Visual Thinking Strategies: A Lecture by Philip Yenawine

Frustrated when data revealed visitors learned little from the many educational interventions offered by his talented staff at NY’s Museum of Modern Art, Philip Yenawine turned to Abigail Housen, a scholar who studied “aesthetic thought”—how people use what they know when looking at art—to try to determine and remedy the problem. Working with others, they created a method called Visual Thinking Strategies and spent over a dozen years studying to see if it nurtured the growth not seen to result from more conventional methods of teaching; it did. Moreover, from early in the research period, teachers reported on what was then found in data: VTS discussions of art can be used to teach visual literacy, language, thinking, and social skills valued in schools.

This presentation will branch from philosophical (what is art for?) to theoretical (what does Housen’s data tell us about viewing) to practical (how to create empowered viewers and effective thinkers.) A VTS discussion will help illuminate all of these topics as well as offers a unique opportunity to exercise our brains, not to mention our hearts and spirits. Questions will be welcomed.

Philip Yenawine is co-founding director (with cognitive psychologist Abigail Housen) of Visual Understanding in Education, a non profit educational research organization that develops and studies programs that teach teachers to use art to teach thinking and communication skills. Director of Education at The Museum of Modern Art from 1983-93, he has spent the past twenty years developing curricula and professional development used in hundreds of schools across the US and abroad. He is on the board of Art Matters, a foundation supporting contemporary artists. His most recent book, Visual Thinking Strategies: Using Art to Deepen Learning Across School Disciplines, was published by Harvard Education Press in October 2013.