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A Visual Culture of Learning

Visual Culture of LearningStudents, faculty, and staff roaming the second-floor corridors of Longfellow may have noticed something new beyond a fresh coat of paint. As part of a collaboration between HGSE and the Harvard Art Museums (HAM), the walls have come alive with a new gallery exhibition which aims to contribute to a visual culture of learning on campus.

“The concept was born out of the idea of leveraging the main corridors of Longfellow as an interactive gallery space,” says Jason Carlson, HGSE chief of operations, who initially reached out to HAM about a collaboration.

“The artwork, while pleasing to look at, can be further explored to learn more about the school, as in the case of the Askwith posters about the forums on the first floor, or to expand your learning experience through thought provoking conversations, as in the case of the exhibition on the second floor,” Carlson says referring to the Harvard Ed Scan technology that allows smartphone users to scan the art to get additional information, participate on an online discussions, or view video of events.

Senior Lecturer Steve Seidel, director of the Arts in Education Program, eagerly got on board to help make the exhibition a reality. Together with one of his former students, Correna Cohen, Ed.M.’15 — a curatorial fellow at HAM under the Division of Academic and Public Programs (DAPP) — art works were chosen to inspire critical questions, contemplation, and reflection. The exhibition, “Exposing the Question: Teaching and Learning Using Art and Critical Inquiry,” includes eight high-quality reproductions by HAM of works from their collections.

Cohen selected the artworks based on questions about identity, social justice, and political critique—issues that are often discussed at HGSE. “My hope is that people looking at the show will think about asking questions and think about how to use artwork in teaching,” she says.

Among the eight pieces are a traditional Chinese Scholar Rock and a more modern sculpture created 200 to 400 years apart. Cohen found these especially inspiring in how they explore history in different ways, how art has changed, and how art opens the mind.

Ultimately, the exhibition’s intent is less about the artwork and more about the specific set of questions that arise. “Different artworks have internal questions they provoke,” Cohen says.

Next to each work is a brief description of the piece as well as some questions that encourage viewers to intellectually explore certain topics and to take a critical perspective. The questions and answers can be shared with other viewers at etherpad.net/p/exposingthequestion.

Cohen hopes that HGSE students and staff will make larger connections through the artwork, and also check out the original pieces on view currently in the museum.

The gallery exhibition, which officially opened last Monday to kick off Teaching and Learning Week, will remain on display through the semester.

Matt Miller, associate dean for teaching and learning, notes that the exhibition is a natural fit for HGSE and the recently concluded Teaching and Learning Week. “At the Ed School, we think a lot about how to make learning a visible and social activity, and also that learning is fundamentally experiential. We can use our space to learn together,” Miller says. “We’ve seen a number of changes to our school building and what’s on the walls matter. When you come to our space, the walls come alive here.”