The sudden shift to online teaching and learning over the past month has presented a significant challenge to Gallery staff and faculty collaborators in conducting class sessions centered on the exhibitions and collection objects. As faculty urgently shifted their course goals, rewrote syllabi, and quickly learned how to utilize software and pedagogical techniques needed to teach remotely, we pledged to support their work through these unforeseen transitions by finding new ways for Kenyon students to engage with artwork at the Gallery for their courses.
During the extended week of spring break, I contacted faculty with whom I had already scheduled class sessions in the Gallery to determine how to transform our plans accordingly. Our biggest concerns focused on how to create class sessions virtually that would somehow stimulate a student’s interpretation and appreciation of an art object through the lens of course content. What tools and approaches could we use to heighten modes of discernment that viewing a work of art in person incites, and that lead to critical thinking and inquiry, imaginative and creative application of newly acquired knowledge and skills in discussions about and through the art object, and that cultivate a sense of community and open discussion among students? While viewing images cannot, in many ways, approximate the experience of spending time with an actual art object among classmates, digital tools can offer different ways to provide extensive and incisive visual and textual content about artwork and exhibitions, and can even facilitate discussion and group work that is so essential to students’ learning and well-being during this time of isolation.
As we’ve learned over recent weeks, digital tools allow for flexibility in teaching, such that professors can conduct synchronous sessions or allow students to conduct course assignments independently. By working with faculty individually on particular class sessions, we have, for example, created a virtual tour of the exhibition Axis Mundo: Queer Networks in Chicano L.A. for a course on linguistic anthropology, and recorded a Q & A session between a faculty member and me about the contemporary art museum, cultural production, and capital for a cultural anthropology course. We have also provided high-quality images of past and present exhibitions and collections objects for professors in Anthropology, Drama, English, History, and Studio Art to use in their lectures and class discussions, and have created slide presentations with images and exhibition didactics for particular courses. Using images of specific pieces in Axis Mundo, I led a Studio Art class session conducted via Google Meet about strategies of dissemination in conceptual art practices. Students in an English course entitled Postmodernity and Pathology can use the Gallery’s AIDS Memorial Quilt installation as the subject of an assigned response paper using an audio-narrated slide presentation about art and activism that I created for this course, and that I also shared as a teaching resource with professors of English and Sociology.
While certain courses are extremely limited by remote teaching, virtual access to the Gallery expands possibilities for project-based work; it provides students with an opportunity to take a journey with their class, and to explore. For example, a Drama class on writing lyrics for musical theater will visit the Gallery with their professor and me to see the exhibitions and to discuss specific objects. Working with partners, each pair will choose one of the artworks as the subject of a semester-culminating, group writing project. As the Gallery continues to promote its curricular outreach efforts, departments on campus have taken notice and have also made use of the digital education resources that we have generated during this period of closure for outreach to alumni, parents, and our online community.
Curator of Academic Programs, Gund Gallery
Image: Mundo Meza, Documentation of a window display at Maxfield Bleu, West Hollywood, c. early 1980s. Photo by Mundo Meza. Courtesy of Pat Meza.