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Community of Learners: Creative Writing in Response to Works of Art

Hood Quarterly, autumn 2006
Lesley Wellman, Curator of Education

In many of the programs offered at the Hood, we engage visitors in the active interpretation of works of art. This engagement takes many different forms, but one that we have found works well for school children, teenagers, college students, and adults is descriptive and creative writing in response to works of art. The following poems inspired by works in the American collection demonstrate how effective this approach can be. Both poems were written by seventh-grade students from the Chesterfield School of Chesterfield, New Hampshire, following a visit to the museum.

Back from the Orchard
by Sam Galloway

A lot of apples, for a little boy.
Scrumptious apples, give a lot of joy.
Perky, outgoing, and curious is he,
Picking more and more apples, from the apple tree.
He comes back with pockets full,
he comes back with a bunch.
So he can cover,
for breakfast, dinner, and lunch.
He may have a confused, or dumbfounded look.
But, he’s delighted and excited,
for all the apples he took.
He has five in each pocket,
so he can fit up to ten.
Now he’s gone back to the orchard,
for more apples, again.

To Know Myself
by Casey Powers

Solitude is what I find in this longing, untouched place,
chained into changelessness by its secret,
bound down by the weight of the world,
unaffected by time it lurks lonesomely in its own shadow,
lush and dense with mystery it longs for answers no one knows.
Yet in this mystery I have found myself,
in the vagueness I have never known,
I have found the answers to my questions,
I have found a home away from home,
I have found the solitude I need,
in this place that is unknown,
I have found the light to cure my darkness,
and I, and I alone,
know what I need to know myself,
in this place that is unknown.

Whether participating in one of the Hood’s art and writing programs for college and community audiences or visiting the galleries on your own, we encourage you to try this technique. Choose a work of art that interests you, spend time looking at it carefully, and then put pencil to paper (no pens allowed in the museum!) and use your observations, feelings, thoughts, and questions about the work as inspiration. Writing in response to a work of art often enhances one’s observations and reflections and can deepen your appreciation of and pleasure in visual art.

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