Teaching Visual and Linguistic Literacy at SAAM

This summer, I am interning with the Education Department at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. I am especially helping with a professional development program called Summer Institutes: Teaching the Humanities through Art. It is a weeklong program that seeks to provide teachers from around the country with the tools they need to incorporate art in their social studies and English/language arts classrooms.

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Smithsonian American Art Museum. I know these photos are pretty glamorous, and that’s because I got them from the website. This is a view of one of the entrances. The sky looks pretty cool, if I do say so myself.

This program is interesting to me because it encourages both a visual and a linguistic literacy, emphasizing the parallels between the two. In my personal experience in academia, writing a good paper has been privileged above such skills as interpreting symbols in a photograph or analyzing materials and texture in a sculpture.

Kogod Courtyard, Smithsonian American Art Museum

Kogod Courtyard, Smithsonian American Art Museum. This courtyard used to be outdoor before a series of major renovations in the early 2000s. Now, it is a beautiful indoor courtyard, perfect for lunch breaks (shameless promotion). Fun fact: The patterned, wavy glass roof isn’t actually touching the original building. It was designed by architects Foster+Partners in London especially so that the weight wouldn’t compromise the building structure. It still keeps rain and snow out, though. I’m not really sure how that works, but it does.

Oftentimes, a person’s intelligence or intellectual capability are judged by the words he or she can understand and the words with which he or she chooses to express him or herself. That’s just not fair, especially today, because though we are surrounded by words, we are also surrounded by visual stimuli. Whether you are viewing a political cartoon, a crime scene, or your friends’ facial expressions, knowing how to read the visuals surrounding you is just as important as knowing how to read the words. That’s why I like this Institute, I think. It teaches teachers how to incorporate and connect visual and linguistic literacies to reach out to a variety of learners and to empower students to be curious and thoughtful about the world around them in different ways.

Lincoln Gallery, Smithsonian American Art Museum

Lincoln Gallery, Smithsonian American Art Museum. This is one of my favorite galleries in the museum. It is the Modern and Contemporary Art Gallery. It houses a wide variety of works from the late 20th Century to today: works by Nam June Paik, Alexander Calder, Tim Rollins and K.O.S., Kerry James Marshall, Sol LeWitt, Nick Cave, and so so so many more. I am loving learning about so many amazing artists and artworks.

Have a great day.

-Courtney Carter, 17