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George and Leah McKenna Museum of African American Art A Guide for Teachers

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Introduction The George and Leah McKenna African American Art Museum was founded in 2003 to honor the late mother and father of Dr. Dwight L. McKenna. Natives of New Orleans and graduates of Xavier University, the McKenna’s devoted their lives to educating African American children and adults. Their devotion and commitment to the enrichment of young lives was inherited by their son. He is a well-respected physician and advocate for Black children, in particular boys and young men in the New Orleans community. Dr. McKenna discovered his passion for collecting original African-American art in the late 1970’s. His vision is to share his art collection with the Metropolitan New Orleans area and beyond. The distinct collection consists of an outstanding range of one-of-a-kind originals showcasing innovative Black artists and artisans. The museum strives to promote and celebrate the significant accomplishments of African American artists. His mission is to provide unique art exhibits and educational programs that explore the diversity of African American Art and culture. The artwork is housed in a masonry antebellum Greek revival-style building and dates back to the 19th century Civil War era. Built by Natchez Steamboat Captain Thomas Leathers for his family, it was acquired by Dr. McKenna in 1997.

African Roots of African American Art African Americans are the descendants of hundreds of different ethnic groups in West and Central Africa. Many of the Africans that were taken to the United States, Caribbean, and South America during Slavery were from distinct kingdoms in the Ivory and Gold Coast. Some of the groups included the Fon, Ewe, Akan, Yoruba, Kongo, Wolof, Fanti, Igbo, Mende, Twi, Mandinka, Mende, and Bamabara. Each of these groups had their own distinct cultures, customs, cosmology, spiritual practices, and socio-political traditions and customs. Each of these traditions was reflected in the art and aesthetic produced by these people. The art represented a myriad of styles, forms, subjects, and uses. For instance Benin was popularly known for its bronze work, whereas Gabon worked primarily in copper. The Adinkra symbol of Sankofa can be found in the ironwork of many homes throughout the United States. Many of the masks that we see in museums and homes were once used for ceremonial and religious purposes. During enslavement in the Americas, thousands of ethnic groups were forcibly intermingled, thus dismantling African American knowledge of specific African traditions, as the many cultural expressions were mixed together. During slavery, however, individuals retained knowledge and skills that were passed down through the generations.

The Creation of African American Arts Traditions Within the framework of the African Aesthetic, there was no separation between art and life…meaning African art was not created for “art’s sake.” Art was incorporated in the major functions of daily communal and urban life. Enslaved African people were often bought and sold based on their skills. These Africans were then forced to use their skills for the benefit of the slaveholders. Thus many of the homes of early Americans were built and furnished by skilled enslaved Africans. Generally, the enslaved Africans did not have the liberty to create anything for themselves. Nor did they have the resources to work with precious metals. However, at various moments throughout slavery, they used their craftiness and ingenuity to create drums, wooden figurines, and quilts for themselves. On a grander scale, African designs can be found in architecture, clothing, handcrafted furniture and quilts. Since these people were deemed as the property of someone else, their work would be credited to their owners. Although enslavement proved rather a difficult period for the creativity of Black artisans, there are instances where some early artists’ work was credited to the creator. This can be seen in the case of Scipio Moorehead who produced a 1773 ink drawing of Phyllis Wheatley which served as the cover piece for a book of poetry, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral.


George and Leah McKenna Museum of African American Art A Guide for Teachers

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Contemporary African American Art Because Black artists were not given creative liberty to produce work that reflected their history and culture, it is rather difficult to differentiate between the paintings, sculptures, or photographers of early African American artists. For any hired commissions, they necessarily had to produce work that imitated the styles and content of Euro-Americans. When Black people were the subject of most mainstream art, it was often in the form of exaggerated and degrading caricatures and stereotypical types. There are several cases where Black artists rebelled against this form of media oppression and created portraits that defied the stereotypes and presented realistic, humanistic forms of African Americans. An example of this is the Banjo Lesson, one of the works produced by Henry O. Tanner during 1893. It was revolutionary at that time because of its realistic portrayal of an African American tradition. During the 20th century, African Americans began receiving formal training and producing stylistic and ideological creativity. Influenced by PanAfricanism, womanism, Afrocentrism, and post-modernism, Black artists began asserting their authentic differences by experimenting in styles, techniques, and materials. During this era, Black artists also opened the discussion of the role of art in the Black community and the responsibilities of the artists to educate and improve the conditions of the African American community.

