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Each part of the country has unique vistas. Landscapes can be green stretches lush with trees and shrubs or dust-covered, flat land punctuated by jagged rocks. Landscapes can also be urban spaces densely packed with soaring buildings. The following exercises encourage students to look at their surroundings with a different eye--an artistís eye.

Activity 1: Find a Painting Site
Have students find places in their community that date from Weirís time at the farm--1882-1919--and that they think would be good subjects for an impressionist painting. Have them consider the time of day and the types of places that Weir and his friends looked for. They might consider parks, scenic roads, streets where houses have deep front yards or gardens, or even a building with interesting shapes and surfaces. Some interiors may even be appropriate. Have each student find a view they believe would make a good painting. Ask them to sketch or photograph their "place," and then share their impressions about that place with the class. Do they think Impressionist techniques would be better than realism in conveying the sense of what being in this place is like? Allow time for discussion about studentsí choices.

Activity 2: The Impressionist Experience
If possible, plan this activity cooperatively with an art teacher. Choose an interesting site at or around your school and ask each student to prepare a finished work using pastels, cray-pas, crayons, watercolors, chalk, or poster paints. Encourage the students to experiment with impressionistic techniques. Have them paint outdoors, use bright colors, paint with dabs and small strokes, and include light and shadows at different times of the day or in different weather conditions. Make it clear to the students that no one is expected to produce a masterpiece. As the American Impressionists did, have the students work side by side and encourage one another--each student should try to produce some sort of personal "impression" of the subject. Then have students share their work and discuss the experience as a group. You may wish to post some of the completed works on a bulletin board or in a showcase.

Activity 3: Art in Your Community
American Impressionism was centered around the New England countryside and reflected the popular back-to-nature movement. Have the students conduct research to discover local artists who depict images of their regionís landscape. These works need not be traditional landscapes. Some abstract painters respond to the landscape in unique ways and many Native American, Hispanic, and African American artists imprint their own interpretations of place on their works. Invite educators from local art museums, historical societies, galleries or libraries to the classroom to discuss and show slides of the different styles of art popular in the region. If possible, arrange a field trip to a gallery or museum.

When research is completed, have students make short presentations about the artist or artists studied. Then have the class discuss what is artistically unique about your region and how the artists were inspired by that uniqueness.

 

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