By Ashley Lodato, Arts Education Director – Methow Arts Alliance
If you’ve ever read an essay inspired by a painting, or listened to a song prompted by a poem, or watched a dance influenced by a sculpture, then you’ve experienced ekphrasis. Ekphrasis is the practice of exploring a piece of art through the lens of a different medium, to help share the emotional content and experience of an object or piece of art with someone who has never encountered it.
Methow Valley sixth graders had the opportunity to explore ekphrastic writing in conjunction with a recent field trip to the Confluence Gallery & Art Center.
Upon arriving at the gallery, students were welcomed by Executive Director Salyna Gracie, who told them about Confluence’s mission, as well as introducing them to the current exhibit–“Tracks”–and explaining the process for getting art accepted into a show.
Sculptor and teaching artist Bruce Morrison then took over, examining four different pieces of work in the show. Bruce discussed symbolism and imagery, use of light and dark, and the concept of abstract and realistic art, using 2D and 3D examples of art in the exhibit.
The next phase of the residency gave students a chance to walk through the gallery looking at each work of art before settling on a piece that resonated with each of them. Author and teaching artist Shannon Huffman Polson then guided students in a writing exercise that involved three phases of examining the piece of art they had chosen.
Follow-up sessions in the classroom with Bruce and Shannon allowed students to create a piece of art in the “Tracks” theme, as well as to move toward editing and refining the writing samples they began in the gallery.
This art residency was brought to students by Methow Arts’ Okanogan Region Arts Education Partnership. The partnership serves more than 5,200 students and 370 teachers across Okanogan County with arts programs in classrooms in the Omak, Okanogan, Brewster, Bridgeport, Pateros, and Methow School Districts, and in the Paschal Sherman Indian School. Project sponsors include the Public School Funding Alliance, the Methow Valley Fund of the Community Foundation of North Central Washington, the Methow Valley School District, the National Endowment for the Arts, and ArtsWA.