This April, the Art Ready students met as a group for three separate field trips at different cultural institutions: The Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Arts and Design, and the Kitchen.
On April 6, we saw the exhibitions “Modern Life: Edward Hopper and his Time:” and “Glenn Ligon: America” at the Whitney. We received a guided tour and discussion led by a group of trained high school docents, who were part of the Museum’s Youth Insights teen program. The docents led stimulating conversations on different art pieces in each exhibit, and positioned the two American artists in their different social and historical contexts. The Hopper paintings sparked discussions on class and gender relationships in mid-20th Century urban life. The Ligon works, most of which were more conceptual and text-based, reflected the artist’s experience as a Black male in the 1980s-today, navigating a complex racial and political climate. Students were able to spend some time exploring the Ligon show on their own after our tour, and Ligon’s work would later inspire some of the mentees’ projects for the Art Ready final exhibition.
For our second field trip on April 21, we visited the Global Africa Project at the Museum of Arts and Design during the students’ spring break. We had a guided tour followed by a hands-on art workshop in MAD’s education studio, in which students had the chance to further explore the themes of the show through making their own collages. The comprehensive exhibit featured work by over 100 artists working in Africa, Europe, Asia, the United States, and the Caribbean, and explored the influence of African culture on artwork in all media: photography, painting, fashion, and architecture and design. Our tour focused on how African diaspora artists express their often mixed identities in artwork through such elements as gesture, symbolism, and costume. We also looked at the influence of advertising and marketing, and explored our own assumptions and stereotypes of Africa before and after viewing the show. At the end of the tour, students made collages in the studio, relating to all of these themes (examples below!)
For our final trip, on April 28, we received a behind-the-scenes talk with artist mentor Micheal Paul Britto in conjunction with his upcoming performance, “This Little Word of Mine,” at the Chelsea-based alternative art and performance space The Kitchen. This performance featured Britto dressed as a preacher, and mimics a church revival. It included a choir, live video and music mixing, and a call and response atmosphere all centering around the use of the “N word” in pop culture and the media. Michael showed students the stage set and video that accompanies the performance; this video features a barrage of clips from myriad movies and TV shows with different types of characters using the “N word.” The video sparked an intense discussion about race, identity, and self-expression, drawing from students’ personal experiences. Several of the other actors in Michael’s performance joined our conversation, and also gave students insights on pursuing careers in acting and performance art. Prior to the video screening with Michael, students had a chance to look around the current gallery exhibition at the Kitchen, Shame the Devil. This show also featured artwork by Art Ready mentors Michael Paul Britto and Jessica Ann Peavy, as well as other multimedia pieces that all make use of comedic techniques to provide political commentary on such critical issues as global poverty, racial profiling, anti-terrorist paranoia, and right-wing extremism.