Exhibitions

Curriculum Resource for Intersections: World Arts, Local Lives

Intersections_CRU_0This curriculum resource unit is conceived as a paradigm for approaching world arts and cultures in K-12 classrooms. In keeping with the conceptual framework of Intersections, this study presents a curricular approach based on how art works for individuals rather than one based on geography or historical chronology.

Thematic units follow the interpretive framework of the exhibition, therefore, and are presented within the rubric of Art and ActionArt and KnowledgeArt and Power, and Art and Transformation. Each unit begins with a Unit Overview and teachers are advised to begin their respective unit or lesson with this more general introduction.

Lessons encourage active learning, analytical thinking, cross-disciplinary and crosscultural comparisons, and visual and cultural literacy. The teaching suggestions introduce these methodologies, and lessons explore selected individual objects with broader humanities comparisons.

The Exhibition

Intersections: World Arts, Local Lives explores the roles that art plays in creating meaning and defining purpose for people around the globe. Art is not only a reflection of culture but can actively shape thought and experience. The objects on display have all intervened in the lives of those who made or used them—whether to educate, solve problems, assert leadership, assist in remembering, or provision loved ones in the afterlife. This exhibition offers a glimpse into the local histories and contexts of these objects and the stories and performances that surround them.

The objects featured in the exhibition are primarily from Africa, Asia, the Pacific, and the Americas, and they range in date from the third millennium B.C.E. to contemporary times. They were selected from the Fowler Museum’s extensive holdings of world arts on the basis of their exceptional artistic merit, as well as the many ways in which they conceptually intersect with each other. Major sections of the exhibition consider how arts from diverse cultures have served as vehicles of action, knowledge, power, and transformation.

While the aesthetic qualities of the objects and the contexts of their use have enabled these works to elicit wonder, impart wisdom, and tangibly affect the lives of people, it is important to remember that societies are not static. Encounters with other peoples and new ideas ensure that artistic traditions remain vital and relevant. Intersections presents enduring traditions while also bringing attention to the dynamism and brilliance of world arts as they respond to a constantly changing world. It is organized into four galleries as follows:

Art and Action communicates the central idea that an object’s appearance and power are intricately intertwined. Among the many objects displayed here is a compelling power figure (nkisi nkondi) dating from the eighteenth to nineteenth centuries from the Yombe peoples of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and a finely beaded crown by contemporary artist José Rodriguez. A changing selection of handmade Asian-Pacific textiles explores how the impressive appearance of cloth serves in a wide range of cultural interactions. The association between handmade textiles and ritual is so strong that textiles are often regarded as a part of customary law or tradition. An array of objects—including headrests from east and southern Africa, flower baskets from Japan, and domestic implements and furnishings from around the world—demonstrate how artistry and aesthetic excellence infuse even everyday objects with meaning and power.

Art and Knowledge presents works that convey knowledge and communicate history. Such objects have long been used to evoke proverbial wisdom, to impart esoteric teachings, to celebrate family genealogies, or to express moral values. The motifs found on expertly painted vessels of the Moche of Peru tell us about the practices and lives of historic peoples who left no written records. Peoples throughout the world have devised complex and useful visual systems for recording and transmitting their traditions and beliefs. Each work selected for display played a part in activating memory or cosmology for critically important social situations and for ensuring cultural continuity. In theater contexts in Southeast Asia, puppets perform sacred stories, educating and entertaining youth and adults with portrayals of the great epics of Asia. Additionally, styles of dress and adornment on display here convey aspects of personal and cultural identity.

In many cultures, art plays an integral role in defining and asserting power. The works presented in Art and Power have been used to declare political authority, negotiate gender relationships, or express status and prestige. In this section are featured a large, awe-inspiring nineteenth-century carved wooden royal mask (one of only a dozen known to exist) from the Bamileke peoples, along with other examples of intricately carved chiefs’ stools and headdresses, beaded gourds, figures, and masks from the Cameroon Grassfields kingdoms. Also on view are masks and headdresses made by native peoples from the Pacific Northwest, and a large display of jewelry and other prestige objects from around the world.

A final gallery, Art and Transformation, explores works of art that play a critical role in facilitating transformations. Here a selection of retablos from Mexico, a priest’s staff from Indonesia, power figures from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Japanese ema plaques show how objects are used to connect with the divine and to structure devotion both individually and communally. In most of the cultures presented here, death is viewed as a transition to the next world, and the art on display, such as the contemporary Mexican tree of life honoring the dead, is often integral to this final transformation. A final grouping of contemporary works demonstrates that art can be a powerful vehicle for facilitating and celebrating change, and exemplifies the vitality of changing visual traditions. These arenas of contemporary artistic expression and practice are continuations of and departures from the past and they make critical and often poignant commentaries on the present.

The Fowler Museum's Collection

The Fowler’s collections comprise more than 150,000 works of art and material culture and 600,000 archaeological objects, which together represent past and present cultures from Africa, Native and Latin America, Asia and the Pacific. More than 30,000 of these were gifted to the Museum in 1965 and were part of a collection of over one million objects assembled early in the last century by Sir Henry Wellcome. This important collection forms the core of the Fowler’s African and Pacific holdings, and is the source of approximately one-third of the objects exhibited in Intersections. Since the Wellcome bequest, the Fowler’s collections have continued to grow and develop through gifts, selective purchases, and field acquisitions. They are now considered to be among the most important collections of non-Western arts in the world.

The Curriculum

How is this resource organized?

In keeping with the conceptual framework of Intersections, this study presents a curricular approach based on how art works for individuals rather than one based on geography or historical chronology. Thematic units follow the interpretive framework of the exhibition, therefore, and are presented within the rubric of

Lessons encourage active learning, analytical thinking, cross-disciplinary and cross-cultural comparisons, and visual and cultural literacy. The teaching suggestions introduce these methodologies, and lessons explore selected individual objects with broader humanities comparisons. As teachers adapt these lessons for their own classrooms they are encouraged to strive for these outcomes:

  • Through active learning activities, it is hoped that students will begin to think more critically about their world and see how the arts can intervene in individuals’ notion of self and the other.
  • As students explore the relationships of the arts with action, knowledge, and power, and transformation, they will come to understand that the arts play active roles in people’s lives.
  • Through a study of diverse world arts, students will demonstrate a respect for difference, as well as to become aware of certain commonalities cultures share.
  • Students explore artistic and cultural expressions of their own diverse societies and will come to approach the world with an increased sense of empathy and understanding.
  • As students work directly with words of art and artists’ perspectives, they will become more conversant with reading those words and expressing their reactions and impressions through oral, written, and creative expression.
  • As students explore the histories and identities of featured artists, they gain a greater understanding of their important roles as explorers, visionaries, and agents of change.

What are some key underlying ideas that inform this study?

Certain themes are interlaced throughout the lessons and can be introduced as you commence your students’ exploration of world arts:

  • Efficacy. Works of art are efficacious—that is they can play active roles in peoples’ lives. Their outward appearance contributes to their ability to work, that is, their capacity to act.

  • Beauty and purpose. Even the humblest of objects may be embellished and enhanced in ways that elevate everyday work and imbue it with special significance and value. For example, a chair may be used for sitting buy may also serve as an emblem of authority. Similarly, a headrest may be used as a pillow, while a the same time facilitating communication with the ancestors through dreams. An object may fulfill several roles at once and have multiple layers of meaning and significance.

  • The artist is a key cultural actor in society. The makers of these works of art were pioneers and explorers, important members of their societies who pushed the boundaries of the knowable world with their creations. In doing so they produced channels through which humans could mediate myriad relationships, both earthly and divine.

  • Objects can reveal a range of encounters that have defined their lives and histories. Differing belief systems, historical and cultural influences, and the movements of people and ideas can shape a work’s form and iconography. These encounters remind us of the ways artistic production in global cultures is constantly evolving and responding to contemporary realities.

How can these materials be used?

This curriculum resource unit is conceived as a paradigm for approaching world arts and cultures in K-12 classrooms. Lessons may structure a year-long course of studies in the arts and/or individual lessons may be pulled out for more singular studies. Each unit begins with a Unit Overview and teachers are advised to begin their respective unit or lesson with this more general introduction. In all cases, teachers are encouraged to combine their classroom studies with class visits to the Intersections exhibition, and to view the works at the Fowler Museum at UCLA as they plan their curriculum. Teachers should feel free to amend and modify lessons as appropriate to their students’ needs and interests. Images of works intended for students’ use are formatted and identified as Handouts and all works in the exhibition are included in the accompanying Power Point presentation. In addition, works featured in the exhibition can be viewed online on the museum’s website (http://collections.fowler.ucla.edu). Teachers may search by keywords, exhibition section, and provenance.

