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 may be 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.
Charles Demuth, My Egypt, 1927. Oil, fabricated chalk, and graphite pencil on composition board, overall: 35 15/16 × 30in. (91.3 × 76.2 cm). Purchase, with funds from Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney 31.172
Charles Henry Alston, The Family, 1955. Oil on canvas, 48 3/16 × 35 13/16 in. (122.4 × 91 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art; purchase, with funds from the Artists and Students Assistance Fund 55.47
Edward Hopper, New York Interior, c. 1921. Oil on canvas, overall: 24 5/16 × 29 3/8in. (61.8 × 74.6 cm). Josephine N. Hopper Bequest 70.1200. © Heirs of Josephine N. Hopper/Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Archibald John Motley, Jr., Gettin' Religion, 1948. Oil on linen, overall: 32 × 39 7/16in. (81.3 × 100.2 cm). Purchase, Josephine N. Hopper Bequest, by exchange 2016.15. © Valerie Gerrard Browne
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.
Elizabeth Catlett (1915-2012), My right is a future of equality with other Americans, 1947, printed 1989, from I am the Negro woman (re-titled The Black Woman, 1989). Linoleum cut: sheet, 10 5/16 × 7 1/2 in. (26.2 × 19.1 cm); image (irregular), 9 1/8 × 6 1/8 in. (23.2 × 15.6 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from the Print Committee 95.203 Art © Catlett Mora Family Trust/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
Arshile Gorky, The Artist and His Mother, 1926-c. 1936. Oil on canvas, 60 × 50 1/4 in. (152.4 × 127.6 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art; gift of Julien Levy for Maro and Natasha Gorky in memory of their father 50.17 © 2017 The Arshile Gorky Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, NY
Henry Koerner, Mirror of Life, 1946. Oil on composition board, 36 × 42 in. (91.4 × 106.7 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art; purchase 48.2
Joseph Stella, The Brooklyn Bridge: Variation on an Old Theme, 1939. Oil on canvas, overall: 70 1/4 × 42 3/16 in. (178.4 × 107.2 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Purchase 42.15
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?"
Edgar Heap of Birds (b. 1954), Relocate Destroy, In Memory of Native Americans, In Memory of Jews, 1987, from the series American Policy. Pastel on paper, 22 × 29 13/16 in. (55.9 × 75.7 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; gift of Dorothee Peiper-Riegraf and Hinrich Peiper 2007.91
Isamu Noguchi, Humpty Dumpty, 1946. Ribbon slate, 59 × 20 3/4 × 17 1/2in. (149.9 × 52.7 × 44.5 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art; purchase 47.7a-e © 2017 The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Marsden Hartley (1877–1943), Painting, Number 5, 1914–15. Oil on linen, 39 1/4 × 32 in. (99.7 × 81.3 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; gift of an anonymous donor 58.65
Melvin Edwards (b. 1937), Pyramid Up and Down Pyramid, 1969 (re-fabricated 2017) (installation view, Whitney Museum of American Art). Barbed wire, dimensions in situ. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase with funds from the Painting and Sculpture Committee. Photograph by Ron Amstutz
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.
Carl Pope (b. 1961), Some of the Greatest Hits of the New York City Police Department: A Celebration of Meritorious Achievement in Community Service, 1994. Engraved trophies, dimensions variable. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; gift of Carl and Karen Pope, Christopher and Ann Stack, and A. W. Stuart 95.82. Photograph by Ron Amstutz
May Stevens (b. 1924), Dark Flag, 1976, from the series "Big Daddy" Paintings, 1967-76. Acrylic on canvas, 60 1/8 × 60 1/8 in. (152.7 × 152.7 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; gift of the artist 2005.34. © May Stevens. Courtesy the artist and RYAN LEE Gallery, New York
Senga Nengudi, Internal I, 1977 (refabricated 2014), from the series RSVP, 1975-77. Nylon hosiery, dimensions variable. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase with funds from the Painting and Sculpture Committee 2015.109. Photograph by Ron Amstutz
Richard Correll (1904-1990), The Prisoner (Robert Wesley Wells), 1959. Lithograph: sheet, 15 13/16 × 20 5/16 in. (40.1 × 51.6 cm); image, 11 3/4 × 14 5/8 in. (29.8 × 37.1 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; gift of Leslie Correll 2014.252 Courtesy the Estate of Richard V. Correll