Sitting in the wide variety of sessions offered at the Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) Summer Institute Share Outs in 2017, we heard experienced practitioners from around the world present on using VTS to support their work in science museums, writing labs, and classrooms focusing on equity and inclusion. Our excitement was palpable as we listened to what our peers achieved through their own processes of experimentation, reflection, and refinement. It became clear that we needed a better way to share these innovations with each other.
Site Specific: The Journal of Visual Thinking Strategies will reflect this larger community of VTS practitioners’ depth of experience as we continue to use VTS in new environments and with new content, learning from colleagues, teachers, and students as we do. There is already an excellent body of writing by founders Philip Yenawine and Abigail Housen, among others, on how to use VTS in classrooms and museums, the research that led to and influenced its development, and the impacts on students of sustained exposure to art through VTS. Therefore, what we need now is not to generate more expository literature, but to record the liveliness and evolution of our practice as we adapt VTS to varying locations, uses, and needs.
In this first edition, veteran trainers Kim Aziz and Mirka Jablonski describe working with students to adapt the VTS curriculum to a Portland, Oregon Middle School classroom, developing new image sets and techniques along the way. Jeanne Hoel, Associate Director of Education, School and Teacher Programs at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles discusses the decision to use VTS in the exhibition Kerry James Marshall: Mastry. She reflects on the challenges and rewards of using VTS to support discussions of artists and artworks that confront institutional white supremacy.
As Hoel’s essay suggests, part of the power of a sustained engagement with VTS is that it can help establish a sense of community and provide tools for collaborative dialogue. Site Specific is for the community of VTS itself, so that we can learn from one another as we continue to reflect on and improve our practice.
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