First Star Greater Washington held its third monthly meeting of the 2015-2016 academic year at The Phillips Collection, November 7th. FSGWA was ecstatic to work with the Phillips Collection and their staff again after following up on a workshop during the 2015 July Summer Immersion Program. Together with Sara Start Fund and The Phillips Collection we put together a modern art workshop that not only exposed the youth to different works of art, but helped them express their own feelings and ideas brought out by those the art.
Students arrived around 9:45 am on an overcast morning in front of the Museum. Once inside, we were was brought to a private room and enjoyed a breakfast provided by Sara Start Fund including bananas, breakfast bars, muffins, orange juice, apple juice, and coffee. Our Deloitte volunteers and Mentors were also there and checked in with the students about life and how the first quarter ended. We are fortunate to have such wonderful young professionals who continually give up their weekends to spend time with and create relationships with our young people.
Before the students commenced their guided tours though the galleries, each student received a Quick Reference Card. On one side, were pictures of three of the major works to focus on and descriptions of the works with reference to “Culture.” On the other, four main ideas on how to ‘Understand” modern art. These cards helped the youth remember important questions to ask about each work and a reference to refer to after the guided tour. We began our tours lead by curators at 10:30am.
Students walked through the museum while listening to the curator’s explanations of the works of art. The youth were encouraged to stop them and ask questions along the way. They looked at photographs by one artist who immersed herself into different subcultures of the US and provoked discussion of stereotypes. They sat in Rothko Room full of works that were made up of solid block of colors, chose one and gazed into it for 60 seconds. Afterwards when asked to express the conversation they had with the work while deeply engaged.
They continued walking around the museum, stopping to watch a video discussing the stereotypes of American prisoners and then walked down stairs through the old mansion looking at the craftsmanship that only Oil Tycoons could afford. They studied a series of works by Jacob Lawrence called the Migration Series that depicted the migration of African Americans from the rural south to the urban north between WWI and WWII.
We ended the tour entering into a room completely covered in beeswax to awaken the senses and then gathered to look at Renoir’s famous Luncheon of the Boating Party. In it the colors all seem to blend together and give a warm welcome to those peering in. Almost as if given an invitation to sit down and join the party full of laughter and cool summer breezes.
After the walking tour, we all went back to our private room to discuss what we liked and didn’t like about the art work we saw, as well as, list out our favorite work and why. Youth wrote poems, short paragraphs, and even recreated some of the works themselves on paper before sharing with the group. One person wrapped up the time spent at the Phillips by saying; “The works at the Phillips presented different views, evoked different feelings, and made us all think. Most importantly though, these works started conversations amongst us as individuals. The art brings us all together, and for that it is all beautiful.” I couldn’t say it better myself.
Lunch was catered by the Café inside the Philips and we had an assortment of gourmet sandwiches and chips. As students finished lunch they broke into small groups to review vocabulary and study with FSGWA mentors and Deloitte volunteers before the quizzes were administered. I could not be more proud of the way these young people have matured and jump right into the academic portion of each monthly meeting now.
It was truly a day to remember and we could not be more thankful to the Phillips Collection and Sara Start Fund for making it happen. We can’t wait to work with them again in July during the Summer Immersion when we are scheduling a workshop where each youth will actually make their own modern art to display.
With warmth and compassion,