Art and Sustained Learning: A Visual Journey

November 23, 2009

Elaine Rastocky, Program Associate
with Barbara Fehrs and Laura Cuevas, Dodge Artist/Educator Fellows

Visual learning is the nature of art education, so for members of the Foundation’s Visual Artist/Educator Initiative, group activities such as the recent trip to Connecticut, Boston and Rhode Island spark excitement and renewed commitment to the creative process and to the teaching of art. Following is a travelogue from two of the fellows who participated in that trip:

Barbara Fehrs (Dodge Fellow, 1998)
The recent Dodge trip provided a forum for a great exchange of ideas pertaining to both the classroom and studio. The first stop was I-Park, an artist’s enclave in Connecticut. Hundreds of artists over the past several years, approximately seven at a time, have set up residence for a period of four weeks to focus on a project in the visual, performing or literary arts. The group toured the grounds where several environmental art works are currently installed. Lively discussions developed about the factors that are conducive to art production and this unique setting, with the current residents generously sharing their experiences about writing, composing, and making art while at I-Park.  Anne Dushanko-Dobek, a Dodge fellow and 2007 resident at I-Park, enriched the conversation with a first-person account of her residency.

Boston provided an opportunity to hear artist Fred Wilson discuss his approach to art making. His unorthodox exhibit Mining the Museum (1992) questioned how museums choose to display their collections. His installations continue to question established practices and have had a profound influence on museums worldwide. Boston also provided an opportunity to tour the Boston University School of Visual Arts with Director Lynne Allen. While art teachers are often called upon to counsel students about college programs and facilities, the Dodge Foundation is unique in providing valuable opportunities to gain insights into what specific programs universities have to offer.

Exchanges among teachers continued at the Institute of Contemporary Art, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and the Rhode Island School of Design Museum. Since many of the teachers in the network have gotten to know one another through Dodge-sponsored workshops and activities, there are always lively discussions throughout the three days. Participants return to their classrooms and studios with new ideas for growth and to sustain their artistic excellence.

Laura Cuevas (Dodge Felllow, 1994)
As with all the Dodge gatherings I have experienced, I came away with a stronger sense of and connection to the role that the visual arts and arts education play in awakening or, in some cases, reawakening the psyche. As an inner-city educator in Newark, NJ, I see on a daily basis that artists, and more importantly art education, are positive venues for change, and as teachers we are the agents of that change. We assist in the development and growth of the individual; we help connect the being to the self, their environment, their home, their community and the world at large. Through this latest experience, I was reminded of a quote by Henry David Thoreau:

It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, to affect the quality of the day – that is the highest of arts.

Perhaps that is how we begin to create sustainability.

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Group Photo at I-Park

Blue Blossoms IPark

I-Park Tunnel

Boston U Printmaking Facilities Close-up of AZ piece at RISD

Inner City Arnie Zimmerman sculp  Tiago Montepegado archi 11 09 RISD Museum

Student Artwork at BUSVA

Strangers in a new land Sculpture at I-Park


Group Photo, Dodge Visual Artist/Educator Fellows
“Blue Blossoms” at I-Park
Tunnel at I-Park
Boston University School of Visual Arts, Printmaking Facilities
Close-up: “Inner City” Exhibit at the Rhode Island School of Design Museum
Inner City” Exhibit at the Rhode Island School of Design Museum
Student artwork at Boston University School of Visual Arts
“Strangers in a New Land” at I-Park