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Wade Guyton and
Star-Struck Sixth-Graders

NOV 27, 2012

Sixth-grade students from West Side Collaborative Middle School 250 in the exhibition Wade Guyton OS, October 2012. Photograph by Tiffany Oelfke

Sixth-grade students from West Side Collaborative Middle School 250 in the exhibition Wade Guyton OS, October 2012. Photograph by Tiffany Oelfke

“Wade Guyton is my favorite artist!” and “He is so creative to use an inkjet printer to make paintings!” were some enthusiastic declarations made by a group of sixth-grade students from West Side Collaborative Middle School 250 after their guided tour of the exhibition Wade Guyton OS. Interestingly, these were not their initial responses when Ms. Fitzgerald and Ms. Caruso, their Arts Lab teachers, first introduced Guyton’s work to them in the classroom.

Focused on the theme of Artist as Experimenter, Ms. Fitzgerald and Ms. Caruso began their lesson by showing students reproductions of Guyton’s work. After a discussion about the artist’s intention and speculation about his process, Ms. Caruso revealed that Guyton created his large-scale paintings by using common digital technologies such as a desktop computer, scanner, and inkjet printer. This outraged the students! They took issue that Guyton did not create anything with his hands–the images were scanned from magazines and books, the font was found on Microsoft Word, and the final works were created by an Epson Stylus inkjet printer.

Sixth-grade students from West Side Collaborative Middle School 250 in the exhibition Wade Guyton OS, October 2012. Photograph by Tiffany Oelfke

Sixth-grade students from West Side Collaborative Middle School 250 in the exhibition Wade Guyton OS, October 2012. Photograph by Tiffany Oelfke

The students’ tough stance towards Guyton quickly softened when they saw his works in person during a guided tour of the exhibition in mid-October. Led by a Museum educator, students spent time looking closely at the paintings and exploring the artist’s ideas, materials and process through discussions and activities. They began to embrace “mistakes” such as the misalignment and smudged ink apparent in Guyton’s paintings, and appreciate the artist’s purposeful misuse of these common technological tools to create beautiful accidents. 

Wade Guyton and sixth-grade students from West Side Collaborative Middle School 250 met in the gallery, October 2012. Photograph by Erin Fitzgerald

Wade Guyton and sixth-grade students from West Side Collaborative Middle School 250 met in the gallery, October 2012. Photograph by Erin Fitzgerald

About twenty minutes into their guided tour, the group suddenly realized that the artist himself was in the gallery! Guyton was gracious to spend some time with the students, answering questions and even signing autographs. Instantly, Wade Guyton became a celebrity artist among a group of star-struck sixth-graders and a household name in West Side Collaborative Middle School 250!

By Ai Wee Seow, Coordinator of School and Educator Programs.

Learn more about the partnership between the Whitney and West Side Collaborative.