A group of faculty and students from the Department of Art at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff recently set off on a field trip to Dallas and Fort Worth for their annual museum tour.
The three-day trip took the group to several venues — the Dallas Museum of Art, the Kimble Museum, the Amon Carter Museum of American Art and Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth.
For the art department, this yearly event has become an important part of the program’s curriculum, providing students the opportunity to enrich their education by studying original artworks by acclaimed artists.
“It’s different to see the actual artwork,” said Marchello Eans, an art education major, who is used to seeing many of the pieces at the museums in digital format or as reproductions in books. After closely examining Martin Puryear’s “Ladder for Booker T. Washington”, a 22-foot long floating sculpture, he reflected, “I find the piece to be very moving and symbolic of hope.”
Beautifully crafted with undulating forms that are narrow at the top, “Ladder” exemplifies the kind of skills Puryear acquired early in his career having spent time in Africa and Scandinavia studying wood carving and furniture design. Purchased for the permanent collection of the Fort Worth Museum of Modern Art, the wooden sculpture serves as a metaphor for many of life’s challenges.
“Variations on Theme: Contemporary Art 1950s-Present” was a show stopper with painting students who saw abstract and presentational works come to life. “Seeing actual history gives us direction and helps us relate to the art as artists,” remarked Zac Ray.” A returning student and artist, Ray was particularly drawn to Andrew Wyeth’s painting of Tom Clark in “That Gentleman”, a profile portrait of an elderly African American friend and neighbor whom Wyeth rendered with meticulous precision.
At the “Posters of Paris: Toulouse-Lautrec” and “His Contemporaries” exhibit students not only got to view masterful lithography from the 19th century, but found time to indulge in some hands-on exercises as well. Participants can draw on a computer screen or create a collage by combining snippets of images by Lautrec or Chéret, then print their own posters as souvenirs.
Such experiential learning and exposure help to deepen the students’ academic experience and artistic development. It expands their knowledge, builds confidence and improves creativity.
In the words of Charles Fowler, the English architect, “The arts humanize the curriculum while affirming the interconnectedness of all forms of knowing.”