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Blog Category: Primary and secondary schools

February 27, 2017

Teaching the principles and elements of design with Artstor  (Part 2)

In our previous post I introduced our new Principles and Elements of Design resource (which you can find in Teaching Resources under Studio Art) and spoke about the elements of design; in this post, we look at the principles.

As with the series of Elements of Design image groups, each of these includes an explanatory essay with helpful links to further reading. It bears repeating here that my approach is but one of many; since an image group can be copied and then altered as needed, we thought it might serve as a valuable starting point for studio teachers.  

Once students can identify the elements of design, the next step is articulating how those elements support different principles of design. Seeing an element and being able to say how it functions in a composition requires an understanding of the principles of design.

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February 24, 2017

Teaching the principles and elements of design with Artstor (Part 1)

One of the most daunting challenges I faced teaching in a high school art program was developing a common language to articulate the principles and elements of design. Helping students hone those communication skills made critique easier but took a lot of time up front. When our faculty began to use the same terminology across the curriculum, students developed a comfort level with those terms and began using them more naturally in discussing their own work and the projects of their peers and heroes from the art world.

Long before I knew I was going to be building resources for teachers in Artstor, I was gathering images to help my own students “see and say” what they noticed in a work of art. My goal was to get them to articulate what principles were in effect and what elements supported those principles. After about ten years, I had a pretty robust image group to use for each. When I came to Artstor, I was determined to make ten functional groups of fewer than 24 images that other teachers could use to highlight specific elements or principles. I added favorites that colleagues suggested and included term definitions. Now, with Artstor’s alliance with JSTOR, I can also include further reading about teaching Art and Design. These groups can be found in Teaching Resources under Studio Art. My approach is but one of many; since an image group can be copied and then altered as needed, we thought it might serve as a valuable starting point for studio teachers.  

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October 17, 2016

Webinar: a conversation with the AP® Art History Chief Reader about student performance

Reliquary of Sainte-Foy, ca. 1000

Reliquary of Sainte-Foy, from Conques, ca. 1000, with gothic additions. Image and original data provided by Erich Lessing Culture and Fine Arts Archives/ART RESOURCE, N.Y.,

Join Heather Madar, Chief AP® Art History Reader and specialist in the Art History of the Northern Renaissance, and Artstor in a conversation  about best practices in the teaching of AP® Art History.

This year brought us a completely new exam, the first produced in accordance with the revised AP® Art History Curriculum Framework, and Heather will be looking at how students have performed, with a focus on understanding the nature of the exam, its relationship to the curriculum framework, and the scoring methodology used. The session will conclude with audience questions and the opportunity for informal discussion.

This free webinar is scheduled for Wednesday, October 26 at 6 PM EDT. Sign up now!

Advanced Placement® and AP® are trademarks registered and/or owned by the College Board, which was not involved in the production of, and does not endorse, this website.

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June 21, 2016

Portraits of artistic self: Parsing creative influence through prompted Artstor searches

Justin B. Makemson, PhD, assistant professor of art and the art education program coordinator at Belmont University in Nashville, TN, contributed this essay, part of a study of selective artistic self-identification.

Creative action is defined largely by the artist’s relationship to significant artistic others. Even the youngest of emerging artists are acutely aware of images and objects that surround their own creative explorations. To help address the social negotiations of artistic self-identification and specifically to parse the creative influence of significant artistic others, I developed a comparative visual research method for my dissertation work at Indiana University that combined the analysis of prompted Artstor Digital Library searches with an examination of student portfolios, narrative self-histories, and more traditional portraiture research methods. The purpose of my research was twofold: To better understand the events and circumstances associated with the development of students’ artistic identity and awareness/ownership of that identity; and to draw insight from the examination of a group of seven students that might be expanded to benefit the field of art education.

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May 3, 2016

A well-deserved salute to AP® Art History teachers

Each May, around the world, almost twenty five thousand students sit for the AP® Art History exam. This year’s test falls on the third of May (a date not lost on many seasoned Art History teachers). It is also quite different from the AP® exam you or your children may have taken. This time, students will be taking a test that covers a newly designed AP® Art History curriculum. This is the first year that the exam is truly global in nature.

This curriculum includes works from the European tradition that we all learned in our survey course, such as the Acropolis, but also goes beyond that to include artists from Native American tribal traditions, the rest of the Americas, and works from the Pacific, Africa, and Asia. There are now 250 key works of art or architecture that a student must know quite well in addition to those the teachers and students explore to round out the experience. For the first time, the AP® Art History exam covers something of the cultural heritage of each student in the room while providing them the chance to learn about our global artistic production.

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May 3, 2016

Case study: JSTOR Forum in the K-12 environment

Editor’s note: this post has been updated to reflect the name change from Shared Shelf to JSTOR Forum.

We invited Lisa Laughy, Web Services/Archives Assistant at St. Paul’s School’s Ohrstrom Library in Concord, New Hampshire to tell us about her experience as the first K-12 subscriber to JSTOR Forum (formerly called Shared Shelf), Artstor’s digital media management system.

