Exploring Creative Writing through Visual Art in the Museum

“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….

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