Great opportunities begin with great conversations. This is the case with the Student Led Tours of the Public Art Collection at UHD in April.
Dr. Susan Baker, professor of art history and a member of the UH System Art Acquisition Committee, and Rebecka Black, adjunct lecturer in Arts & Communications, put their heads together on how they could get students more engaged with the public art collection on campus.
According to Black, the Committee and UHD President Dr. Juan Sánchez Muñoz were very interested in creating a connection between the University’s campus art and its students.
“My teaching is very much focused on project-based learning and incorporating museum education practices into my art appreciation and art history classrooms,” said Black, a UHD alumna. “So, building on recent research of student-led art tours, I thought developing a student tour project for my ART1310 class would be a great way to use project-based learning to get students involved with our campus art as a way to address concerns of the UH System Art Acquisition Committee.”
There are 12 works of art featured on these tours. Each of the six tours is comprised of its own theme that connects two different works of art. Students in Black’s class chose which works of art to feature in the tours by studying the University’s Public Art Collection as well as their personal explorations on campus.
Additionally, UHD librarian Quentin Pace, visited the class and showed students additional online documents that focus on additional works on campus. Many of these works have very minimal information written about them or the artists, so Pace helped students develop research skills to find resources about these works of arts and artists.
So why student-lead tours?
“As recent research in art and museum studies suggest, students who experience art and learn about art from their peers engage with the works on a deeper and more meaningful level,” said Black. “Engaging with their peers about something in their UHD community, such as these works that they see on a daily basis, helps to create a connection between students and the University, as well as with other students through art.”
Black wanted to ensure that every student in her class participates in some capacity with this project, especially speaking in front of a group. That’s why those students who are not leading the tours are responsible for presenting the group’s final in-class presentation about their experience with this project.
“I think public speaking is an essential 21st century job skill, so I wanted to make sure everyone presents something this semester,” added Black.
In Black’s class, the tours are only one aspect of the course.
Students also learn and discuss the history of museums and museum tours; themes in art to help make connections between the works they chose; and how to look at and discuss art via the visual elements; principles of design; materials; and process. Students also are learning a renowned methodology, “Visual Thinking Strategies,” as a way to lead tours.
The Museum of Fine Arts Houston has come aboard by teaching students fundamentals from how to develop an engaging tour to providing tips and tricks on how to keep an audience interested and engaged. She also added that several students have also reached out and spoken to the artists who made works on their tour.
“Many of the students in this class have never visited an art museum before this course,” Black said. “Essentially, I’m asking them to become art experts and teach others about art in less than 15 weeks—something that takes years to do really well.
“Ultimately as an art instructor, my goal is to help students critically engage with art. By choosing the works, researching the works, talking to the artists who have made these works, and learning how to tell others about the works, I feel that students in my course are able to critically engage with art in a way that isn’t possible through in-class lectures alone.”
Black hopes that members of the UHD’s community—staff, faculty, and students—join the students for a tour to not only learn more about the art they see every day, but to “support the courage and dedication to academic success these students have shown by committing fully to thinking critically about the art around us and sharing that with UHD through this project.”
Student Led Tours Schedule
- April 12: Works by Derek Boshier, 11:30 a.m. – noon, Academic Building
- April 16: Works by Floyd Newsum & Justin Berry, 10:15 – 11 a.m., Commerce St. Building
- April 18: Works by John Biggers & Rachel Hecker, 10:15 – 11 a.m., Academic Building
- April 23: Works by Trenton Doyle Hancock & Nancy Graves, 10:15 – 11 a.m., Girard Street Building
- April 25: Works by Jacob Hashimoto & Janacki Lennie, 10:15 – 11 a.m., Shea Street Building
- April 30: Works by Margaret Garcia & Carmen Lomas Gomez, 10:15 – 11 a.m., One Main Building
The tours, featuring works in One Main, Girard Street, Shea Street and Commerce Street Buildings, are scheduled for 30 minutes per tour and is limited to 15 guests.
The student-led tours complement others presented by the UH System Public Art collection (led by Baker and professor Floyd Newsum).
For more information including start locations or to RSVP, contact Becky Black at email@example.com.