The visual arts and all that jazzBy Theresa Carson
What do you get when you combine 1,300 eager grade school students, talented teachers, a generous art museum and a dash of Wynton Marsaliss music for inspiration? The artwork for this years culminating event of The David and Alfred Smart Museum of Arts MusArts program.
The festivities, which took place Saturday, March 13, in Ida Noyes Hall, included a concert by musicians Ernest Dawkins, Dushun Mosley, Taalib-Din Ziyad and Malachi Favorsmembers of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musiciansas well as an awards ceremony that honored the work of middle school students who participated in the program.
In its fifth year, MusArts encourages sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders to take an interest in art and develops that interest through music. The Smart Museum provided audiocassettes of a wide range of musical examples that fit this years jazz theme. During the course of MusArts 99, students listened to pieces by Jelly Roll Morton, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Stan Getz, Machito, Miles Davis and Sun Ra.
The museum staff developed a historical background on the development of jazz, gathered examples of artworks that illustrate similarities between visual arts and music, and arranged for members of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians to teach students about the depth of jazz music and its evolution.
As part of the program, students visited the Smart Museum to see firsthand how artists use visual elements to communicate ideas. In previous years, students have studied blues and world music.
At the March 13 event, the work of 483 students was displayed on easels and in books. These works were produced while the students listened to a recording of Marsaliss music. Later, the artwork was judged by arts educators, visual artists and local musicians. Award recipients received art supplies that will help them further their interest in the visual arts.
Mary Ellen Ziegler, a fine arts teacher at Murray Language Academy and an educator who took part in the program, said the resource materials and the expertise provided by the Smart Museum enriches her students curriculum. For me to do this (research) would be next to impossible. We wouldnt have the depth that (this program) brings, Ziegler said.
This year, 42 classes in 10 Chicago South Side public schools took part in the program. MusArts is funded by the Polk Bros. Foundation. For more information about Smart Museums educational programs, call (773) 702-4540.