Seeing History at the Norton Simon

August 2, 2019
Cultural Enrichment: Students observe a painting in the 19th Century European Art section of Pasadena’s Norton Simon Museum. The visit exposed the disadvantaged students to how others have experienced the world and opened new ways for them to experience their own through creative and critical thought.

“What do you see?,” the docent asks, pointing to a bold canvas. “A lot of triangles,” Brandon squints. “And weird writing,” Gilbert volunteers. “Good,” the docent replies.  “The title of the painting is The Traveler. Do you see  a traveler here?” Previously quiet students speak up. “Yeah. In the center! There’s a face,” Ricky exclaims. “Where? I don’t see it.” “It’s a woman in the center there, see? There’s her face and nose.” “Oh…is that a feather hat? I see pearls! She’s dressed well for traveling, huh?”

As the Boys Republic students pieced together the panels of the Cubist painting, they began to understand Popova’s artwork. The painting was among the original art the students saw at the Norton Simon Museum. The September 23 visit, organized by Boys Republic High School teachers Sandra Diaz and Stacy Gorgone, encouraged the students to connect European history with the visual arts.

Teens closely observed and actively engaged with art, from Cagnacci’s Martha Rebuking Mary for her Vanity to Van Gough’s The Mulberry Tree. And with each painting, teens could actually see changing historical values and customs on the walls.