Two years ago, I “inherited” a group of students in my first year at Pine Crest to take to New York City to tour the major museums for our AP Art History class. It was a terrific experience and it was one I was looking to repeat each and every year with my students.
Sadly, last year, due to the terror attacks in Paris – and heightened security alerts in New York City – we had to cancel the trip. I did try to create an alternative to Chicago, but there just wasn’t enough time to really get the trip fully mapped and planned out.
This year, we started early and got the trip together. The students who were in AP Art History last year were also invited onto this year’s trip – and with 29 students, we packed our bags. We toured the MoMA, the Guggenheim, the Met, and the Frick collection while also seeing “Sunday in the Park with George” on Broadway, starring Jake Gyllenhaall.
We started with guided tours at our first two stops – the MoMA and the Guggenheim – to help give our students an overview of what the museum experience could be like. It is important to invite students to look at art but to taper expectations – there is no reason to expect to see every single work of art in any museum. As the saying goes, museums are like libraries and you wouldn’t expect to read all of the books in one visit.
We packed a lot of art in our tour of NYC – walking around 20 miles in our time there. We stayed at the Blakely on 55th and walked through Central Park to our destination, the Guggenheim on our 2nd day in the city.
We also made a stop across town to lower Manhattan to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum on our 3rd day, which was a very moving experience for everyone. We all have our stories to tell; the students were mostly very young when the attack occurred but their interactions with the museum helped shape the event for them from a passing thing into something more tangible. What was at stake, I hoped, was the concept of a museum and what role it could serve. At what point would we be memorializing an event, and doing it service, and at what point could we go to far?
After the dust settled, the students made it back to sunny Fort Lauderdale with a grander experience to build on. The artwork that we had been studying all year long became something real and tangible and, in some ways, was like meeting a celebrity in person. The works were larger than life and they were free to get a closer look and a feel for the work as the hands of the artists were there to share their stories. We will look to do it again next year and, maybe, in bigger fashion.