Reflection, Teaching

The Awesomeness of Vi Hart

I love Vi Hart.  There is something about her crazy videos that I just adore.  I almost feel like I hold my breath when I watch her work in case the sound of my breathing causes me to miss out on something she has to say! Today I learned that she doesn’t care if I like her or not – she is still going to make her videos the way she wants to make her videos. Which kind of makes me love her even more.

Her latest creation is on how to deal with negative comments in a digital world – although a lot of what she says could easily apply to the real world too. I love that she says that “I didn’t make this for your approval”. She creates because she loves it – mirroring the other person in my hall of fame, Neil Gaiman, with his charge to “make good art”.

As a teacher, I often let the comments of a few drown out my own inner voice and then my art becomes less “good” and more “doubted”, “mediocre”, or just plain watered down.  I am a good teacher – I honestly don’t think I would still be doing this job 16 years if I didn’t truly love it.  And yet, unlike Vi Hart, I am sometimes scared, I do seek approval, and I dither over comments people make like nobodies business.  I think this is where the drop-off in my blogging comes into play. In addition to life throwing me a lot to deal with, I also began wondering if I had any good art left to share – or even any art worth sharing.

Today we had Kathy LeMay come to our school. This woman is fearless. As I sat in my classroom listening to her answer the questions my kids had for her on pursuing passion, I realized that we are always going to have nay-sayers in our world.  People who will tell us it won’t work, can’t happen, isn’t right.  We can choose to listen to those people and put our art in a deep, dark cupboard. Or, we can choose to move around these people and continue to do our thing.

It isn’t going to be easy.  But I can almost certainly guarantee it will be worth it.

What are you waiting for? 


21st Century, Creativity, Innovation

More from the Khan Academy

Khan Academy Co-Deans for Art and History Beth Harris and Steven Zucker have created over 100 videos as part of the new Google Art Project, which launches today.

What is the Google Art Project?

The Google Art Project attempts to provide more access to Museums and works of Art. The Google Art Project is an initiative to provide thousands of high quality, high resolution images from museums across the globe in one place, making art’s history, meaning and beauty available in ways never possible before.

Harris and Zucker have added 90 Khan Academy videos, like the one below, to the project.  The videos offer a unique opportunity to view paintings and works of art that would otherwise be inaccessible unless you were to travel to their museum home.  The videos have close up frames – so close, that in the case of the Van Gogh Bedroom video, you can see the layers of paint on the canvas as they describe his thick, heavy style.


In addition to the videos, there is a section called Look Like An Expert which offers tutorials on topics such as The Birth of Avant-Garde, Signature Strokes and Hidden Meanings, in which you can learn all kinds of tips that you would normally pick up from the friendly docent at your museum.  Here is an example from the Signature Strokes tutorial:

Look closely. Can you read these signature styles? Which eye is from the seventeenth century, before artists experimented more aggressively with color and brushwork to construct the forms of the face?

The coolest part (in my opinion) is that once you have explored the extensive galleries, learned all these inside tips from the experts and really brushed up (pun intended) on your art history and appreciation skills, there is a whole list of DIY choices for you to actually USE this resource in hands on ways beyond simply looking.  The options are diverse and really cool, utilizing both online content, tech tools and good old fashioned art supplies – depending on which project you choose.  Here is the current line up of DIY projects:

  • YouGallery Try on the role of curator by creating an Exhibit in the Google Art Project, choosing a style or artist and deciding the order in which people will view your collection. 
  • Rebus Create links between one piece of art to the next.  Create your own collection but with a twist – have your audience try and find the key that connects one piece to the next. 
  • Remix If you could bring one piece of work home, how would you display it?  What would the room look like?  And what would someone wear whilst in your room, looking at your art, in order to complement the style of the art work?
  • Wildlife Photo Expedition You are on safari – in the art museum!  How many creatures can you find amongst the art works?  Take pictures for your scrapbook! 
  • The Lens of Now How would the works of art from history be transformed if they had been created today?  What would their narrative be?
  • Materials Matter The materials that art is made from can change the way we view it.  Pick a favorite from the gallery and then grab some materials and recreate it in a different media.
  • Inventing Color Create your own gallery based on the Color Wheel, choosing images that represent segments of the wheel.
  • Scavenger Hunt Send your friends on a Scavenger Hunt through the Google Art Gallery! 
  • A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Museum Every piece that makes it to a museum has lived somewhere else beforehand.  This information is included in the ‘details’ section of each art work.  Think beyond this and create your own story behind how a piece of art made it to the museum. 
Whilst looking through all of this amazing stuff, I came across something I hadn’t seen before which I thought was too cool not to pass on: Sesame Street’s brilliant, “Three Primary Colors”. Maria Popova of the fabulous blog,Brainpickings, wrote of this short stop-motion film, “it might just be the finest treat for budding designers.”  Enjoy!