I asked my students to describe their educational experiences of attending museum field trips. “We walked around and looked at the art,” one student said. “Was there anything memorable? A work of art? An artist? A discussion?” I inquired. “I don’t really…remember.” Museum trips seem to have the same formula of looking at artwork, observing, and then “talking” about it. This traditional museum field trip is a forward discursive approach – using language to discuss a work of art.
What about the embodied experience? Olga M. Hubard states that embodied learning is relevant in art education. She recognizes that the body-mind integration is an important experience for learning, and can be a helpful tool to utilize museum spaces in a more effective manner. My undergraduate students decided to bring the museum into the classroom and practice embodied learning that entailed both discursive and non-discursive practices. Students were paired up and sat back to back from one another, holding the materials that would only be allowed in a museum – pencil and paper.
The task was for partner A to sit facing a painting in a museum and describe the contents of the image to their partner (who was faced away from the painting). Since we were not in an actual museum, I passed out prints of artworks. Partner B was required to draw the description given to them from Partner A.
Partner A who was not allowed to show Partner B until the drawing was finished. During the process, students were engaged, talking, laughing, describing, and comfortably drawing. At the end of ten minutes, students were allowed to see both the image and the drawing and a moment of “awe” and discussion was inevitable.
My students discussed the success of the activity as an embodied experience, “it was both discursive because we used language to describe an image, and it was non-discursive because we had to uses our senses to draw something that was only imagined.”
One student mentioned, “when I have gone to art museums or galleries, I remember the experience of going on a field trip, but I do not recall experiencing a work of art. From this activity, the experiencing of pairing up, drawing, and describing the piece in detail will make me never forget this painting or artist.”
CCNY Adjunct Lecturer