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Beyond the Frame: American History through Artworks from the Smithsonian American Art Museum  

Join OLLI at GSC this summer for a live-stream interactive art course with the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Artists give us a diverse window on American life, reflecting the cultural, social, and political climate of the time in which they work. Explore the question, "What does art reveal about America?" as you examine better- and lesser-known aspects of American history to reframe your perspective. Join study group leaders as they facilitate an examination of America through the eyes of diverse artists in four discussion-based sessions, each focused on a separate era:

Seeing Is Thinking: Learn the languages of art and consider the many choices artists make when creating their works. This session will focus on the analysis, interpretation, and critique of artworks, providing a foundation and common vocabulary for subsequent sessions.

Early America: As a diverse group of people living in New England and New Spain became a new nation, they created early American art that tells the story of national ambitions, territorial expansion and displacement, and the beginnings of industry. Participants will explore the historical context of the creation of our nation, as well as the resulting political infrastructure and economic development through artworks from colonial to Jacksonian America.

Wars At Home and Abroad: Beginning with the Civil War and stretching through WWII, artists’ depictions of America during troubled times reflect a changing national identity. Themes may include the effect of the Civil War on soldiers, families, and African Americans; the ideals and debates related to Reconstruction plans; life during the Great Depression and subsequent New Deal programs; and the World War II home front experience.

Contemporary Life: Americans entering the post-War era experienced a boom time clouded by global uncertainty. Artists grappled with how to reflect America’s changing social and political landscape: some raised questions about the value of art and history, while others confronted issues of race and gender inequality. Themes may include works made in response to various movements (Civil Rights, social justice movements like the Farm Workers boycotts, the feminist movement), the role of technology in modern life, and works that ask us: "What does it mean to be an American today?"

 

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