This past spring, Upper School students in Dr. Mark Rabuck's (GA Class of 1986) Modern Art History class not only completed their final project with flying colors, but they also managed to create an amazing and engaging learning tool for our third grade students.
Rabuck's class, which is designed for junior and seniors, had mostly seniors this year, and when they left for Senior Projects after House Olympics he was left with only two students: Emma Caplan '19 and Diego Carrasco '19. He saw it as an opportunity for them to learn and create something special.
"Rather than having them write a traditional research essay we brainstormed ideas of making use of what they have learned to complete an appropriate final project," said Dr. Rabuck. "After kicking around a few ideas we settled on a book aimed at children. Both students really wanted to do something that could encourage younger students to think analytically about art rather than be a book of pretty pictures."
With that mission in mind, Caplan and Carrasco came up with the idea of a coloring book, cleverly entitled All the Places We Will Van Gogh, where they presented the original work of famous paintings with factual information, as well as a question about what the artist is saying, on one side and the same picture, without color, on the other side.
"Readers can then can color as the artist intended or experiment," said Rabuck. "Notice how the painting changes when you change colors."
The book is uniquely designed to inspire younger students to think about a painting and its colors. For instance, students might be asked what colors would you use to change an autumn landscape into a spring landscape.
When they completed the book, Caplan and Carrasco, along with Rabuck, presented their work to the entire third grade. To complete this project, Caplan and Carrasco researched images and artists from around the world. They also used Adobe Photoshop to remove color from the original images.
In Rabuck's course, which he designed, students examine art and architecture in the Western tradition from the Italian Renaissance through the present day. Emphasis is placed on the role of the artist in society and on the tension between tradition and innovation. The course harps on questions like, "Is it the artist's job to challenge the status quo or to express society's values? Does the artist paint for the masses, an elite patron, or for themselves?" Artists who break the mold, from Èdouard Manet to Frank Lloyd Wright to Judy Chicago, receive special attention.
"The first thing we do in art history is struggle with the definition of what art is," noted Rabuck. "Usually we reach a point where we say art is where we visually communicate a point or a feeling. Then, going from that definition we look at ways in which cultures and specific artists accomplished that goal. I'm trained to look at an art as a document—something that is important to tell us about a time. But a trained artist is going to come at art history from a different angle."
Congratulations to Emma, Diego, and Dr. Rabuck!