Monthly Mentor

Benjamin Tellie (September)
Each month, a different member and NAEA awardee is the guest writer for the NAEA Monthly Mentor Blog. Benjamin Tellie is an art and design educator at Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School (CESJDS) in Rockville, MD. He has served in many visual arts teaching capacities at various intuitions, and is currently a doctoral student at The George Washington University. Ben was named 2019 Eastern Region Middle Level Art Educator by NAEA. Click "GO" to read his full bio.

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« Art in the Outdoor Studio | Main | Summer Art Challenges »

July 17, 2019

Creating Connections in and out of the Art Museum

By Rachel Valsing

Greetings from Milwaukee, Wisconsin! I am just wrapping up a fantastic road trip with my family to the midwest. In our travels, we made a quick stop to the Milwaukee Art Museum. I say, “quick,” because this is a place in which you could really spend a full day appreciating the large collection of artwork and unique architectural design of the building. Unfortunately, we only had a few hours to take it all in, but during that time, I was struck by how much the variety of forms in the artwork captured my attention and continued to make an impression as we walked and biked around the city. In this post I am including a few diptych photos based on these discoveries.

The first artwork that stopped me in the museum was Two Discs by Stepan Pala. Often artwork is displayed with so much emphasis on isolating it from the environment, but in this case the piece was a means to engage its surroundings as the circles of glass were placed in front of a window and had a kaleidoscope effect on all of the straight angles surrounding it. On a walk through Lake Shore Park the next day, I found this unique framing in the design of one of the many bridges throughout the park.

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The Milwaukee Art Museum includes a piece by one of my favorite artists, Robert Gober. The suitcase in this piece lies on the gallery floor and when looking closer reveals a street grate that leads you to the installed sculpture that lies below it. This artwork felt like I was spying on someone’s dream and it kept me looking down for clues to unravel this narrative throughout the rest of the day.

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As I had mentioned the museum itself is a magnificent artwork designed by architect, Eero Saarinen. With soaring angles of steel forming a structure that is at once a bird, a ship, an airplane, and so many other possibilities, the building continues to surprise visitors with the timed movement of its giant steel “wings” at noon every day. As I joined a small crowd to see this spectacle, I also noticed a blue stripe of the highway overpass adjacent to the museum. Investigating the space under the overpass, I found there was an inherent connection and was excited to document and compare both structures.

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The excitement in making visual connections reminded me so much of the experiences that our students have when encountering a new artwork or aesthetic experience. Field trips are truly my favorite events of the school year as they are so packed with discovery and excitement. I hope you all get a chance to have some time to take an art field trip of your own this summer and surprise yourself with new connections to your making and teaching!

- RV

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