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My Art Education

My formal art education came late in my schooling, since neither the schools in my hometown of Memphis, Tennessee, nor the schools in New York where I spent 3 years of my elementary education, offered Art as a separate experience. But that did not stop the flow of creativity, which, for me, was a necessary involvement. In Junior High School, 7thand 8th grades, we had a teacher who was assigned to teach Art but that didn’t really happen. It was obvious to all of us that she was not equipped to teach the subject and she didn’t pretend that she was. So those of us who loved to draw found ways to express ourselves and everybody knew who the artists were among us.

Finally, going to my Junior year in High School, we were excited to learn that we would get an Art teacher. Mrs. Briscoe, the new Art teacher was a dedicated and talented instructor. The curriculum focused on understanding the elements and principles and developing technical skills. That was easy for me and I excelled in all these areas. I was proud to be selected by Mrs. Brisco to be "Miss Art" of the Senior Class and was featured on a full page spread in the yearbook.

The year was 1966 and it was off to college for me, Memphis State University, to be exact. This State University was local and affordable - recently integrated three years prior. My sister Eleanor had been one of the first eight African Americans to be admitted in 1963. As African American students we were limited in participation on campus in many ways, but art was not one of them. The Art teachers, unlike much of the rest of the faculty, were kind, gifted and liberal. Here began a different kind of Art Education based on the teaching theory and practices of the 60’s and 70’s. If my two years of high school Art was formal and technical, this would be a totally different experience. (More on that in my next blog entry)


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Entering Memphis State University when I did was a was a unique experience. The University had been integrated, just 3 years earlier. Many of the restrictions that were instituted when the first group

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2016 Annette Fortt