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Published
Mar 17 2012

Exploring Creative Writing through Visual Art in the Museum

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"Listening to works of art and participating in a conversation with them can produce exciting and shifting responses in each of us: poems, stories, self-portraits, essays, and other creative works are generated that 'talk back' to the visual stimulus." (xv)

The power of bringing together visual art and writing is something that all museum educators have likely experienced at one time or another while guiding a tour or workshop in the galleries--whether through a process of recording observations or a deeper engagement through poetry.  Writing has the ability to get students and visitors to truly "enter into" a work of art and open their imagination. While there are many excellent resources on the topic of art and writing that I use regularly (including Kathy Walsh-Piper's Image to Word, the Weisman Art Museum's Artful Writing, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art's new Looking to Write resource), I keep coming back to the Third Mind: Creative Writing through Visual Art, edited by Tanya Foster and Kristin Prevallet.

Written by a range of educators, poets, and artists, the book's chapters lay out a meaningful series of creative encounters with visual art, both within and outside the museum environment.  The chapters that have most influenced my own teaching practice are those centered around abstract and contemporary art -- an area where writing (both reflective and creative) can open new pathways to meaning, especially for viewers who might be uncomfortable with work by artists like Mark Rothko, Cy Twombly, Robert Ryman, etc.

My favorite strategy in the book comes from Gary Hawkins, who recounts an experience he leads for students with Cy Twombly's monumental Catullus at the Menil Collection....

>> READ FULL POST here at ArtMuseumTeaching.com

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Comments
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<p>Hi Mike. Thank you very much for sharing this blog post -- there is much to appreciate here.</p><p>First, I really appreciate your cross-posting between this community and your <a href="http://artmuseumteaching.com/">Art Museum Teaching forum</a>. This is a wonderful way to introduce these communities to each other as well as share thinking and content across. So nicely done! I think that this is something we should, as a group, look for more opportunities to do.</p><p>Second, what you share here and the way you share it evokes for me a powerful excitment as I imagine standing in a room of <a href="http://www.philamuseum.org/collections/permanent/85709.html">Cy Twombly's work at the PMA</a> or going down the street to the arts and social justice non-profit of <a href="http://www.spiralq.org/">Spiral Q</a> and standing in their museum of community public art projects with a group of others (youth and/or adults) and having a similar experience. A powerful way to read and experience and then write in response to another's work. So thank you for sharing this example. And if there is ever any shareable documentation of one of these experiences, we would love to learn, see, hear more about all of it too.</p><p>Third, having personally experienced an <a href="http://artmuseumteaching.com/2012/02/20/reading-murals-telling-stories/">inquiry into your practice last month at the Santa Barbara Art Museum</a>, I greatly appreciate the ways you are creating experiences for colleagues and educators to experience this kind of dynamic meaning-making in the context of thinking about implications for learning and literacy overall. Excellent work and we look forward to learning more with and from you too!</p><p>Curious too to think with you and others about how this all connects to digital literacy practices. For me it evokes a lot of the kinds of things that come up when thinking about <a href="http://digitalis.nwp.org/site-blog/connecting-connected-learning/3648">connected learning</a>, for example. And I've also think it is about the summary and quote you chose to close with here:</p><blockquote><p>Overall, <em>Third Mind</em> offers up these types of experiences with language that we can adapt to our own learning environments.&nbsp; In her contribution to this volume, poet Anne Waldman provides the necessary linkage between this creative, collaborative act of writing and William Burroughs’ concept of “the third mind,” which inspired the book’s title as well as its conceptual framework:</p><blockquote><p>“Something new, or ‘other,’ emerges from the combination that would not have come about without a solo act.” (131)</p></blockquote></blockquote><p>Curious to hear what others think too. And thanks again for this wonderful contribution,</p><p>Christina</p><p>&nbsp;</p>
<p>Ooops, it looks like my reply to your comment was a Reply to the main post instead.&nbsp; See above.</p>
<p>Thanks, Christina.&nbsp; I agree that connecting the museum ed community with "Digital Is" is very exciting.&nbsp; At the National Art Education Association, I mentioned Digital Is at my session (50-60 attendees) and it then came up in conversations throughout the conference.&nbsp; Museum educators are constantly looking for a great way to curate digital content about their own practice (which is why I created ArtMuseumTeaching.com, a static blog version of the incredible and dynamic resource that Digital Is has become/is becoming).</p> <p>I am trying to work on some way to reconnect back to Digital Is, and sharing that community with more museums.&nbsp; I know that when I mention SLAM's work with the National Writing Project to anyone (including the Philadelphia Museum of Art), they always want to know more.&nbsp; It's always important that museums get past the idea of NWP as an org for English teachers, and begin to understand it more broadly as a 'place' where educators come to grow, gain a better sense of their own practice, and work together to meet the challenges of the 21st century.</p> <p>Hope to build more bridges between these communities as we move forward.</p>