In a research project, few years ago, I accompanied a group of children to a beach. The children played in the fine sand and shallow water. Some of the teachers took pictures and I later selected photos to show to the children later in order to help them recall their experiences. The plan was to motivate the children to paint. For that purpose examples from a Norwegian painter Frans Widerberg were to be used as inspiration, however, while I was looking through an museum catalogue for Widerberg’s exhibition the children had recently visited, I saw extraordinary resemblance between the photos and the paintings. The motives as well as compositions were identical! I was amazed! When the paintings and the photos were shown to the children one after another on a big screen, it seemed like Widerberg painted the children that day – as if he was on the beach with us (see some of the paintings here: https://www.artsy.net/show/kunstverket-galleri-frans-widerberg ). The children’s experiences of the real world merged with their art experiences. This was magic! The children could instantly sense that art can mean something to them. They experienced that art can talk directly to them and were motivated to explore their own ways of expressing through this this wordless language. Additionally, their own experiences suddenly seemed more important to themselves … since thy seemed to be important to a painter who put them on canvas in powerful colors.
https://www.artsy.net/artist/edvard-munch ). The students spent a day of drawing on the beach – just like that, without any introduction to Munch, however I had first told them about the project with children and Widerberg’s painting. I wanted them to experience the place with their own senses first. The drawing assignment was a form of slowing time, allowing focused attention, dwelling and engagement of senses. Their interest for Munch paintings evolved from the fact that they literally walked in Munch’s footsteps. Their feet touched the same sandy ground… though 100 years later. The new experience – the one from art – could resonate their own multisensory embodied experiences. The past and present experiences could meet in personal, emotionally loaded insights, meaningful because they concerned them, and were not only a piece of art history to be memorized.
Munch's summer house in Åsgårdstrand
Robinson, K. (2016). Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That's Transforming Education. New York: Penguin Books.