Everyone has their own interpretation of what “good” art is, even artists themselves. Because art is so subjective and because some famous works of art aren’t immediately appealing, a lot of people shy away from art. But with the depth and breadth of artists in our world today as well as throughout history, art really does have something for everyone. The trick is finding it.
1. Encourage exploration. Encourage students to look at art books of all different genres and to look at posters representing portraits, landscapes, abstracts, and sculptures.
2. Discuss subjectivity. Art appreciation is somewhat subjective, so start by having students discuss their favorite kinds of art from what they saw in Step 1 or have seen in their past experiences.
3. Introduce major terminology. Art appreciation is not the same as art history; students don’t need to memorize the names of different fresco techniques or the subtle differences between pointialism and impressionism. However, they should know the meanings of these terms: light, shadow, landscape, portrait, abstract, foreground, background, line, color, shape, and representational.
4. Go on a scavenger hunt. Reinforce art vocabulary by going on a scavenger hunt, asking students to find paintings that illustrate one (or more) vocabulary words. You can have them print photos of paintings from the web or write down pages numbers in the art books. You can also visit a museum or gallery and have them write down the titles of the appropriate pieces.
5. Review the masters. Choose about five major artists of different eras and examine their work in greater detail. Discuss what makes them famous and respected as well as what your students think of them. Stress that it’s okay not to like them; the goal is to appreciate what makes their work so special. It’s really up to the teacher and his or her preferences as far as artist choice goes, but some suggestions are Michelangelo, da Vinci, Rembrandt, van Gogh, Picasso, Pollock, Warhol, O’Keefe, and Hirst.
6. Visit the source. Tour an art museum or go on a gallery walk. Ask students to write down their impressions and photograph their favorite pieces, if possible. Encourage them to use their new art vocabulary to describe their likes and dislikes.
7. Go online. Tour the world’s greatest museums online. Have students record their favorite pieces. Have a discussion allowing everyone to shares their likes, dislikes, and reasoning.
8. Assess student development. Have students create lists of their art preferences, favorite artists, and favorite pieces. You can also ask them to explain why these are their favorites.