Brief Description of the Site:
Jacob Lawrence, Over the Line, is part of the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C. Site visitors can choose to view the Flash version (Flash version 7 player is available on Macromedia's web site at www.macromedia.com) or the html version easily visible using browsers. This is an interactive online exhibit on the New York artist, Jacob Lawrence. The site is divided into "Beginnings", "The Young Artist", "Over the Line", "Teaching Resources", Children's Art" , and "Site Info". Each section has its own story to tell about the artist accompanied by historical photos that allow for highlighting of facts and images through what is known as "mouse-overs". That allows one to place the mouse over the graphic or photo at which time the image of the artist is enlarged. The black and white photos that appear in a slide show are a fascinating visit back in time to when the artist lived in Harlem, New York City. Each frame is accompanied by an audio recording of the artist's voice as he reminisces, talking about his neighborhood and the people he knew. Within the photos are paintings as they would fit into the scene. They are apparent because the photograph is black and white while the artist's work is in color. As one moves the mouse over each painting in color, the painting is enlarged for clearer viewing. It is a beautiful multimedia way to mount an interactive exhibit and underscore the artist's contribution as well as his vision of how his work reflects the community in which he lived. The section describing Lawrence as a young artist uses the same technique. First there are black and white photos, but then a painting appears. An audio recording of Lawrence on the use of color can be played at that point explaining his use of poster paints and brown papers, cheap and readily available. The ease of navigation and the simplicity and clean lines of the web site make this a beautiful learning tool for children and teachers. The presentation alone provides a myriad of ideas on web site design and content.
How to use the site:
Each section of the site offers a sequenced presentation of Jacob Lawrence's biography, interspersed with his paintings that are embedded in black and white photos, to be enlarged by the use of Flash (an animation program) and audio of the artist's voice. An interesting story of a prominent African American artist is told through photographs of his life and his artwork. The juxtaposition of the stark photography with the lush color of the paintings convey a sense of richness in depicting a working class African American community. In Children's Resources, chidren's art from the Washington, D.C. public schools appears as a collaborative project between the Phillips Collection and that city's public education institution. The project is called, "A Portrait of My Community, A Portrait of Myself", in which children are inspired by Lawrence's style and images of the Harlem community he knew so well. The Teaching Resources offer suggested activities, discussion questions, and teaching strategies for bringing the artist into the classroom. There are links to social studies, math and science, visual arts, and language arts. Each of those sections discuss curriculum integration with links to the artist's work that corresponds to the content area discussed. Suggested questions accompany each painting for discussion. Books are recommended for adults and young readers, and there is a full bibliography. Then there are the recommended books and web sites. This is a "must" site for any students interested in American history and the prominent role of African American artists.
Ruth R. Perlin
Director of Educational Technology
The Phillips Collection