Who’s Who in African American Artists from New Orleans and Louisiana Arthur Paul Bedou, Born in New Orleans, LA into a large family which was poor. He received very little former education, but he was self-educated. Young Arthur’s opportunity came when Booker T. Washington, President of Tuskegee Institute of Tuskegee, Alabama was visiting New Orleans on a speaking engagement. Washington saw some of Bedou’s photographs. Immediately, Mr. Washington invited Bedou to travel with him as his official photographer. He was also a businessman and philanthropist. Clementine Hunter (1886-1988) was an ardent individualist who followed her own perceptions and interpreted life in her own unique way. Her work recaptures in and around the heart of Cane River country, specifically on Melrose plantation where she lived most of her one hundred and two years. Hunter used her art to lend dignity to her community of people: field hands, churchgoers, fisherman, and others. She did not use models or sketches. Structurally she approached her work much in the manner of an artist in a variety of early civilizations, such as Egypt and China where ground lines served as bases to stabilize figures, and in some cases, where figures were allowed to float without attaching them to environments. Featured painting in museum collection: Washerwoman Gilbert Fletcher is a professional art designer who is known for his nostalgic paintings of his New Orleans childhood. Mr. Fletcher received his B.A. from Dillard University, a M.A. in Art and Design from the Pratt Institute, and currently lives in New York City with his wife and daughter. His series Painted Voices: An Artist’s Journey Into the World of Black Writers, has been touring since 1998. Featured painting in museum collection: Red Woman Ted Ellis at a young age began to draw freehand. His life as an artist began while spending hours with a sketchbook at his mother’s kitchen table. Later in life, Ted literally began drawing on his memories of Sundays. Ted entered Dillard University on an Army ROTC scholarship and earned a chemistry degree. His acrylic depictions of baptism; jubilant choirs; and stern, old deacons in small white framed African American churches make him one of the nation’s most beloved artists. Ted works in a loose, limber style, blending folk art and Impression. Along with religious imagery, he brings to life on canvas buffalo soldiers, families toiling in farm fields, slices of small town life, and street scenes from his native New Orleans. Featured painting in museum collection: A Time to Heal Theresa Chrushoun is a local self taught New Orleans artist that expresses herself with acrylics. Featured painting in museum collection: Josephine, Nadine Wayne Fountain was born in New Orleans, LA 196. Wayne started drawing at an early age working from “How to Draw” books, mainly with portraits. Later he began working with pastels in a class with Bob Graham, a portrait painter. From 1987-1992 he attended The N.O. Academy of Fine Arts studying classical and photorealism. Wayne has and still continues with the ongoing photographic documentation of New Orleans culture since 1987. His photos include Jazz


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A Guide for Teachers

Fest, second line parades, night clubs, Mardis Gras iIndians, and local musicians. Featured paintings in the museum collection: Second Line, Jazz Funeral, Front Porch Barbershop, and Shoe Shine

Student Activities Glossary of Related Terms 1.

African Diaspora: the dispersal of African people around the world – people of African descent

2.

African Aesthetic: the perception of beauty and art in the African Diasporan community – it is also the

3.

African American Art: is a broad term describing the visual arts of the American black community.

manner of expression of people of African descent Influenced by various cultural traditions, including those of Africa, Europe, and the Americas. 4.

Collection: A group of objects or works to be seen, studied, or kept together.

5.

Contemporary Art: art produced at this present point in time or art produced since World War II.

6.

Composition: the arrangement of parts that together form a unified whole

7.

Depict: to represent in a picture

8.

Historical context: reflects the time in which something takes place or was created and how that influences how you interpret it

9.

Medium: The material used to create a work of art, (paint, clay, wood, etc)

10. Subject: the main theme of a work of art Who am I? Have students further research information on the artists listed below. They should then select an artist and enhance their knowledge and appreciation of the individual’s work. Through the study of the artist’s life, the students will also learn about the history and culture of west Africa as well as other areas of the United States. In groups of three, students should complete a poster project focusing on the life of the artist. Each poster should include pictures of the artist, a time line of events in his or her life, and illustrations of the major works and themes. ~Annie Lee ~Clementine Hunter ~Hale Woodruff ~Solomon Gavin ~Tim Hinton ~William Eduoard Scott

Pre-Visit Discussion Classroom Discussion 1.

What are elements that comprise a painting?

2.

How are paintings made?

3.

Where can paintings found?

4.

What scenes are depicted in a painting?

5.

What are the purposes of visual arts?

6.

How have the visual arts been used in the African American community?


George and Leah McKenna Museum of African American Art A Guide for Teachers

Post-Visit Lesson Plans Lesson 1 Grade Level Pre-school thru 2nd Objectives Students will be able to identify the style of an individual Louisianan artist Students will become familiar with a painting by Clementine Hunter Students will learn basic elements of art critique Time Needed 2 Class Periods Materials Needed An image of a painting by Clementine Hunter Writing utensils and paper Procedure 1.

