How to Help Your School Break Free of the Gallery Mentality

Art has always had a high brow quality about it. Traditionally, fine artworks have been adorned with elaborate frames and hung in museums and galleries to be viewed only by elite visitors. In many ways, schools mirror the same exclusive practice. The best art is collected, matted and placed in a prestigious space such as a school gallery or showcase.

In recent times, artists have purposely broken free of the gallery mentality. One of the attractions of street art, is that it removes an artist’s work from spaces where only 10% of the population will visit and relocates it to an area where it can be presented the other 90%.

Some schools are following suit. They are moving away from a museum mentality and taking art to the masses. They are finding spaces in and around their buildings where art can be seen and enjoyed by everyone. Furthermore, they are looking for projects that go beyond the static mural. They are producing works that spark conversation and even interactivity with the viewer. Here is a look at several schools that are going beyond the gallery.


Yarn Bombing At Franklin High

beyond the gallery 2

Starting as a surprise for the principal to celebrate the school’s 100th anniversary, special education teacher Judy Camann conjured up the idea of yarn bomb sculptures at the front of the school. Judy elicited help from fiber artist Suzanne Tidwell and together they involved many classes in the knitting project. As news of the idea spread, it wasn’t long before Franklin was receiving gifts of yarn from people all over the country. With the help of teachers, parents and even the kitchen staff, the final installation was completed in the early morning one Sunday after Thanksgiving.


Poolesville High Takes Inside Out

Inside Out Portraits

Imagine your school’s outside walls wrapped in 45,  4 1/2 foot tall photos of the senior class. If you work at Poolesville High School in Maryland you don’t have to try too hard. That is exactly what Olivia Jackson completed as part of her senior project. After speaking with her advisor about her interest in street art, Olivia was introduced to the Inside Out Project. This organization’s mission is to encourage people to place poster sized portraits in public places. Through the Inside Out Project, Olivia was able to obtain the posters and with a little help from a mixture of flour and water, adhere the images to the building walls.


Organized Graffiti

beyond the gallery 1

Like all teenagers, when I was in high school I decorated the walls of my room with posters. On Saturdays, my friend and I would go to the store and flip through the display rack of posters. When I saw the above graffiti rack on the Art of Education’s instructor Nic Hahn’s blog, I knew I would be including it in this article. The graffiti rack is part of the Franconia Sculpture Park in Franconia MN. Just like the poster rack at the store, this rack allows visitors to scroll through a collection of graffiti. Nic Hahn thought this would be an excellent project to display art at a high school. I agree.


{image source}{image source}{image source}


Have you brought work outside of the gallery and into the public arena at your school?

Does your school have a dedicated place for art projects outside of the traditional showcase?


Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.


Ian Sands

Ian Sands, a high school art educator, is a former AOEU Writer. He is a co-author of The Open Art Room and believes art teachers shouldn’t make art—they should make artists.

More from Ian