Susan Dodd is an Art Teacher at Pittsfield High School in Illinois. She’s been taking her art students on city tours for a decade now. Dodd says many of her students have never been to a museum or a large city. “I want them to know there is a world outside of Pike County, Illinois,” she says.
When Dodd’s students take an art tour of a major city, the tours span three to four days and groups visit five to six museums and a few galleries. There are other fun things to do while visiting these urban areas, such as watch a theater performance or take a special tour of the city. Over the past 10 years, Dodd’s high school students have visited three major metropolitan areas: Chicago, New Orleans, and New York City, and taken in the art and culture located in these places.
Points of Interest to Artists in Chicago
Chicago is a city rich in art. It’s also within close proximity to Pittsfield High School, in Pike County, IL — so it seemed like a natural choice for an initial art tour. Dodd and her group took their first overnight art tour of Chicago in 2001. The class visited The Art Institute as well as the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio. They also saw Shedd’s Aquarium and the Sears Tower. On a later trip back to Chicago Dodd’s group added a Gangster’s Tour to their itinerary. This was a great success, and students are still talking about it today. Another high point of the student trip to Chicago was shopping on Michigan Avenue.
Chicago has a great deal to offer art students, but Dodd wanted them to see well beyond their own state.
New Orleans: A City of Colorful Art and Architecture
Dodd’s family visits New Orleans each year. With this familiarity, it was an easy decision to create an art tour of New Orleans. “I love the history of New Orleans,” says Dodd, “It is so different from other cities in the U.S. It is like being in another country except you don’t need a passport!” Dodd says New Orleans art is characterized by a variety of color sprinkled with creativity. There are many different types of art to view in New Orleans: thickly painted oils of New Orleans French Quarter houses, abstract portraits of local people, hand blown glass sculptures, personal shrine sculptures, and the world famous Blue Dog series of paintings. Some of the high points of touring New Orleans included: the jazz dinner cruise, Mardi Gras World, Destrehan Plantation, and time spent in the French Quarter.
New York City: The Art Capital of the U.S.
New York City is likely the most revered art city in the United States. So it was inevitable that Susan Dodd would want to take her class on a trip to the Big Apple to take in some of the museums, galleries, and shows there. Some highlights of the student trip to NYC included the Museum of Modern Art, where students viewed many of the paintings studied in art classes. These include: Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night, Henri Matisse’s Dance, Salvador Dali’s The Persistence of Memory and Pablo Picasso’s Girl Before the Mirror. Students also visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Cloisters and the Morgan Library and Museum, where they viewed works that spanned many historical periods. The student group also saw a Broadway production of The Lion King, and shopped on 5th Avenue.
Student Learning While Touring
Student’s educational experiences are important while touring. Before touring museums or special exhibits, Dodd prepares her students with background information about the artists. She also asks them to hunt for certain works by different artists or look for details in the work. “I give them a sheet to check off their finds,” said Dodd. “It makes them concentrate and spend a little more time in the museum,” she added. She also asks them to sketch their favorite work while they are in museums, and explain why they like the work. “This helps them with ideas when they’re back in the classroom,’ noted Dodd.
Dodd has a long list of successful former students. One of her former students is an architect in Chicago and another works for a large design company there. A female student loved their visit to New York City so much that she went back to the city to enroll in college and is now an actress employed with a touring company that is doing well. Another student is a graphic designer in Kansas City.
Dodd says the art tours she takes students on are well worth it because they add another dimension to her curriculum. In the future she may take her students back to New Orleans or even on an eco tour of Florida.