Addison Updates Archive

Back to School at the Addison

This year, the Addison Gallery of American Art inaugurates a series of small exhibitions—consisting of just one powerful object, or perhaps several—intended to prompt discussions about events and ideas of the moment.

To start the school year, the exhibition Back to School brings together paintings and photographs that explore what, when, where, how, and from whom we learn. These images reveal diverse spaces—wood one-room cabins with rough-hewn benches, stout brick edifices with elaborately carved gothic arches, and corners of modest homes. Our teachers may be versions of the austere, bun-wearing schoolmarms, stern disciplinarians, or quirky, inspirational teen whisperers that we see in movies—or they may be our fellow students. Learning may be a collaborative effort in which teachers share their expertise, and students share experiences.

Schools offer opportunities for self-definition, friendship, rites of passage, and belonging. In many communities, they may also provide necessary services like healthcare. Though education is an individual right and is considered beneficial to society as a whole, access to it has been hard-won, as photos from the American civil rights struggle demonstrate.

Back to School is currently on view in the Museum Learning Center at the Addison.

Image: Wendy Ewald, A from the Alphabet Project, North Carolina from A Spanish Alphabet, Bethesda Elementary School students, Durham, North Carolina, 1998, gelatin silver print, gift of the artist in honor of Adam Weinberg, 2003.53.1