Kimbell Summer Institute for Teachers

#mwisdmatters

Another summer workshop at the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth has come and gone. I can’t say good enough things about the Education Department and this workshop at the Kimbell. I think this is the 5th or 6th Summer Institute I’ve attended and they get better every time. Lectures concentrate on the special exhibit, as do the docent led tours and studio art workshop activities.  The four days end with a sharing of lesson plans prompted by the exhibit from all the teachers in the group.

Bodhisattva
Bodhisattva, wood, Song dynasty

This year’s exhibit during the workshop was From the Lands of Asia, the Sam and Myrna Meyers Collection. An extraordinary exhibit consisting of Buddhist Sculptures, Asian Textile works and an amazing collection of Jade, which is as I understand it, the largest privately held collection of jade in the U.S. and perhaps in the world.

Jade Funerary Vest
Jade Funerary Vest, Han dynasty, 3rd – 2nd century BC, 75 x 59 cm

Connie Hatchette Barganier, the Education Manager for the Kimbell is responsible for this wonderful workshop and along with master teacher Marilyn Ivy they never fail to come up with techniques, tools and information that can be shared and implemented in my art classroom.  The group usually consists of art teachers, teachers of other subjects and just people who are art lovers.

Bi
Neolithic Bi, Sam and Myrna Meyers Collection
Meiping
Meiping, Yuan Dynasty, 14th c., 40 cm

Imagine being able to sit in the gallery and draw these items without any dirty looks from the very patient and worthy museum guards. Imagine several docent led tours stretching over the four days of the workshop, there to help you understand the exhibit and answer questions in a small group of about twenty educators. For me, it is just heaven….but I am an art teacher and I love museums. I was fascinated by the stories about how the Meyers got their first pieces of jade in a shoe box from a Philadelphia antique shop. The bought the box for a $1,000, not realizing it contained Chinese jades from the Han Dynasty to the 19th century. That’s my kind of shoe box!

The jade collection was fascinating. I certainly did not know that jade came in multitudes of colors based on its mineral content and that the color changes over time and with exposure to the elements and environment, like the decomposition gases in Chinese tombs or with the additional firing that produces the coveted “chicken-bone” white jade. It is even more astounding to learn that all of these jades are cut with abrasive materials, since the nephrite is harder than any diamond drill, so most likely with hand labor with sand or other abrasives.

Cong
Cong, jade, Neolithic period

The jade Cong were delicate and mysterious, their function and meaning unknown, carved with such care and placed in Chinese tombs. Perhaps scholars will discover their function one day.

Organized into three distinct sections, the exhibit also featured exquisite Asian costumes and textile works showcasing the all important silk and the technical virtuosity of needlework that characterized the Chinese, Japanese and Korean clothing of that day.

 

This section gave me the nudge for my lesson plan on Kumihimo, the Japanese art of braiding, which I’ll post on another blog.

To stand in these galleries is to get a sense of the enormity of time these objects represent and the depth of the Asian culture which is awe-inspiring and humbling.

In many ways, the Asian search for spiritual answers reminds me of many cultures, including our own, but it is in the depth of their ancient societal structure, their sense of belonging and honoring family and their ancestry is where I find the deepest lessons in this exhibit. These beautiful works will certainly occupy my thoughts for a long time.