Finding Picasso

While the museum is closed to the public most Mondays, it welcomes hundreds of students and teachers to visit special exhibitions, such as Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris. You may nostalgically remember this kind of field trip as day off from the classroom, but the education department’s school programs team makes the field trip a “day on” for young learners.

There are four aspects of the field trip for 3rd through 12th grade students to experience: a specialized teacher curriculum developed by SFUSD teachers and the museum's education department, the "Finding Table," a docent-led tour of the exhibition and a hands-on art-making activity taught by the museum’s teaching artists.

Museum interns greet each class upon arrival and introduce them to the museum and its rules. Next, the students head over to the Finding Table. Based on Picasso’s famous quote, “I do not seek, I find,” this table introduces materials and vocabulary that prompt students to ask questions about the artist’s process. Picasso is famous for being a “magician” who transformed basic materials, such as charcoal, oil paint or wood into masterpieces. Students observe the feel and sound of the materials, as well as their uses and limitations. Educators also familiarize students with vocabulary from the curriculum, such as “portrait,” “abstract” and “Cubism.”

With vocabulary and art materials fresh on their minds, students step into the world of Picasso, led by one of the museum's knowledgeable docents. The exhibition tour lasts 45 minutes and takes students through each period of Picasso’s life, with the docent providing historical context throughout.

The docent-led tour provides an opportunity for intergenerational learning, as education intern Anneliese Salgado observed, “Both sides benefit—the docents have the opportunity to interact with young students, and the students are taught by someone who is not their normal classroom teacher or parent.”

“The tour encourages students to formulate their own questions,” adds museum educator Whitney Graham, allowing the students create their own “narrative.”

The last stage of the field trip involves taking that narrative and applying it to a hands-on art-making activity with a museum teaching artist. For Picasso, students interact with everyday kitchen objects, ranging from scissors to a spatula. Observing these objects, students create a collage using colored paper, newspaper, cardboard and burlap to deconstruct the object. As an additional challenge, some students incorporated elements of movement into their compositions.

The impact of this dynamic experience was expressed by 10-year-old Luc, who wrote, “I wondered about how Picasso was able to convey so much in his art. It makes me think I can express my feelings like that.”

Please visit the education department's web page for more information about our programs and exclusive educator opportunities for the upcoming exhibitions Pissarro’s People, opening October 22 at the Legion of Honor, and Masters of Venice: Renaissance Painters of Passion and Power, opening October 29 at the de Young.

If you are an educator and would like to make a reservation to attend Picasso Mondays, please click here.