Education

How do lessons correlate with national and California state frameworks and teaching standards and the Open Court Reading Program?

All lessons correlate with the National Standards for History and with the California State Frameworks for History and Social Sciences, Visual and Performing Art, and Language Arts. In addition correlations are indicated for the Open Court reading program of LAUSD. The matrices that follow may be used as a guide to these curricular connections.

Lessons in this resource unit will broaden the approach to the thematic learning units of the Open Court reading program. They will enrich the units and give added perspective to the stated concepts with a consideration of the rich world arts and cultures addressed.

Following are a listing of correlations suggested by some selected units in Grades 2–6. Although only a sampling of the Intersections lessons are listed for each Open Court theme, they will stimulate creative approaches and you will undoubtedly find more.

Open Court. Grade 2. Theme: Sharing Stories

Unit 1: Art and Action

Unit 2: Art and Knowledge

Unit 3: Art and Power

Unit 4: Art and Transformation

Open Court. Grade 2. Theme: Our Country and its People

Unit 2: Art and Knowledge

Unit 3: Art and Power

Unit 4: Art and Transformation

Open Court. Grade 3. Theme: Friendship

Unit 3: Art and Power

Open Court. Grade 3. Theme: Storytelling

Unit 1: Art and Action

Unit 2: Art and Knowledge

Unit 3: Art and Power

Unit 4: Art and Transformation

Open Court. Grade 4. Theme: Risks and Consequences

Unit 2: Art and Knowledge

Unit 4: Art and Transformation

Open Court. Grade 4. Theme: Communication

Unit 2: Art and Knowledge

Unit 3: Art and Power

Unit 4: Art and Transformation

Open Court. Grade 5. Theme: Cooperation and Competition

Unit 2: Art and Knowledge

Unit 3: Art and Power

Unit 4: Art and Transformation

Open Court. Grade 5. Theme: Heritage

Unit 1: Art and Action

Unit 2: Art and Knowledge

Unit 3: Art and Power

Unit 4: Art and Transformation

Open Court. Grade 6. Theme: Uncovering the Past

Unit 2: Art and Knowledge

Open Court. Grade 6. Theme: Ecology

Unit 1: Art and Action

Unit 2: Art and Knowledge

Unit 3: Art and Power

Table of Contents

Unit 1: Art and Action

Intersections_Unit1This unit is part of the curricular materials developed to accompany the exhibition Intersections: World Arts, Local Lives. It is based on works in the first section of the exhibition called Art and Action. In this gallery works are introduced that served to make things happen.

Four lessons explore works of art that inspired awe and imparted a sense of wonder, they also facilitated devotion, imparted wisdom, conferred prestige, carried out litigation, mediated with the spirit world, and/or defined social relationships.

 

Unit 2: Art and Knowledge

Unit2_Intersections_cover_0This unit is part of the curricular materials developed to accompany the exhibition Intersections: World Arts, Local Lives. It is based on works in the first section of the exhibition called Art and Knowledge.

Seven lessons explore works of art that convey knowledge and communicate history. Such objects have long been used to evoke proverbial wisdom, to impart esoteric teachings, to celebrate family genealogies, or to express moral values.

 

Unit 3: Art and Power

Unit3_cover_Intersections_0This unit is part of the curricular materials developed to accompany the exhibition Intersections: World Arts, Local Lives. It is based on works in the first section of the exhibition called Art and Power.

Sevent lessons explore works that have been used to declare political authority, negotiate gender relationships, or express status and prestige.

 

Unit 4: Art and Transformation

Intersections_Unit4_Cover_0This unit is part of the curricular materials developed to accompany the exhibition Intersections: World Arts, Local Lives. It is based on works in the first section of the exhibition called Art and Transformation.

Seven lessons explore works of art that play a critical role in facilitating transformations.

Acknowledgements

The Intersections curriculum was developed under the auspices of the education department of the Fowler Museum and written by Lyn Avins and Betsy D. Quick.

The exhibition and related resources were made possible through the generosity of the following donors:
VISIONARIES: National Endowment for the Humanities, The Getty Foundation;
BENEFACTORS: The Ahmanson Foundation, Barbara and Joseph Goldberg;
PATRONS: Patricia B. Altman, Ralph M. Parsons Foundation;
SUPPORTERS: Margit and Lloyd Cotsen, Jay and Deborah Last, National Endowment for the Arts, Shirley and Ralph Shapiro

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