Looking to Learn: Learning to Look

Sometimes just slowing down in our fast-paced world can make a considerable difference.  Taking the time to sit down and focus on a single painting in a gallery full of art can help students make considered, thoughtful, and detailed observations.

Our new youth studio program for grades K-6, Looking to Learn:  Learning to Look, does just that.  These gallery activities use Gari Melchers’ art as a gateway to original and personal understanding for students and serves as a companion piece to our Please Touch! historic house tours.

Seated in front of the large-scale Gari Melchers’ painting, In Holland, young learners are encouraged to purposefully observe, digging deeper and deeper, to determine out what’s happening in the painting.  As a group, through their inferences and investigation, they figuratively peel back the layers of paint to reveal the picture’s essence.

Posing as Gari Melchers’ mustachioed model in The Fencer or as a young farm worker wearing a wooden yoke carrying a pair of buckets in In Holland helps participants make personal connections with the artistic process. Artists intentioanlly pose their models to evoke a particular feeling or mood.  By imitating the poses, students can begin to understand more about the art and certainly empathize with the models who had to remain still in their poses for 30 minutes or longer!

Drawing from the depth of our collection, a docent leads a guided group conversation focusing on one of Gari Melchers’ favorite Stafford County models, Annie DeShields. Learners are seated in front of Native of Virginia, as well as its first and second preparatory oil studies.  Careful observation will allow students to discover and point out the changes Melchers made from the first study to the finished painting. Artists are very similar to writers in that they don’t turn in their first “draft.”  They rework and repaint (just as writers rewrite and revise) until they have a final product they are happy with.

Art is fun when you look to learn by learning to look.  Book your field trip today!

~ Michelle Crow-Dolby, Education and Communications Manager, Gari Melchers Home & Studio

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