Art21 Educators alumnus Alex Mendez challenges students to carefully reconsider the power of words through a playlist of nine Art21 films.

Teaching with the Power of Words

Teaching with examples of contemporary artists who use text as part of their art requires dialogue and discussion about meaning and intent. Students often don’t see words as possible materials or subject matter for art. Showing students the different ways that some artists incorporate text into their work helps them to see the possibilities of doing something similar in their own art. To help students analyze what the artists are doing, I often ask two questions: How do these artists use text in their work? What role does text play in their work? I want students to discover how words can have power in the art that they make and to find the best way to show it.

Barbara Kruger and Jenny Holzer both use text as the major inspiration and primary source material for their work. The work of these artists requires that one read the message in the context that it is displayed. Both of these artists take great care in how words are displayed and focus on the messages that are presented. Showing students works by Holzer and Kruger helps them to see how working with meaning specifically through text can play out in the making of art. Students respond to these artists’ works because they can read and understand the literal meaning of the text and at the same time enjoy the creative ways that these artists relay their messages.

Teaching with the artists in this playlist has challenged some students to think about what art can be, and it has led to careful reconsideration about the power that words have in written form, in spoken form, and in the form of art.

Read how Alex teaches with this playlist in his classroom.

by Alex MendezAugust 26, 2020 9 videos • 1:43:09 total runtime

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 her classroom.

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

All Playlists