Exploring Digital Culture

Entries by a MOOC participant

Art & Inquiry: What do YOU see?

rose colored glasses

Participation in the Art & Inquiry MOOC has really opened my eyes to the tremendous potential that art has in education.  In our small community of learners,  Ary Ananguiz shares Seeing the Bigger Picture:  The Visual Arts.  “Seeing a bigger picture for teaching visual art involves recognizing the ways in which art informs other disciplines.”

This potential is further enhanced by museums opening their doors to the public in ways that have never been possible before without technology — this MOOC offered by MOMA being a case in point. Last week, we saw the Google Art Project open the doors of the Metropolitan and Guggenheim museums to the online public.  We are building tools that allow the cultural sector to display more of its diverse heritage online, making it accessible to all.”  This week, the Getty Museum took it one step further through their Open Content Program.  “The Getty becomes an even more engaged digital citizen, one that shares its collections, research, and knowledge more openly than ever before. They’ve launched the Open Content Program to share, freely and without restriction, as many of the Getty’s digital resources as possible.”

When looking at a work of art, students might be asked to describe it, relate to it, analyze it, interpret it, or evaluate it.  By asking open-ended questions, we are asking our students to hone their “21st century skills.”   (This list of questions  Looking At Art:  Seeing Questions compiled by, Prof. Craig Roland of the University of Florida, Gainesville, suggests questions based on these categories).

Our assignment this week was “use the artwork posted last week in the discussion forum, ask a friend or family member to help you practice leading an inquiry-based conversation around it, and describe your experience.  What was easy?  What did you find challenging?”


I chose to interview Kaimi Rocha on camera.  Kaimi is 23 years old.  She grew up in Maui.  Currently, she is a caregiver for my mother-in-law for a few hours every day.  She agreed to be interviewed for this project.  In my last blog, I wrote about cultural literacy affecting the way we look at art.  This interview reinforced this idea for me. (See the video here).

Coming up with open ended questions was “easy” in that I simply asked the same questions that I had when I looked at the picture.  I was thrilled that Kaimi used these questions as a springboard to uncover information about the picture, based on her experience growing up in Hawaii.

  • What evidence do you see that tells you about the painting’s  location?
  • Why do you think the artist painted the woman without clothing?
  • What do you think she is holding in her hand?
  • What do you think the symbols on the cloth represent?
  • Why do you think the palm trees yellow?

I decided to film the interview.  The editing was the hardest.  I also found it difficult to weave information into the conversation during the interview.  I wanted to elicit as much information first without prompting to see how much of a role cultural literacy plays in the interpretation of art.

For me, the lesson learned is that what you see in the picture is a rich tapestry of made of the art itself, your experience, and your own perception.  It gives a whole new meaning to “seeing the world through rose colored glasses.”


4 comments on “Art & Inquiry: What do YOU see?

  1. Ary Aranguiz
    August 19, 2013

    Hi Cathleen,

    Loved the interview! I haven’t had a chance to do the interview yet, but I agree that weaving in the information is most challenging because we want to make sure students do most of the talking. Thanks for creating such a wonderful model of art inquiry in practice!

    • cathleennardi
      August 19, 2013

      I was trying to do something different by using the video interview. I’m glad it worked. It also helps to hone one’s own craft. Watching it again was one thing, but editing it made me realize how much better it could have been. Practice….

  2. danceswithcloud
    August 19, 2013

    Hi Cathleen – thanks for sharing – it was lovely to see an example of inquiry in action. I also love your first question: What do you see? Given that it took about 20-mins in my interview just to tackle that one, it is problematic for the teaching situation, but oh so rich…

    • cathleennardi
      August 19, 2013

      But, that was the whole idea behind the blog. What does the viewer bring to the picture? In my case, I was glad there wasn’t so much baggage as you encountered. Kaimi brought an innocent perception. In a classroom environment, it would be so easy for the teacher to have preconceived notions of what they were expecting to hear — and not make time for some wonderful insights that the students may have. There were some suggestions in the video activities to use index cards to have students write down their ideas and then share.

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This entry was posted on August 18, 2013 by .

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