The Middle School students took a field trip to the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia as an extension of their art studies. They went to view an important exhibit, 30 Americans, as part of our “Art in America” theme for the year.
The Foundation hosts the collection of Philadelphia art collector Albert C. Barnes (1872–1951) who chartered the Barnes Foundation in 1922 to teach people from all walks of life how to look at art. Over three decades, he collected some of the world’s most important impressionist, post-impressionist, and modern paintings, including works by Renoir, Cézanne, Matisse, and Picasso. He displayed them alongside African masks, native American jewelry, Greek antiquities, and decorative metalwork. Dr. Barnes believed passionately that art—like people—should not be segregated. Known as the Barnes Method – he emphasized close looking, critical thinking, and prolonged engagement with original works of art.
The students had the opportunity to view the visiting exhibition, 30 Americans, a collection of art by some of the most important contemporary African-American artists, most of them still working today. This exhibit connects to the students’ current International Baccalaureate art unit on Contemporary African-American Artists, in which the students are pondering the question, “Can art effectively address the issues faced by the African-American community today?”.
While at the Foundation, the students worked with docent Jihan Thomas to practice the Barnes Method of “close looking” at art. They shared their observations and explored the messages the artists were trying to convey through the subject, lines, color choices, composition, and other aspects of the art they created. In the 30 Americans exhibition they focused in on work by three artists -Kehinde Wiley, Nick Cave, and Jean-Michel Basquiat – whom they are studying in their art unit now.
A wonderful day of art immersion was capped off with a treat–a trip to Panera Bread for lunch. The students enjoyed being able to eat out at a restaurant together and it was also an opportunity for using the practical life skill of budgeting and handling money.