We all know that the current economy has forced schools to make some difficult cuts. In some districts, arts education is being downsized, or eliminated entirely. Throughout history, the arts have been central to people’s enjoyment and understanding of the world around them – art is deeply embedded in all world cultures. Art can be incorporated across the curriculum in a variety of ways: using different types of media to illustrate a book report, to highlight historical events, to illustrate or explain scientific theories – the possibilities are endless. The resources below are a sampling of some free online tools from The National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, one of the crown jewels of American museums. Created in 1937 for the American public by Congress and financier/art collector Andrew W. Mellon, the Gallery has long been instrumental in educating visitors about art. The NGA – far from being a fusty mausoleum – has created the Art Zone, a neat nook on their Web site where users can create interactive art online. All animations require Adobe Shockwave.
Your students can get in touch with their inner Jackson Pollacks or other abstract artists with BRUSHster, an interactive painting tool that allows them to create art online. Colorful and easy to use, the program is appropriate for students of all ages and experience levels. BRUSHster offers over 40 online “brushes” of all sizes in addition to various textures and transparencies; there are also over 25 different special effects where students can blur, ripple, fragment, smudge, and blend colors. The program can be used to design screensaver art, as well as wrapping paper, notecards, and similar items. The “Auto” feature is a handy option for very young users, who may find the multitude of choices overwhelming.
Vermeer is one of my favorite artists, so I was immediately drawn to Dutch Dollhouse, an interactive 17th century Dutch house where users can redecorate rooms, add figures, and so forth. The various rooms of the doll house are representations of rooms in paintings by famous 17th century Dutch artists, and include a kitchen, art studio, courtyard, and other rooms. Here, students can change the lighting (day to night, for example), create decorative objects, and add, remove, or relocate objects from room to room. The program also includes a fun virtual lacemaker, an important economic industry for generations of Dutch.
Photo Op is an interactive tool that the NGA bills as a “two-part introduction to digital photography and image editing.” The program allows students to use a virtual camera to capture images, and then edit them online. Users can employ the editing tools to radically change their image; features include the ability to warp, change color, mirror, and make collages from their images. In the process, students can learn about focus, lighting, shutter speeds, layering, filters, and image composition.