Yes, you can talk to artists that are living. There are fun ways to connect to artists of the past through looking at their work, reading a biography, articles and watching movies or clips about them.
Teachers should be sharing art that is happening and being made in the present. Teachers should also be reaching out to connect with artists making art in the present. Whether that is someone’s grandmother, aunt, cousin or neighborhood artist all the way to nationally and world renown artists. The internet and social media extend our classrooms and opportunities to break the physical walls of our art rooms down and share with students art that is going down right now!
As a teacher you can reach out through all sorts of methods to connect with local to global artists. Do not let the idea that a big time artist will not give you the time of day. Let students reach out to them and share what they have learned or made inspired by the artist’s work. Or show the students your email or tweet that you are sending out – whether you get a response or not the students are intrigued and some will continue to ask for days and weeks if you have gotten a response yet.
Another reason for starting with art history in the present day is because a challenge I have yet to fail is finding a type of art with which a student is intrigued. Ya know? Am I right? Maybe it’s movies they love, seriously so much about movies let’s not even begin. Do they consume some sort of bottled drink? What do they think of the packaging? Maybe your students are into hunting, fishing, vehicles, technology… whatever it is there is amazing design and artistic hands on everything these days.
There’s all sorts of artists out there these days and many of them would love to see, hear or talk with you and your students. I know because they have told me themselves! Also, giving someone a compliment – who would complain about that?
Engage with the world spinning and creating and making now. Let the artists share with you their influences or processes. They have studied and learned and tried many different ways to get to where they are now. The artist’s mind is no different than the Renaissance or Impressionist Periods. No different now than it ever was.
Let students lead you to their interests and let their interests guide them to the roots of art history.