- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 13, 2003

Getting children to enjoy making art does not seem difficult. Simply hand them brushes, crayons, balls of clay or some pieces to glue together, and they can quickly explore their creativity.

However, getting them to appreciate the history, subtlety and mechanics of art takes much more work. Luckily, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and the Walker Art Center have put together a Web site that explores artistic principles through an interactive wonderland of color, design and knowledge

The Artist’s Toolkit

Site address: www.artsconnected.org/toolkit/

Creator: The Minneapolis Institute of Arts and the Walker Art Center used Educational Web Adventure, a Web-site development company based in St. Paul, Minn., to build the educational site.

Creator quotable: “We created this site to provide elementary teachers and students with an engaging and effective way to learn about art elements and principles,” says David T. Schaller, principal of Educational Web Adventure.

Word from the Webwise: Visitors get a visual smorgasbord after watching an opening page showing some actions used in the creation of art. Three sections are available — Explore the Toolkit, See Artists in Action and Encyclopedia. The first immediately takes students into the major portion of the site.

Explore the Toolkit features the six areas of Line, Color, Space, Shape, Balance and Movement/Rhythm with related modules to investigate. Each module allows the visitor to watch, find and create through some dynamic presentations.

Those curious about Balance, for example, would check out the Symmetrical & Asymmetrical module to watch a scene in the country showing a lack of element balance. The scene gradually transforms into an image of the earth with corn plants symmetrically sprouting from its sides. It ultimately morphs into a photo of a similarly designed silver, leather and turquoise Navajo wrist guard from the Institute of Arts’ collection to demonstrate clearly the concept and its importance to art.

Visitors then get to look at John Sloan’s painting “South Beach Bathers,” Richard Hunt’s mixed-media piece “Transformation Mask,” and Franz Marc’s “Tiger” woodcut and then are asked to label the images as symmetrical or asymmetrical.

Finally, under Create, amateur artists use a simple on-screen art program to design and print their own examples of balanced or unbalanced masterpieces using shapes, colors and sizing adjustment options.

This type of interesting interaction occurs in all of the modules, leading to a well-rounded educational experience.

As added reinforcement to the lessons provided, a robust encyclopedia and two four-minute videos are available showing the artists Ta-Coumba Aiken and Judy Onofrio at work.

Ease of use: The site works best on computers less than four years old, Mac or Window systems using at least Netscape 4 or Internet Explorer 5 with the Macromedia Flash and Apple QuickTime plug-ins.

Don’t miss: I really enjoyed the encyclopedia, which offers text-based definitions with illustrations and more than 50 pieces of art as examples. The artwork also can be scrutinized carefully through a zoom-in function that further enhances the viewing experience.

Family activity: Besides visiting a local art museum to bask in a variety of creative endeavors, the whole clan can print out any of the works created in the modules and develop a family art gallery to admire.

Cyber-sitter synopsis: Lots of online activities combined with easy-to-understand presentations will give a fifth-grade audience plenty to appreciate for hours at a time.

Overall grade: A

Remember: The information on the Internet is constantly changing. Please verify the advice on the sites before you act to be sure it’s accurate and updated. Health sites, for example, should be discussed with your own physician.

Have a cool site for the family? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at Webwise, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send an e-mail message ([email protected]washingtontimes.com).

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