Look Who’s Coming to Dinner

Last summer, I had the opportunity to attend an intensive curriculum writing conference at Kutztown University in Pennsylvania.  The University collaborated with Penn State and the Brooklyn Museum of Art to present a conference designed to enable teachers to utilize artwork as a teaching tool to raise cultural awareness, historical references, and social change.  During that week, I worked with others from a variety of roles in education and museums. To complete the week, we took a trip into New York City to the Brooklyn Museum of Art where we meet Judy Chicago. Chicago is an artist that has devoted her life’s art work to promoting social change.

The Dinner Party is a large table installation designed by Judy Chicago, but completed by hundreds of volunteers. The artist’s concept is a triangular table, 48 feet on each side, that has thirty-nine place settings for women in history that have not been properly recognized. Each place setting is designed to recognize the woman’s contribution to the history of the Western world by using art forms such as china painting, ceramics, and needlework that have always been considered an idle craft. On the interior space of the triangle, there are 999 other women’s names written. The Dinner Party is now permanently housed in the Brooklyn Museum of Art.

Dinner Party - Art 1I incorporated the study of The Dinner Party in my sixth grade curriculum. The dinner table is broken into three time frames covering the history of creation through the 20th century. Students decided which area of history they would be most interested in and chose a name on which to base their artwork. Students used the iPads in the art room to collect information on the historical figure they chose. The colors, designs, and materials they discovered went in creating their illuminated manuscript, clay sculpture, and weaving.  Each art student in sixth grade will generate a QR code for the art show that will take you to the iMovie they created.

Dinner Party - Art 2The techniques and mediums I am using in the sixth grade have generated a new level of excitement both visually and in the sophistication of their finished products. The students’ research and collaboration connected their findings to pervious classroom studies, technology, art history and appreciation. While using art forms as a creative expression, they also created and found that art can be a powerful tool for teaching and reaching an audience in unique ways. Their artwork is so outstanding that I will be submitting my curriculum for two education awards utilizing The Dinner Party in the classroom.

Please plan on joining us for this year’s It’s Art…It’ Elementary Art Show April 21-24, 2014, at the Lower School Campus.  Come see what we have done!

Nancy Gavrish
Lower School Art Teacher
Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy

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