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School Programs Themes

School Programs Mission

Artists' ideas are at the center of Whitney School Programs. We ask K-12 students to think like artists and challenge them to be critical observers of their world. Through the careful examination of artists' ideas, materials, and processes, students consider the multi-faceted role that artists play in American culture and society.

School Programs uses a thematic-based approach to teaching in the galleries. Our themes are meant to create more thoughtful connections between K-12 classroom learning and the art on view. Below you will find short descriptions of our themes with works from the Whitney's collection that represent those ideas. Please note that not all of these works are on view at the Museum.

Artist as Observer (K-12)

How do artists represent the world around them? How do they choose to show people and places? This theme can address topics including New York City, community, landscape, and portraiture. This is a great thematic tour for first-time visitors as it incorporates visual literacy skills and introduces students to multiple ways of looking at and talking about art.

Edward Hopper, Early Sunday Morning, 1930
Joseph Stella, The Brooklyn Bridge: Variation on an Old Theme, 1939
Georgia O’Keeffe, Summer Days, 1936
Charles Demuth, My Egypt, 1927
William H. Johnson, Jitterbugs VI, 1941-42

Artist as Storyteller (K-12)

How do artists tell a story? What is their point of view? This theme addresses ELA concepts such as narrative, tone, character, and setting and is recommended for literacy and writing classes. 

George Bellows, Dempsey and Firpo, 1924
Peter Blume, Light of the World,, 1932
Arshile Gorky, The Artist and His Mother, 1926-c.1936
Thomas Hart Benton, Poker Night (from A Streetcar Named Desire), 1948
Willem de Kooning, Woman and Bicycle, 1952-53

Artist as Experimenter (K-12)

How do artists push boundaries and explore new concepts? This theme examines how artists experiment with materials, processes, and ideas.Younger students may look at how artists use formal elements such as line, shape, color, texture, and composition, or how they transform everyday objects. Older students may consider more conceptual questions, such as "What makes this art?" and "Why is this in a museum?" 

Artist as Critic (6-12)

How do artists respond to the social, political, and cultural climate of their time? What does their work tell us about American life and culture? How can art serve as a catalyst for change? Students examine how artists respond to the topics that shape history, politics, and contemporary culture. This thematic tour can address subjects such as current events, war, gender, race, politics, and activism.

Elsie Driggs, Pittsburgh, 1927
George Tooker, The Subway, 1950
Louis Guglielmi, Terror in Brooklyn, 1941
Weegee, The Critic, 1943
Jared French, State Park, 1946