Portraits & Empathy

Each year, the Columbus Museum of Art and Columbus City Schools partner for ARTful Reading, an experience that connects every CCS 5th grader to the art and ideas of the CMA, in ways that promote deep thinking, literacy skills, and key creativity habits like observation, critical thinking, imagination, and collaboration.

Each year we choose an additional focus, and this year we are exploring how we might kindle empathy by applying museum learning strategies to portraits.

We will spark our ability and inclination to understand one another by slowing down, noticing, finding connections, developing many possible stories, and imagining with art other people.

Since we are not able to welcome your students for an in-person ARTful Reading visit this spring, we’ve created a video to help you spark these types of thinking in your classroom.

Tips for Use:

  • Be prepared to pause for additional thinking and sharing time. There are short pauses in the video, but extending the wait time will support deeper thinking and richer discussion.
  • The video loosely draws on CMA’s ODIP process in which students silently Observe, Describe what they notice, develop and share Interpretations, and Point to evidence. In the museum, using the ODIP process with a single work can take an average of 15 minutes – or longer depending on the group. Here is a one-page guide to using ODIP.
  • Decide based on your group whether to approach this process as a full-group discussion, turn-and-talk to neighbors, or as independent writing with limited sharing aloud. Help students share the air; for instance, ask students to take turns saying out loud just one thing they notice.
  • It is important for students to hear many observations and possible stories from other students, as it helps them notice more deeply and consider different perspectives.
  • Reasoning with evidence is a key skill promoted in CMA gallery experiences. Ask students “What makes you say that” when they float an interpretation.
  • Consider revisiting some of the artworks and prompts with the ODIP process and/or as prompts for other creative writing assignments.
  • Here are the slides if you want to revisit the art, or if you prefer to facilitate ODIP without the video.
  • The companion creativity challenge for visual art is Inspection Specs. Fifth grade teachers and art teachers should decide together how they would like to use and build on this video and the Inspections Specs challenge.

    We hope this pair of activities helps you tap into the power of slowing down with art to develop empathy and catalyze imagination.

    Let us know if you have questions, or if you have feedback to share!

    Keep imagining,

    Jen & the CMA Learning crew

    ARTful Reading is a partnership between the Columbus Museum of Art and Columbus City Schools. Support comes from the Reinberger Foundation.

    This year’s ARTful Reading is inspired by CCS’s Portrait of a Graduate pillar of developing Global Empathy, CMA’s teacher collaboration, Cultivating Creative & Civic Capacities, and the opportunities art presents as a catalyst for storytelling.

    Image credit: Abdi Roble, Boys in Pool, Columbus, July 2004. Gelatin silver print. Museum Purchase, Derby Fund

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