ARTaFacts is published in Aug/Sept, Oct/Nov, Dec/Jan, Feb/Mar, and April/May, offering you five issues throughout the school year for $11. Three of the five issues focus on a specific artist, the fourth introduces art of a particular culture, and the fifth focuses on a person working in visual arts. The issues I reviewed included Winslow Homer, Glassmaking (Dale Chihuly), Andy Warhol, Aboriginal Art, and Art Museum Curator.
The glossy portion of the magazine is written for the student and includes lively text and quality color photos and examples. While the text contains dates and historical facts, it also includes enough anecdotal and personal information to be highly interesting. For example, did you know that “Andy [Warhol] felt very shy about presenting his portfolio of work in a brown paper bag while wearing casual clothes and old sneakers, which was all he had. When he opened the bag for the art director at Harper’s Bazaar, a cockroach crawled out.”
The bottom of the front page of each issue includes a timeline of the artist/subject. The timeline on Winslow Homer begins with his birth in 1836 and ends with his death in 1910. It also includes the following: 1844 Telegraph, 1860 Pony Express, 1876 Battle of Little Big Horn, 1903 Wright Brothers fly plane, and more. I love this feature in that it quickly and clearly gives a picture of what was going on during the life of the artist.
Each magazine also includes a map noting places mentioned in the text, thought-provoking questions regarding the art examples, a list of museums where you can find the art/artist mentioned, a list of websites with further information, and a list of books on the subject. The inserted teacher pages include questions about the art, book and short story suggestions, and corresponding art activities for the student to complete.
It should be noted that the art is not always “appropriate,” nor is this a Christian publication. Winslow Homer’s famous painting The Gulf Stream portrays a lone man on a boat surrounded by sharks and bloody water (insinuating he wasn’t originally alone). The text regarding this painting explains that people were originally shocked at the subject matter of the painting and issued several complaints, prompting Homer to publish an explanation that the man had been rescued by a passing ship, returned to his home, and lived happily ever after. The lesson on Aboriginal art mentions the Aborigines’ belief that their art “activates the powers of ancestral spirits, expresses individual and group identity, and explores the relationships between people and the land. It is an understanding of the natural forces of earth, which link together all men, women, plants and animals.”
The elementary edition of the magazine is geared for grades 4-7, and I didn’t find anything that I would object to sharing with my fourth grader. However, if you prefer that your child not be introduced to non-Christian beliefs you will want to do a bit of editing. Even then, there is still much to be gleaned from each lesson.
I am very impressed with this magazine. While each issue is only a few pages long, it covers a great deal of information and teaches children to view art with a critical eye. It helps students learn what to look for when examining a painting, makes them aware of various artists and art forms, effectively introduces new vocabulary, and then challenges them to follow-up with a creation of their own using similar techniques. And the subscription price of $11/year is hard to beat! I will most definitely be subscribing for our family.