NEXT L.A. / A look at issues, people and ideas helping to shape the emerging metropolis : Getty Lets Students Plug Into Art Lessons


As her third-grade students cluster around a small computer image of a wooden sculpture, teacher Victoria Ward poses today’s tough question: Why did the artist chose a baboon as his subject?

Leaning forward to catch a closer glimpse, Graison Gill blurts, “Maybe he likes them?”

“Maybe he wanted to save them because they’re endangered?” counters Stephanie Ginsberg.

Witness the uneven beginnings of art criticism in a Manhattan Beach elementary school, made possible by Ward’s personal commitment to art education and facilitated by her introduction to a new World Wide Web site.


ArtsEdNet is sponsored by the Getty Center for Education in the Arts as part of its effort to bring art appreciation to the masses. It is the center’s first foray onto the Internet.

“We really tried to make this not the usual Getty stuffy thing,” said Candace Borland, who is coordinating the computer project for the center.

The Getty web page offers teachers 28 images--from paintings to sculptures, ancient to modern--and provides lesson plans for each piece.

Some proposed approaches are philosophical, others are practical. The elementary lesson plan on “Baboon,” carved by Mexican American artist Felipe B. Archuleta, suggests that teachers bring in lumber scraps and ask students to whittle their own animals.

Soon, there will be links between the lesson plans and related artworks available on the Internet, thanks to an Ohio State University professor who is this year’s visiting Getty scholar. A discussion about a stylized statue of a cowboy on horseback, for example, could take a student on an electronic journey to find artistic renderings of horses as far away as an Athens museum.

Early next year, the Getty plans to add a series of live appearances by working artists who would show their work over the Internet then respond to questions from teachers and students.

Grand View Elementary is better off than most schools--it already has the Internet connection and advanced computers to download and display images.

Most schools can’t tap into ArtsEdNet yet, but the Getty is counting on President Clinton’s recent promise that California high technology companies will provide a computer and Internet access to every school by June.

If that promise is fulfilled, Ward--the Grand View teacher--thinks her colleagues will find that ArtsEdNet addresses two chronic problems: the difficulty of finding images from which to teach and students’ waning attention spans.

“I can hand them a book with the same information and I guarantee they wouldn’t be interested in it,” she said. “I am competing with television to get kids’ attention.”

The Web address for ArtsEdNet: