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Blog Category: Teaching

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 30, 2016

STEM to STEAM: The Anatomy of Design

We are introducing a new resource featuring more than 75 images on the topic of biomimicry. Find it in the Artstor Digital Library’s Teaching Resources area: Teaching Resources > Case Studies > STEM to STEAM > Stem to Steam: The Anatomy of Design

Title: Flying Man, Model of Leonardo's Invention; Image ID: SCAL

After Leonardo da Vinci; original design: c. 1488; Museo nazionale della scienza e della tecnica “Leonardo da Vinci”. Image and original data provided by (c) 2006, SCALA, Florence/ART RESOURCE, N.Y.;;

Throughout history we have looked to nature to define and devise systems of design. Leonardo’s Vitruvian Man embodies the dominance of the concept of anthropomorphic balance during the Renaissance. The perfect proportions of man are contained within the ideal geometric shapes of the square and the circle, as if the artist had given graphic proof to the metaphysical declaration of the Greek philosopher Protagoras: man is the measure of all things. Consider our units of measurement, such as the foot and the cubit (from the Latin for forearm) established by the ancients, the braccio (Italian for arm), the pouce (French for thumb, meaning inch), whereby mathematical ratios in architecture were based on the proportions of the human figure.

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June 30, 2016

Announcing Artstor’s LibGuides

Love LibGuides? We do too. We’re thrilled to announce our new LibGuides aimed at helping students, faculty, and even librarians get started–or become experts–using the Artstor Digital Library. View them on our home page at, and please feel free to reuse them as you see fit; you have our permission!

Our faculty guide covers everything faculty need to know about presenting and teaching with Artstor Digital Library–from giving presentations using the tools within the database to sources for information about using primary source materials in the classroom. Also included are tips for faculty looking to support their students’ research habits, including links to the Library of Congress’ page on citing images, and in-resource tools like the citation generator and image download features.

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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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April 14, 2016

Enhancing visual acuity in medical education through the arts

By Joseph Costello, Medical Librarian, Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine

Head of Laocoon, c. 100. Foto Reali Archive, National Gallery of Art, Department of Image Collections.

Head of Laocoon, c. 100. Foto Reali Archive, National Gallery of Art, Department of Image Collections.

Prompt: Imagine the human expression of anguish. An amalgamation of stories, artwork, and social interactions blend together and you have your general concept of the human expression: anguish. The concept of anguish is correct to you since it is, after all, your portrayal; the anguish concept is a component in the overall conceptual framework you have constructed to assess emotional expressions. How accurate are you? In other words, how accurate are your visual detection skills of anguish or other emotions, how generalizable?

Accurate interpretation of facial expressions—the aggregate of minute facial movements we make, i.e. micro expressions—is believed to be associated with increased emotional intelligence. Researchers have shown that facial expressions can be generalized and successfully be a part of empathy training. Similarly, modern medicine generalizes the human body to find the distribution of values which in turn help generate a normal range.

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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

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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 22, 2016

Artstor & STEM: How art can enhance scientific and mathematical thinking

Joseph Wright of Derby, An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump, 1768. The National Gallery, London

Joseph Wright of Derby, An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump, 1768. The National Gallery, London

By Katy Matsuzaki, Manager of Academic Programs, New Britain Museum of American Art

Recently a group of docents at the New Britain Museum of American Art gathered in a gallery filled with landscapes and portrait paintings to discuss how they might approach the art with a middle school math class scheduled for a visit. As they looked closely at works by Georgia O’Keefe and Robert Henri, and listened to the more math-minded among them explore geometry, proportion, and compositional formulas therein, fear of the “math tour” quickly gave way to excitement over a new, mathematical way to approach and appreciate artworks.

As the staff member who greenlighted the math field trip, I was heartened by the docents’ willingness to embrace the unknown. Math students in an art museum might at first seem like a foreign concept, but in reality, the immersive visual environment that a curated collection of art images provides can be an incredibly beneficial learning tool for not only the study of mathematics, but the other STEM fields (science, technology, math, and engineering) as well.

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