You will find an example of a lesson wherein fifth-grade students actually
interviewed an artist online. The artist then responded. From the online
interview the students created a collaboratively written article that was
published in the NTIEVA newsletter and on the NTIEVA website.
A word of caution: students should not strike out on their own to interview
an artist. It is incumbent upon the teacher to contact the artist first and
set up parameters for the online or snail mail connection.
It has been my experience, however, that most artists are willing to provide
some sort of response to student inquiry if you (the teacher) contact them
and ask. One teacher friend recently contacted an internationally syndicated
cartoonist who not only provided responses to student questions but sent the
class an autographed cartoon.
Recently I was researching the African American artist Alan Rohan Crite
("Parade on Hammond Street") and could not locate much historical information
about him. Even the Phillips Collection, the museum that owns this work, did
not have background information about the art or artist. I located Mr. Crite
via the Internet and contacted him via snail mail. Within a month he had
written a very nice letter to me explaining the context and content of the
painting as well as providing some personal history and further inviting me
to his upcoming art exhibitions. What a treat to have the artist's own words
about a painting that was created in the 1930s. It gave me a renewed
interest in the work, the time period, and the artist.
I encourage you to seek out artists in your community or elsewhere for your
students to interview. You don't necessarily need to have one artist per
child, nor do the artists need to be famous. As with the online interview,
the entire class can decide significant questions and interview the same
artist. Or, how about interviewing other art professionals such as museum
educators, art critics, curators, or historians? The benefits of
communicating with art professionals makes a profound difference in the ways
students perceive art-making.
Good luck with your assignment.
Regards from North Texas,
North Texas Institute for Educators on the Visual Arts
University of North Texas
Denton, Texas 76023-5100