Sometime last spring, Ray Williams, the Blanton’s Director of Education was looking for a suitable thank you card to send to someone. This basic need sparked a conversation about how great it would be to have notecards with student representations of works from the museum’s collection.
Above: greeting cards featuring works from the Blanton’s collection as interpreted by students
The want of cute greeting cards drawn by students quickly evolved into something more complex: Drawing the Blanton. This is a flexible resource for teachers that includes teaching tips, artwork and artist information, ideas for extension activities and even a couple of reader’s theater scripts… for thirty artworks from the museum’s permanent collection. With Drawing the Blanton, teachers and students can pick and choose what interests them, get inspired, and unleash their creativity. In addition to all that good stuff, Drawing the Blanton gives students and teachers a way to engage with key objects from the Blanton’s collection while the second floor galleries are temporarily closed.
Above: Lafayette Maynard Dixon’s Top of the Ridge (left) and a student’s rendition (right).
I invited Dana Reyna, the stellar art teacher for Odom Elementary in AISD, to test a first draft of Drawing the Blanton. Dana has been a long-time supporter of the museum, bringing her students to visit year after year (after year). She decided to try the project with her second and third grade students.
Dana handed the completed student artwork to me in a fat manila envelope later that May. It was beyond anything I could have hoped for— drawing after drawing of beautifully executed (and heartwarming and quirky) student interpretations of Blanton artworks. The education team selected our fifteen favorites (a tough choice) and began a design process to turn them into greeting cards.
I returned the original drawings to Dana on the last day of school in June, and followed up with her this past September. Instead of giving the drawings back to the students in the rush of end of school-year madness, Dana chose to hold onto them for the first school-wide art exhibition of this current academic year.
Above left: Ray and Dana in front of Drawing the Blanton greeting card reproductions. Above right: Student drawings on display at Odom Elementary.
Ray and I journeyed to Odom recently for a special presentation at their morning assembly. Every student who participated received a certificate of participation, a reproduction of their drawing, and the fifteen whose works were selected for greeting cards received a set. The presentation was announced in advance; proud parents and family members were in attendance, taking photos of their children as they came up to the stage.
Above: Emerging artists! Odom students at their school assembly.
The students all quietly beamed with pride; I overheard one third grade boy (who drew a rendition of Portrait of a Roman Bust) telling his dad, “Look! Doesn’t my drawing look like the sculpture?” Dana later emailed me to say: “Thank you so much for coming to our school and for really changing the lives of our children… they were very proud of their artwork and their awards.”
Above: It does look just like the sculpture! We loved that the artist was kind enough to give this old Roman a new nose.
Now, don’t you just want to draw the Blanton? You don’t have to be a kid to participate, just a kid at heart. Check it out, pick a work, take a look, think a little, and get creative. If you are inclined, email a photo of your final product to firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to check out our Drawing the Blanton tumblr. We’ll post submissions there, so you can also see what others make.