When I first started looking at software for cataloging our archives photo collection back in 2010, I remember wishing I could find a solution that was just like Artstor – something that combines both a visually rich user experience with the sophistication of professional metadata standards. It took a few years, but it was as if the folks at Artstor read my mind and made my wish come true, when in the fall of 2015 our school was given the opportunity to be one of the first high schools to implement Shared Shelf.

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March 29, 2016

Teaching Global Contemporary Art in AP® Art History

Wangechi Mutu, A Little Thought for All Ya'll Who're Thinking of Beating Around the Bush

Wangechi Mutu, A Little Thought for All Ya’ll Who’re Thinking of Beating Around the Bush, 2004. Contact: Alexandra Giniger, Studio Manager, Wangechi Mutu Studio

Next week we will offer Teaching Global Contemporary Art in AP® Art History, the second in our series of occasional webinars on works of art and architecture in the AP® Art History curriculum. To help us navigate this topic, we have enlisted art historian Dr. Virginia Spivey as our guest presenter. Dr. Spivey specializes in the art of the late-20th and 21st centuries and the scholarship of teaching and learning in art history (you can read about her many achievements below).

Global Contemporary Art is represented in the curriculum framework by 27 works of art; after polling a group of AP® Art History teachers, Dr. Spivey has settled on the work of five artists: Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Mariko Mori, Wangechi Mutu, Xu Bing, and Bill Viola.

Please join us Monday, April 4th at 7PM EST for a lively discussion on these contemporary artists and the art and ideas that influence them. Register here.

— Dana Howard, Senior K-12 Relationship Manager

– – –

For more than 19 years, Dr. Virginia Spivey has taught in museum and academic settings, where she has received two university teaching awards and multiple nominations. Since 2009, she has worked independently, providing expert content and developing curricular resources for clients including Pearson-Prentice Hall and Smarthistory at the Khan Academy while teaching part time at Georgetown, the George Washington University, and the Maryland Institute College of Art. Dr. Spivey recently revised the chapter on “Art since 1950” as a contributing author to Stokstad’s Art History (forthcoming 2016) and is currently working with the National Gallery of Art to redesign their docent training curriculum in art history. Since 2014, she has been a contributing editor at AHTR, a peer-populated open educational resource and online community for art history instructors, where she served as project leader to create Art History Pedagogy and Practice, an academic e-journal slated to launch in fall 2016.

AP® and Advanced Placement® is a trademark registered and/or owned by the College Board, which was not involved in the production of, and does not endorse, this website.

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March 4, 2016

Introducing the Artstor-K-12 discussion list

Josef Albers, Hommage au Carre, 1965. The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation,© 2008 The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, Bethany, CT/Artists Rights Society, NY. Photograph by Tim Nighswander.

In the last three years, it’s been wonderful to see such a large increase in K-12 institutions using Artstor.  This provides a great opportunity to bring users together to compare notes and best practices to get the most out of the Digital Library.  We are pleased to invite you to join the new Artstor K-12 discussion list, a forum for exchanging ideas and questions about teaching with Artstor.

Share tips with your colleagues and brainstorm ways to find the perfect images for teaching in the K-12 classroom. In addition to Artstor-related topics, we welcome other helpful websites and resources.

Whether you are a seasoned teacher or just starting out, we want to hear from you! To join, simply send a blank email to We encourage you to invite your fellow instructors!

Dana Howard, Senior K-12 Relationship Manager

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February 3, 2016

Reading the Codex Mendoza

The Codex Mendoza, early 1540s

The ‘Codex Mendoza’, pt. I.; fol. 002r, early 1540s. Image and original data provided by the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford. Copyright Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.

As we built our AP® Art History Teaching Resources over the last three years, we found ourselves fascinated by some of the newly required content. Over the next year, we will offer periodic webinars on some of these works of art and architecture; the first one will be on the Colonial Americas.

The art of the Colonial Americas is represented in the curriculum framework by six distinct objects. One of these is the “Codex Mendoza,” named for the first viceroy of Mexico (1535-1550), who commissioned it c. 1542 (contributed to the Artstor Digital Library by the Bodleian Library). Intended as a gift to Charles V, the manuscript never reached the monarch.

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April 20, 2015

Drawing Connections with Artstor’s AP® Art History Teaching Resources

Kwakiutl, Transformation mask, 1917 or earlier. Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology

Kwakiutl, Transformation mask, 1917 or earlier. Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology

I continue to be amazed by the possibilities for teaching the new Advanced Placement® Art History Curriculum with Artstor. As we gather images to place in our growing AP® Art History Teaching Resources and draft the accompanying essays and links, I sometimes pause to marvel at how the curriculum interconnects. Those key works of art and architecture required for AP® Art History tell a powerful story. Along with the Digital Library’s 1.8 million images, I am seeing how having a deep reservoir of images really helps makes the large task of preparing to teach this new curriculum manageable and fun.

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