Classroom full of Art21 Educators

Art21 relies on the hard work, trust, and support of a network of artists, filmmakers, educators, and supporters. We recently asked folks from each of these communities to talk to us about their experience with Art21 and why the work we do is important to them, to their communities, and to the world at large. Below are some highlights from their responses.


Guerrilla Girls: Kathe Kollwitz and Frida Kahlo

After 38 years of relentless activism, it was wonderful for the Guerrilla Girls to work on a film with Art21. Art21 films present a vibrant, unforgettable look at art and the ideas behind it, as expressed by artists themselves. We are honored to have our work alongside other artists who challenge the status quo and push the boundaries of what art can say and be. [Art21] films let viewers experience the world of artists up close and personal and inspire people all over the world to do their own game-changing art.


Oliver Herring

Art21 allows artists and our own voices to talk about our ideas and ideals that lead us to do what we do creatively. It helps demystify and humanize even the most inaccessible-seeming concepts and pieces of art. Art21 makes its entire ever-expanding catalog of content freely available to anyone with access to the internet and provides a tremendous range of experiences for how to be creative in this wide-open field we call art. I’ve learned so much, not just about art making, but about ways to creatively approach life just by simply listening and watching someone else do something so differently from how I would do it. 


Julie Mehretu

Art21 is an immense resource for any young artist. I grew up in the Midwest, and I know, as does anyone coming from cities that are not these coastal art centers, the value of smaller museums and collections. But many students still don’t have access to that form of education. And that’s what I think is one of the richest aspects of Art21, is the kind of depth of education and access you can have into these various practices. And that’s only going to move the whole field forward.


Carrie Hawks, Director

What’s your connection to Art21?

I first watched Art21 on a television set, and it was incredible to be so close to Laylah Ali. It felt like being included in a private conversation and a glimpse into her artistic practice. I was brimming with pride at the opportunity to direct an episode on Kameelah Janan Rasheed, an artist whom I respect.


How would you describe Art21 to a friend or family member?

Art21 offers a portal into the thinking and practice of amazing contemporary artists via documentary shorts. And it’s free!


What role does art play in your life?

Art shows that an alternative world is possible, it allows me to experience, time travel, suspend belief, imagine, play, and remains one of my favorite loves. It sustains my livelihood and never gets easy.


Adam Golfer, Director & Cinematographer

What’s your connection to Art21?

I’ve been working with Art21 since around 2017. I’m a massive fan of Art21, and it’s special to be a contributor to an organization that provides art education, which is accessible to anyone with access to the internet. Friends constantly tell me how they value the work that comes out of Art21, and the films themselves have a shelf life long after they are released, as permanent resources about contemporary art.


Do you have a favorite Art21 film or artist?

I am a big fan of An Artist Walks into a Bar, that RAVA Films directed about Aki Sasamoto. The film adopts the language of Sasamoto’s playful and idiosyncratic way of seeing to show the audience her world through her eyes. It is funny and peculiar, and I think it really does justice to her humor and curiosity in a way that pushes the boundaries of traditional documentary.


Alex Mendez, Art21 educator & public school teacher in Chicago, IL

What does being an Art21 Educator mean to you?

It means that there’s a really great support community from people from all over the place, different parts of the world, but that it almost feels like a family. We can connect to each other, we can ask each other for help, we can rely on each other for resources. The way that we think about contemporary art and teaching, and then the way that we think through that and try to make it different in each of our classrooms.


Can you complete the sentence: Art21 is___

A really powerful tool to have as an educator to help you think through contemporary art and getting students to make art relevant to who they are. I also think Art21 is a powerful experience as being part of the teacher portion, a very supportive network.


Shauna McLeod, Art21 educator & public school teacher in Winnipeg, Canada

How did you get involved with Art21 Educators?

I’ve been using Art21 for a long time in my classroom because I think it’s critically important for students to see artists as people in communities, people with families as workers, and as real people. And I think it’s really important for students to hear artists speak in their own words so they can identify with them.


What does being an Art21 Educator mean to you?

Being an Art21 Educator means that I’m in a space where a space of radical affirmation and of radical permission, it was a place where I was welcomed right away. I’m part of a lifelong learning community here and I found my people.


Can you complete the sentence: Art21 is___

Art21 is a critical starting point and an entry point into the world of contemporary art for students, for educators, for everybody.


Marquita Pool-Eckert

How did you come to Art21?

I had seen Art21’s artist profiles quite by happenstance on PBS, and I thought it was the most marvelous thing. Because I was a producer for CBS News Sunday morning, I’m very aware of what it takes to make a really satisfying artist profile. It’s quite difficult sometimes. So when I saw the broadcast, I was really quite excited about the whole thing.


Do you have a favorite Art21 film or artist? 

Whatever was the last one, that’s the one I like. I’m intrigued by the artist’s mind. Who does that? Who thinks of these things? There’s a limitless level of experimentation with materials, ideas, and concepts. It takes people out of their immediate world and into exploring things that are possible.


What I like about Art21 is to hear artists talk in their own language. I have this theory that the art, whatever the art is, is [the artist’s] first language–that’s their gift. You’re asking the artist to translate what they’re doing into some other words that the rest of us can understand.


Why do you choose to support Art21?

There’s no substitute for going to an artist’s studio. But if you have a video, you can see all the things they do. The way [Art21] videos are shot, the artists have the time to do the difficult task of explaining themselves. In some ways, a video can actually be even more intimate. No one else is doing what you’re doing. The fact that you can take this in at your own pace and time is also very helpful.


Francesca Valerio, Executive Director, Robert Lehman Foundation

The Robert Lehman Foundation is proud to have been among the first supporters of Art21. The films provide an intimate glimpse into the creative processes of the artistic visionaries of our time. Artists tell us about ourselves, our society, and the times we live in. Art21 is an important tool in the preservation of our culture for future generations.