Black Panthers rally in 1968; the teens are middle school students from Self-Enhancement, Portland's inner-city youth program. They've come face to face with the Black Panthers as part of Reed College's Open Gallery program, which offers Portland public school students and homeless and at-risk youth the opportunity to experience first-hand the works of art on view in Reed's Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery.
The Open Gallery program, now in its second year, was developed by Cooley Gallery director Stephanie Snyder '91 in 2003 to provide "public school groups with the opportunity to engage works of art in a small and intimate setting with direct instruction from Reed students and gallery staff." Snyder was inspired to create the program by her experience as a founding member of the Heritage School in East Harlem, the first arts-based public high school developed as a collaboration between the New York City Board of Education and Columbia University. In 2004 the Open Gallery program brought over 800 students from Portland Public Schools into the Cooley Gallery.
The Open Gallery Program tries "to tailor each visit to address the Portland Public School standards and benchmarks in the arts for each particular age group," Cooley Gallery education coordinator Gregory McNaughton '89 adds. They hope to provide schools with more than a field trip experience by also supporting the work of classroom teachers.
Amanda Yampolsky '90 currently works as a teacher on special assignment in the English as a Second Language department in the Portland public schools. Last year she brought first and second grade students to the Open Gallery Program and noticed that they made drawings or dramatic representations of what they saw using blocks, toys, found objects, and paper. She also points out "most kids do not ever go to museums, so just introducing them to the idea that there are places to view art is significant."
Throughout February, students from Jefferson High School, Three Rivers Charter School, Crossroads Alternative School, New Avenues for Youth, Open Meadow Learning Center, Sisters in Action, and p:ear (an art program which focuses on homeless youth) will come to the Open Gallery tours of Black Panthers, 1968: Photographs by Ruth-Marion Baruch & Pirkle Jones.
Black Panthers, 1968
The exhibition Black Panthers, 1968: Photographs by Ruth-Marion Baruch and Pirkle Jones is a part of Reed's celebration of Black History Month. From July to October of 1968, noted California photographers Baruch and Jones were invited by Eldridge Cleaver to chronicle the Black Panther movement in and around Oakland, California, the headquarters of the organization. The resulting photographs were exhibited at the de Young Museum in San Francisco in the 1968 show A Photographic Essay on the Black Panthers. The exhibition brings together 45 photographs from the original exhibition almost 40 years ago.
Student docent Ariel Jacobs '05 notes "T he subjects of a lot of these works are really tough, but I think we're all committed to getting beyond the basics. Our goal is to help kids really understand some of the fundamental ideas by putting them into a format that is accessible."
Gallery in the classroom
Prior to the gallery visits, Reed student docents often visit classrooms to introduce both the art and some of the conversations that will ensue around it when the students see the work in person. Those conversations continue within the gallery itself.
Reed student docents investigate pedagogical methodology by engaging in training with the director and the Open Gallery education coordinator, and the exhibition design staff at the gallery. This work includes learning about the specific shows, but also learning about teaching methods targeted towards different age groups.
MacNaughton hopes that student docents will learn about art interpretation as practiced in museum education. He says "This is a valuable skill to learn and something students don't usually engage in as they study art history and studio art at Reed: essentially this program will give students a brief immersion in teaching."
An expert on classroom and museum education, Yampolsky suggests there are three major strengths to the Open Gallery program. She sees the pre-visit orientation as a way of allowing students "to do things multiple times they learn through repeated exposure." She suggests that the small size of the Cooley Gallery is also to the advantage of the students while at large museums they can get overwhelmed or visually over-saturated. In addition, the discussions in the gallery itself allow student to hear comments from others and then revisit the exhibit.
MacNaughton suggests that enhancing a student's ability to talk about their visual experience using the appropriate terminology is a good place to start learning about art. Even when using the benchmarks and standards suggested by the Portland Public Schools, what is meant by "technical, organizational and aesthetic elements"? Similarly, MacNaughton says "we always find ourselves talking about how an exhibit makes us feel and thus we touch upon the 'emotional impact' of the work.
Students are also asked to go beyond simple "likes and dislikes" by backing up their feeling with evidenc .
"We emphasize that there are no 'correct' answers and opinions must be supported with examples." MacNaughton continues, "I like to think of what we are doing as introducing students to the Reed conference model."
Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery
The Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery serves to enhance the academic offerings of Reed College with a diverse range of scholarly exhibitions, lectures, and colloquia in its role as a teaching gallery.
The gallery was established by a generous 1988 gift from Sue and Edward Cooley and John and Betty Gray "in support of the teaching of art history at Reed College, as part of an interdisciplinary educational experience that strengthens the art history component of Reed's distinctive humanities program." Exhibitions are coordinated in collaboration with Reed faculty members and courses, with attention to the needs and interests of the larger Portland and Northwest arts communities. A schedule of four exhibitions during the academic year brings to Reed and the Portland community work that would not otherwise be seen in the region.
Admission to the Cooley Gallery and its exhibitions is always free and open to the public. For information and hours, please visit http://web.reed.edu/gallery or call the gallery information line at 503/777-7790.
Reed College, in Portland, Oregon, is an undergraduate institution of the liberal arts and sciences dedicated to sustaining the highest intellectual standards in the country. With an enrollment of about 1,360 students, Reed ranks third in the undergraduate origins of Ph.D.s in the United States and second in the number of Rhodes Scholars from a liberal arts college (31 since 1915). For more information, visit web.reed.edu .