I served as the Object-Based Teaching Fellow at the Ackland Art Museum in Chapel Hill, North Carolina from 2017 to 2018. My role at the museum was to research, plan, and execute lessons for undergraduate students using the objects available in the Ackland’s permanent collections or temporary installations. This ‘object-based’ approach (a form of VTS, or Visual Thinking Strategies) encourages students to utilize primary source material (art objects), hones their critical close-looking skills, and fosters connections between students’ visual observations and the historical or thematic subjects covered in their home courses. My lessons were thus inherently interdisciplinary as well as object-based: facets that apply to my methodological approach to my dissertation project as well as my teaching philosophy.
This fellowship is committed to helping audiences who might otherwise be unacquainted with museums become comfortable with approaching art objects. Some lessons were catered to a specific historical moment (such as a lesson on ancient Athenian pottery for a course on Plato’s Symposium), while others focused on broader themes connected to close looking, communication, and perspective (such as using photographic portraits to incite discussion about viewer bias for medical students).
Lessons were primarily question-and-discussion based: they often began with basic observational inquiries such as “what do you see?” (a question that encourages students to look closely and think of the formal elements of art, including line, texture, color, etc.). I utilized the students’ formal observations to extend into broader discussions of cultural, historical, or thematic context connected to the themes of their home courses. This approach allowed students to engage in rich discussion that encompassed much more than a singular art object, while simultaneously encouraging them to back up their claims via the evidence before them. Such skills are transferrable to many disciplines and fields.
TRAINING STUDENT GUIDES
From 2017-2018, I served as an instructor for the Ackland Student Guide Program: an opportunity for UNC undergraduate students to learn about the museum’s collection and to teach from original works of art. During the academic year, the Ackland Student Guides learn to teach with art objects from around the museum and develop thematic and special exhibition tours for the Chapel Hill community and beyond. In addition to Art & Art History, students come from a variety of home departments across the university (Peace, War, and Defense; Journalism; Archaeology; etc.).
As an instructor, I worked with the Ackland’s Head of University Programs and Academic Projects to develop and implement weekly lesson plans for the student guides. Lessons were primarily focused on teaching the students ‘how to teach’ as well as how to structure and give tours.
I have served as a teaching or graduate assistant for various Art History courses since the fall of 2013, including Art History 101 and the History of Art II at the University of New Mexico as well as the History of Western Art I and Introduction to Latin American Visual Culture at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. In addition to meeting course requirements, I cater my lessons to students’ interdisciplinary interests and often take my classes to nearby museums for object-based learning.