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Class of the week: History of Art I: Ancient to Medieval

By Sean Ferry, Photo Editor

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Docent Albert Geha stands in front of a Roman statue of a young man in armor. The statue was found in Turkey where marble bodies were mass-produced, the personalized head was added later.

Photo by: Sean Ferry
Docent Albert Geha stands in front of a Roman statue of a young man in armor. The statue was found in Turkey where marble bodies were mass-produced, the personalized head was added later.

Art history is not always a topic that triggers excitement in students’ minds. But with the right encouragement and some creative teaching methods, at least students can walk away with a better understanding of, and appreciation for, the important role art has played in our world.

Samantha Gaier is teaching Art History I: Ancient to Medieval this Fall. Despite the early morning classes in an unadorned, windowless room, students seem to be surprisingly receptive of the material.

The syllabus outlines every aspect of the class, including a weekly breakdown of exactly what students should expect and a strict no-cell-phone policy. The schedule is reviewed at the beginning of class every week to help keep students on track.

The two and a half hour sections always include group analysis, videos, slideshows and lecturing. The course material covers the art made in prehistoric times and then tracks the development of art through the course of human history. Egyptian, Greek, Byzantine, Etruscan, Roman and early renaissance pieces are viewed, analyzed and critiqued during the class.

Students were given a break from the drab confines of the Fine and Performing Arts building’s ground floor last week, meeting at the Toledo Museum of Art for a docent-led tour.

TMA’s website says the [docent] training program includes approximately 6 hours of class time per week plus at-home assignments, visual literacy touring technique, group activities, mentoring by active Docents, and a series of touring presentations. The training program lasts approximately 18 months.

Docents utilize modern technology during tours to show what can't always be seen. The tryptic in the background closes in on itself to reveal the painting displayed on Geha's tablet.

Photo by: Sean Ferry
Docents utilize modern technology during tours to show what can’t always be seen. The triptych in the background closes in on itself to reveal the painting displayed on Geha’s tablet.

Gaier’s class was split into two groups of about 10 students each. I followed the group led by Albert Geha, a retired pathology lab manager with a passion for art. Geha led students on a planned route through the classical court and helped decipher the coffin of Ta-mit, a Grecian amphora by Exekias and a Roman statue of a young man in armor.

The tour then crossed the Libbey Court and visited the museum’s reconstructed cloister of Romanesque and Gothic colonnades. Geha explained why it’s important to understand the elements and principles of art when viewing a piece of work. The last stop of the tour was The Crucifixion by Jacobello del Fiore.

Throughout the tour, Geha asked the students questions and awarded candy for correct answers. He was able to offer his unique perspective on art and the larger narrative that makes up the history of art.

“Docent-led tours are extremely important, because we get to be with the art physically and that’s so much different than looking at reproductions in our textbooks and slides. We can walk around the art and see the size and scale, usually that makes the learning come full circle and really helps with the comprehension,” said Gaier.

The representation of a horse race on an amphora jar is explained by Geha.

Photo by: Sean Ferry
Docent Geha explains the representation of a horse race on an amphora jar.

 

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