Monthly Mentor

Jennifer Childress (April)
Jennifer Childress is currently self-employed as a curriculum and assessment consultant in art education. She is former Associate Professor and Program Head of Art Education at The College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY, from 1998-2016. Recent projects have included in-school, after-school, and summer art programs for urban youth in the Albany area, funded by professional development and service learning grants; and run by her students.Ongoing interests have included performance assessment of higher order cognition and creativity; mitigation/mediation of poverty’s effects on learning; planning for specific cognitive skills development during art learning, making, and reflection; and near/far transfer of learning through interdisciplinary thinking and connection-making. Childress was named the 2016-17 New York State Art Educator of the Year in June 2016. Click "Go" to read full bio.

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« It’s Youth Art Month! | Main | Visual Culture - Part 2 »

March 04, 2013

Visual Culture

The second path I want to journey down is my passion for Visual Culture and how that ties into our classrooms.

Let’s kick off with a little about my passion for Visual Culture. It was probably always lurking in the background, but it came to light with beginning to pin down a topic for my MA thesis at the University of Northern Iowa in 2008. Christopher Schulte* was there pushing me to dig deep into what drove me, to find a passion for a topic. I shared a story with him about a recent article I had read titled “50 Works of Art You Should See Before You Die” and a television commercial I had seen while watching football with my family of boys. The middle of the commercial for Sprint® featuring Peyton Manning (then quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts) flashed a few second likeness to M. C. Escher’s “Relativity.” I immediately caught the likeness, but no one else did. With the wonders of DVR, I backed the commercial up and asked my three boys (husband and two sons, ages 14 and 8 at the time) if they recognized any likeness of a work of art in the commercial. They didn’t. I grabbed the laptop and pulled up Escher’s work and they could then recognize the likeness. (Go ahead, search youtube for the “Manning’s Mind” commercial. You know you want to.)

This made me wonder if I was teaching my students to recognize the subtleties in today’s world where famous works of art were being infused all around us. The moment clicked. I had found my passion … Visual Culture.

*Now Dr. Christopher Schulte is an Assistant Professor at Lamar Dodd School of Art, University of Georgia after receiving his doctorate at Penn State University. Dr. Schulte is also a 2013 Elliot Eisner Doctoral Research Award in Art Education Runner-Up.

—Ronda Sternhagen   

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