The Teen Docents began the second day of the program by sharing collages they’d made to express their personalities. They were inspired by everything from skateboarding to the colleges that rejected them and everyone from Audrey Hepburn to Kim Kardashian.
Next, they studied the portrait of CHARLES C. HENRY by Sturtevant J. Hamblin in order to create lists of objective and subjective observations about the painting, which depicts a (subjectively) handsome firefighter in front of an (objectively) ongoing firefighting operation occurring outside a window. During the course of the conversation, the students developed sophisticated theories about the relationship of the portrait’s background to its foreground. Positing that a responsible, decorated firefighter would not sit for a portrait while a fire raged behind him, several students suggested that the view out the window was actually a view into the sitter’s past.
The third activity of the day involved another extended observation, this time of a group of works by the artist Nellie Mae Rowe. The students were asked to each write a question about the images on an index card. After spending several minutes working on answers together, they considered which questions might be answerable through research (“Was Nellie Mae Rowe African American?”) and which questions might not have concrete answers (“Why are the figures’ heads so big?” “What do the backgrounds symbolize?”).
Last on the day’s busy itinerary was a whirlwind tour of the exhibition Artist and Visionary: William Matthew Prior Revealed. The students responded to Prior’s range of styles and subjects with enthusiasm and lots of questions. The hour and a half of class flew by!