by Ann Talbott Brown,
Director of Arts Education Tennessee Arts Commission
Tennessee is home to a rich historical and cultural landscape comprised of traditional arts and skills shared from generations past. Consider the time-honored white-oak basketmaking or Native American beadwork. Tennessee’s heritage also includes current practices in new (or new to Tennessee) and evolving art forms such as Ghanaian drumming or Memphis Jookin. The Folklife Program at the Tennessee Arts Commission documents and preserves much of this work through publications such as Tradition: Tennessee Lives and Legacies and with the Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program, which encourages the survival, continued development, and proliferation of rare or endangered folk arts by pairing master artists with apprentices.
The Visual Arts Program supports and creates opportunities for artists living in Tennessee by presenting diverse and challenging exhibits of their work in the Commission’s gallery. Recently, the gallery celebrated contemporary art collected over the past 50 years produced by artists living and working in Tennessee. According to Krishna Adams, Director of Visual Arts, Craft, Media, and Design, “Contemporary art, as observed by the works on exhibit, serves as a way for artists to express how they view their current culture and issues shared personally as well as globally.” During June and through July 14, the Folklife Program will feature the Tennessee Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program in the gallery, highlighting the unique learning exchange that occurs in this type of one-on-one training while showcasing the expression of Tennessee’s culture from one generation to the next.
The concepts of synthesizing knowledge and personal experiences to artistic endeavors and then relating these artistic ideas and works with societal, cultural, and historical context are two “Foundations” of the “Connect Domain” found in the new Tennessee Fine Arts Standards, which are slated to take full effect in the 2018–19 school year. The opportunity to connect students’ own artwork to others’ artwork and place it within a “Tennessee” context is possible with resources provided by Commission programs, but also with efforts from the Tennessee State Museum. Weaving the arts into carrying out its mission to procure, preserve, exhibit, and interpret objects that relate to the social, political, economic, and cultural history of Tennessee and Tennesseans, the Museum provides exhibitions and programs for the educational and cultural enrichment of the citizens of the state. Included in this educational enrichment is providing extensive learning opportunities for children through school tours of the Museum, lesson plans, and professional development for teachers.
On June 23, the Museum and the Commission are partnering to offer a free, one-day workshop for educators on The Art of Tennessee. Jim Hoobler, Curator of Art and Architecture at the Museum, will lead an in-depth presentation on the artistic landscape of Tennessee guided by works from the state collection, including quilts, portraiture, sculpture, and pottery. Participating teachers will also attend a hands-on session led by teaching artist Cherri Coleman centered on The Tennessee Armillary Sphere Sundial: Science, Symbol, Art and Identity, which is an interdisciplinary teacher’s guide geared toward students in grades 3–6. To register for the free teacher-training workshop on June 23, visit tnmuseum.org/teachers. Spots are limited so register early.