Connected \\ July 25, 2018

A.P. Art students respond to PEM

Every year, students from Beverly High School’s Advanced Placement Art course spend time in PEM's special exhibitions and permanent collection. They engage in guided discussions, respond creatively in the studios and continue to refer to what they see here when back in class.

To discuss a piece of art, or a selection of artwork at length with a group of peers is a very different experience from glancing at a piece of artwork. Instead of making a judgement and moving on, by allowing yourself to spend time with the art and hearing the thoughts of others, you unmask new levels of meaning that aren’t apparent at first glance. When asked about looking at artwork in person, a student named Damian answered that he gains the ability to understand the abstract. “To rip apart, and find the meaning and purpose of things.”

Student Sophie Pelletier explains how the tour informs her own artwork.

When I look at artwork in person, it is so much more meaningful. I can see the amount of effort and emotion put into each stroke of a paintbrush. I love looking at artwork from a variety of angles, which is impossible without the real piece in front of me.
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© 2018 Peabody Essex Museum. Photography by Bob Packert

This past year, students enjoyed studio time during their museum visits, during which they get to experiment with some of the concepts contained within the exhibition. This gives them the opportunity to loosen up, play and experiment with approaches and materials they might not have tried on their own. This year, the students saw Ocean Liners, It’s Alive!, O’Keeffe, Playtime, and T.C Cannon: At the Edge of America.

Once they are back in the classroom, students respond to their visit under the guidance of their A.P. Art teacher, Paula Borsetti. While the studio responses at the museum allow for immediate reflection and digestion, throughout the year they continue to reflect for in-depth self-guided exploration.

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Photography by Kameko Branchaud

“Looking at the artwork in person made me question. It gave me a lot more opportunity to talk to others staring at the same thing and think critically about the intentions and emotions provoked,’ said a student named Rhiannon.

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Photography by Kameko Branchaud

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© 2018 Peabody Essex Museum. Photography by Kathy Tarantola

Student Sophie Pelletier said that the time spent creating pieces at the museum allows for letting loose and enjoying the process. “On the other hand, when I respond to the exhibits at home and in school, I am able to make the pieces beautiful and precisely what I want them to become.”

The most exciting part of this partnership is the annual end-of-year exhibition that PEM hosts for the students to show off their work to their parents, their peers and the public. In some of the work, you can see direct visual references to the exhibitions. In other pieces, a connection might not be immediately obvious until you read the artist statement.

Students said that before visiting PEM with the class, they didn’t stop to fully appreciate art in museums.

“I used to be very particular and only use one drawing material and one style. After the PEM field trips I was able to go out of my comfort zone and be able to see different types and techniques of drawing,” said Naomi Weisman.


© 2018 Peabody Essex Museum. Photography by Bob Packert

Visiting the museum opened her eyes to the power of curation, said Mia Swenson.

Each exhibit is carefully and meticulously created. PEM is a true gem, one that is integral to the local art scene.
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© 2017 Peabody Essex Museum. Photography by Bob Packert

The students bring with them their own interest in the arts, questions and ideas about the future of their creative practice. Under the support of their teacher, PEM Guide Susie Ryan, myself and the power of PEM’s exhibitions, the students produce amazing discussions and studio output. This is a special partnership made possible by the Beverly High School Parent Teacher Student Organization, Beverly Education Foundation, Mass Cultural Council and PEM, but it represents what happens in PEM’s student and community partnership programs every day.

Interested in scheduling a field trip for your school? Make a reservation.


Kameko recently enjoyed a staff exhibition in the PEM offices. © 2018 Peabody Essex Museum. Photography by Ken Sawyer.

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