How many different colors are used?

2.

Ask the students who or what is happening in the painting?

3.

Why does the artist use specific colors? What is she trying to invoke?

4.

What images or symbols are represented?

5.

Have students create a story based on this scene.

Lesson 2 - Drawing Grade Level 3rd thru 5th Objectives Students will be able to identify the style of an individual Louisianan artist Students will become familiar with a painting by Clementine Hunter Students will learn basic elements of art critique Time Needed 2 Class Periods Materials Needed An image of a painting by Clementine Hunter Writing utensils and paper Procedure 1.

Have students discuss the medium and style.

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2.

Discuss the title. What does it mean? What is the artist trying to say?

3.

How many different images can they find?

4.

What type of feelings does the author invoke with this picture?

5.

Using pencil and paper have students draw their own version of the image with themselves as the subject.

Lesson 3 – The Collage Grade Level 6th thru 8th Objectives Students will be able to identify works of arts as collages Students will create a collage based on the image of a famous artist Students will be able to critique the art work of other students Time Needed 10 Class Periods Materials Needed White drawing paper (for painting) 12 x 18 tag board for collage Pencil Water color paint Paint Brushes Markers Magazines and Newspapers White glue Scissors Paper towel Books of African and African American Art Procedure 1. Have students select an African or African American masterpiece to copy using collage technique. (It must be in color) 2. Have students recreate the image by drawing it on the white paper. Then students should color in the spaces using water color. 3. Allow to dry. 4. Select magazine clippings that have similar images. 5. Cut out the images that can be attached to the painting. 6. Glue the magazine images to the painting in places of choice. 7. Critique work. Examine how closely it resembles the original masterpiece.


George and Leah McKenna Museum African American Art A Guide for Teachers

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Lesson 4 – Art Interpretation and Project Creation

Grade Level 9th thru 12th Objectives Students will be able to identify works by African American artists Students will be able to interpret complex pieces of art Students will be able to create an art project plan Social Studies Initiate the lesson by sharing images of paintings from different African American artists and different regions of the United States (or you can focus primarily on the paintings of Louisiana artists). This can be done by preparing color photocopies on transparencies, using a power point, or displaying books with the images of paintings. Bring the class together and ask the following questions: 1.

What do paintings tell us about history?

2.

Does a painting say anything about the people or person who created it?

3.

Why would someone use a painting to share an idea or write a piece of history?

4.

Do we use paintings in our schools classrooms to teach history?

5.

What do we know about local artists? Have we seen paintings by local artists before?

Mathematics Initiate the lesson by telling students they have an opportunity to create their own mural. Money however, is a realistic and necessary component in completing a mural. Programs such as the Paint the Change program through Hands On New Orleans, must receive funding in order to complete many of the murals that we see around the city. In order to create a mural, people must create a design and decide on the types and quantities of materials they use. Scenario: A non-profit organization has allocated a $500 budget for a mural project to be completed at your school. In order to complete the project, the students must first complete a proposal, which includes an application, budget, and project description. Students should use Excel to develop a budget representing fund allocations for different quantities of various types of materials needed to create the mural. The final submission should include a title page, application, budget spreadsheet, and one page narrative explaining the content of the mural and why the project should be approved. Art Students should be told that they are going to be given the opportunity to create history! Allow them to brainstorm about different aspects and characteristics of the community that are important in their own lives and what they would want others to know. They should select characteristics. Once students have decided on a theme and content, they should begin to sketch images of different ideas. Have students submit their proposals and fundraise to acquire the necessary materials. Once they have raised the sufficient funds and decide on a design, students should create a mural and have a ribbon cutting ceremony.


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Resources Smithsonian Black History Teaching Resources http://www.smithsonianeducation.org/educators/resource_library/african_american_resources.html http://www.si.edu/Encyclopedia_SI/History_and_Culture/AfricanAmerican_History.htm African American Art and History Resources http://www.princetonol.com/groups/iad/lessons/middle/afri-am.htm University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill: Gale Virtual Library http://www.lib.unc.edu/art/africanamerican.html African Americans in the Visual Arts~ Long Island http://www.liunet.edu/cwis/cwp/library/aavaahp.htm Clementine Hunter Artwork http://www.gilleysgallery.com/PAGES/FOLK_ART/clementine1.html

Museum Education | Teacher's Guide  

Before a tour with a group of students, teachers have the opportunity to share information about the McKenna Museum and it's art collection....

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