The UNM Art Museum received a National Endowment for the Humanities grant for the national "We the People" initiative, designed to strengthen the teaching, study and understanding of American history and cultures. The grant supports "Picturing America: Picturing New Mexico," a two-day conference at UNM in the fall.

Photo: Paul Strand, "La Iglesia de San Francisco de Assisi," c. 1930, gelatin silver print, Collection of the UNM Art Museum, Albuquerque.

Up to 40 New Mexico secondary school teachers of social studies, language arts and visual arts whose schools received the "Picturing America" portfolio will discover how to bring history to life and engage students through the scholarly examination of art. The project includes a follow-up one-day conference in spring 2011, when participating teachers will report on their curriculum and assess educational outcomes.

The conferences feature keynote speeches, discussions and demonstrations by distinguished academics in art history, art education and language arts. They will demonstrate how object-based teaching can motivate students to engage with the narratives of America's history through visual art.

Sara Otto-Diniz, curator of academic initiatives, UNM Art Museum, and grant project director said, "Object-based teaching is such a valuable tool to help students make meaningful connections to their subject. At the fall conference, teachers will learn how to use primary visual resources, including paintings, photographs and sculpture, to better communicate their lessons in American history and culture. We are so grateful for this grant which supports an outstanding educational opportunity for the state."

Conference participants will learn how to sharpen students' skills of perception and interpretation by learning to read images for meaning and how to use historical and literary sources to deepen understanding, aiding students in forging connections to their own lives.

At the spring conference, teachers will share the successes of their teaching units, assess educational outcomes and visit a UNM Art Museum exhibition drawn from the permanent collections and designed to complement the images in "Picturing America."

The UNM Art Museum, in the Center for the Arts, is open Tuesday-Friday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and Saturday-Sunday, 1-4 p.m. Visit UNM Art Museum.

Story by Sari Krosinsky