The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery. ~Mark Van Doren
Palettes are highly useful tools--whether for a painter or graphic designer as well as cargo distributors, interior decorators, or anyone choosing to put on make-up. For an artist, a palette is a structure for color choice making and mixing up those color choices that deepen engagement towards a unique outcome, whether a physical object or understanding. A Form+Theme+Context (FTC)™ Palette is a graphic organizer that helps chart one’s critical and creative experience by uncovering discipline-specific criteria in art. This balanced approach includes identifying visual evidence through formal qualities, exploring relationships embedded in thematic qualities, and discerning significance and relevance rooted in contextual qualities.
At Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, a balanced approach using Form+Theme+Context (FTC) has become the beginning point of all curriculum development and educational research--FTC is used to train gallery guides, school tour guides and employees. FTC is used as a museum education tool where 160 works of art have been identified as “education core,” for which each has a created FTC document.
At this year’s Arkansas Museum Association conference for all state museums hosted at Crystal Bridges, Director of Education and Exhibitions Niki Stewart demonstrated use of the FTC Palette with a work of art, Rosie the Riveter by Norman Rockwell. Niki presented how exploring formal, thematic and contextual information contributes to a greater viewer experience.
To demonstrate how non-art museums could utilize FTC, Interpretation Manager Aaron Jones shared his adaptation of the FTC Palette for Crystal Bridges' “Living Collection.” Focusing on Dogwoods, FTC was applied to trees, shrubs, plants, and wildlife. A single-page FTC Palette on the Dogwoods has been implemented with Trail Guides; the back of the page showcases the species of plant, its blooms, fruit, leaves, bark, etc. as well as different stages of development and seasons. Aaron says that plans are in the works to include Natural Features (such as Crystal Spring), Architecture (specific buildings and engineering features seen on the architecture tour) and historic landmarks (important site locations with evidence of the Civil War and the Trail of Tears). To view these Crystal Bridges’ FTC Palettes that explore art and nature, click here
Easily applied to lesson planning, diverse subject areas, and other phenomena, FTC Palettes can be customized to demonstrate different ways of decoding and encoding information, such as how to view/know a work of art. My next blog entry will focus on using FTC Palette to decode a museum itself as a work of art.