Art21 senior education advisor Joe Fusaro collects seven Art21 films showing artists who find ways to work in—or work for—the benefit of the great outdoors.

Teaching with the Great Outdoors

With so many places closed to the public these days, one that remains available is the great outdoors. While certain parks or public spaces have closed, others are open for everyone to get a little fresh air or exercise. In the streets outside our homes, we see our neighbors more often than we used to.

Our students have transformed areas in their homes into places that they use for learning and schoolwork each day, and increasingly educators are looking toward getting students more physically engaged, in learning outdoors as well as indoors. Featured here are seven artists who find ways to work in—or work for—the benefit of the great outdoors. Each artist finds ways to weave an individual practice with natural elements and utilizes nature to realize certain ideas.

In one film, Mark Dion takes us through the life cycle of a fallen hemlock tree, and he brings this gigantic “nurse log” to Seattle in order to create an endlessly teachable moment: Neukom Vivarium. Sarah Sze follows her sensibilities to the High Line in Manhattan for a special installation that feeds and houses the birds of New York City. Notice how her signature style—which includes using movement, angular lines, and interconnected forms—plays out in a work that serves as a functional habitat.

Whether one is looking for artists who record the majesty and history of particular places (as Rackstraw Downes and David Goldblatt have done) or seeking artists who engage with public spaces in ways that are unexpected (such as Robin Rhode), this is a collection that presents broad possibilities for learning from contemporary artists working in and with the great outdoors.

Read how Joe teaches with this playlist in his classroom.

by Joe FusaroMay 27, 2020 7 videos • 1:34:00 total runtime

Art21 Educator Erica Richard inspires letting go and incorporating spontaneity into practices through a playlist of Art21 films.

Teaching with Improvisation and Spontaneity

Most of us go through life feeling like we’re not in control; this often makes us reliant on and even addicted to forms of structure and order, for comfort. As an artist and educator, I often find it hard to notice when I default to an insistence on control. In turn, I constructed a video playlist to inspire letting go and incorporating spontaneity into one’s art practice, teaching practice, or life.

Improvisation takes all kinds of forms, from process to product to performance. In the Art21 video titled Improvisation, Sarah Sze describes spontaneity as the interesting part of the process. She says, “You can spend a lot of time conceptualizing and thinking it over, and then it’s usually in the actual making and the process where there is something spontaneous. After all that planning, you had no idea what was going to happen—and when that happens is when it’s interesting.” The artists in this playlist draw on concepts from improvisation in various ways: Oliver Herring incorporates the unexpected and playful into what he calls “TASK parties”; Abraham Cruzvillegas activates the idea of autoconstrucción into self-portraits; many artists transform ideas into performance; and Marcel Dzama and the collaborators Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg describe how improvisation is part of the evolution of their intuitive processes into final works of art.

Read how Erica teaches with this playlist in his classroom.

by Erica RichardApril 30, 2020 8 videos • 1:00:58 total runtime

Art21 Educator Ty Talbot created a playlist of films that explore notions of love and loss for his high school classroom.

Teaching with Love and Loss

“The relationship doesn’t really end; it just changes,” says Bryan Zanisnik, as he recalls his mother’s passing and the connection he still feels with her. For millennia, artists have explored notions of love and loss, and contemporary artists translate experiences of human connection through complex personal and social lenses. Exploring the emotional glue that binds the broken pieces of ourselves together, these artists investigate how intimacy and human bonds reveal the best of human nature, even in the face of heartbreak and change.

For example, in the Extended Play episode, “Rubbing/Loving,” Do Ho Suh uses performance-based visual art as an entry point to exploring place, memory, and the loving relationship forged between friends. In my classes, I use this video to inspire students to not only think more broadly about drawing and sculpture but also consider how interior, emotional spaces can be manifested in what they make. Near the end of the semester, I use this video, as well as the one featuring the Creative Growth Art Center, as a jumping-off point for a larger unit about love. In this unit, students can choose from a wide range of tasks directed toward inspiring empathy and caring. One student, Karsyn, painted a portrait of a family member facing Alzheimer’s disease; another, Eleanor, created a loving portrait of her sister while a third student tried to capture a friend’s sense of loss when her brother left home for the first time.

This playlist features several of the artists who I use as exemplars not just for making beautiful art but also for addressing love and loss through vulnerability, connection, and self-discovery. I tell my students repeatedly, “What you make is a direct manifestation of who you are.” The videos in this playlist show artists of all kinds manifesting themselves through expressions of love and loss.


Read how Ty teaches with this playlist in his classroom.

by Ty TalbotFebruary 12, 2020 10 videos • 1:34:30 total runtime

All Playlists