The High Museum of Art is an Atlanta staple for me. As a child it was a place I frequented with my family, which helped mold my artistic taste and encourage my artistic pursuits and obsessions. As this museum has watched me develop from a child into an adult, I too have watched it through it’s growing pains from a single building, it’s slow stretch across a plaza, an into a space twice a large, to bring us even more amazing artwork to feed our souls.
I discovered new favorites with every exhibit and even hidden treasures within images I had seen countless times. The High Museum is at least an annual visit for me, and I look forward to what I will find next every time I go.
As an art teacher I long to take my students into the city, up the winding ramp of the museum, to share actual, in front of their faces, physical works of art. Unfortunately, with a country in recession, these “frivolous extras” are no longer viewed as needed, and I am forced to come up with alternatives to museum visits. Despite this, my fellow art teacher, Morgan, and I were determined to get a group of students to a museum at some point that year.
Our initial goal was to take our advanced art classes on a museum visit before the end of the first semester. After looking into bus booking, tracking down substitutes, and administrative approval, we quickly discovered there wasn’t enough time to pull it together. Plan B was to find a way to get our art club together an upcoming weekend, which meant giving up a Saturday to chaperone students at a museum, but it was something we felt the students needed.
Our weekly art club meeting rolled around, and we excitedly presented our grand plan: We would all meet at the High Museum of Art on this particular Saturday to enjoy the surrealist creations of Salvador Dali. We were going to get these kids out of their small town bubble, into the big city, and fill their souls with art. Going into our grand presentation we were worried about the number of students we would have, how we would handle them all between the two of us, what kind of crowds we would be dealing with on a Saturday in downtown Atlanta, but it turned out we didn’t have much to worry about.
We didn’t really consider the logistics of how the students would get there. We naively assumed their parents would be more than happy and willing to drive the kids to a day of learning, to help their children expand their knowledge and cultural understanding of the world. But, many parents in our district work weekends, only have one car, have multiple children, and didn’t have the time or means to transport their child to the big city.
Our grand plan museum visit turned into a small gathering of Morgan and I, plus six seniors and one junior. As much as I wanted to have more students attend, I was okay with the small group. The kids who were truly passionate about art found their way there and we enjoyed good discussions and amazing sculpture and paintings. Because it was such a small crew, once we we were about to bust at the seams from the incredible images, we ate lunch together in Little Five Points before parting ways.
I may have sacrificed a much needed Saturday, and break from teaching, but I was able to see another side of my students, I got to see my kids outside of their school bubble, in the real world. I have to say, what I saw and heard was impressive. They were as touched by the range images, from flying cats, to deeply religious paintings, as I was. The depth of their comparisons and discussions truly surprised me. My audio tour headphones ended up around my neck, barely listened to, as I roamed through the rooms, eavesdropping, catching sentences here, and words there, my students’ impressions, which were far more interesting than a prerecorded history lesson.
Later that year Morgan and I did get the chance to take our classes to the Georgia Museum of Art, over fifty high school students flooded the halls of Lamar Dodd and the museum. But nothing beats my Saturday, with my small bunch of kids, spending a day with Dali.
- Visual journal
- Rubber cement
- Magazine images
- India ink
- Laser printed image
- Packaging tape
- Museum tour sticker
- Museum brochure
For this visual journal page I was determined to create my own surrealist image, to reference our day spent inside a surrealist’s mind. Because the actual High Museum building is such an iconic and nostalgic image for me, I made sure to include it in the page, and that was where I started. I began by lightly drawing the museum in the center of the page. Once it was drawn out, I took India ink and painted in the lines, and filled in the windows and shadows. My mom gave me a tip awhile ago, that I constantly rely on when drawing and painting buildings, if you use a ruler to make one line straight, you have to use a ruler for the entire thing. But, if all the lines are slightly off, they will come together and work as a whole. I rarely use a ruler when drawing or painting.
Once the museum building was set I moved on to my sky. I ripped up pieces of blue from magazines and glued them down. I also took pieces of yellows and oranges, and did tape transfers of them (to read how to create the semi-transparent look of a tape transfer go here) and layered them over and in between the blue strips.
From there I moved the the middle and foreground. I knew I wanted to include and image of Dali, and his iconic mustache, and I found the perfect image in one of the High Museum brochures. I cut it out and glued it down. I also wanted to include images from his artwork, and I proceeded to print image after image, do a few more tape transfers, and play around with the placement until I was satisfied. Because there were so many different images, it took awhile for me to get everything to work together. Remember, it’s better to lay everything out first, and then start gluing down to avoid ending up with an unsuccessful collage you can no longer move around.
Once everything was set I realized I didn’t have space for our group picture, which I planned on including. Everywhere I place it, it became overwhelmed by it’s surroundings. Finally, as a last resort I placed it on top of the museum building, thinking to myself, this will never work, it makes no sense, this is a ridiculous spot. But, to my surprise it was perfect. Not only did the curve of the building fit with the curve of our stance, but it tied into the surrealist image I created from the surrealist images I saw that day. As soon as I laid it down, I knew my page was complete.
Create a page about your last museum visit, even if it was ten years ago. If you have never been to an art museum, go. Consider this a double challenge to get yourself in front of actual works of art, and reflect on it in your journal. If you have absolutely no way to get to a museum, do some research, find a good online museum that peaks your interest, and explore. Find new favorites and expand your artistic knowledge!
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