Museum as Classroom: Exploring Psychology through Art

By Nurper Gokhan.

Published by The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

When the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) temporarily moved from Manhattan for the renovation and expansion of its building to Long Island City, NY, a few blocks away from LaGuardia Community College of the City University of New York (LaGCC), an interesting opportunity arose to utilize art in the teaching of psychology. As part of a term research project, students in Writing-Intensive Introductory Psychology classes examined a psychological concept, based on self-reflections made on an art piece of their choosing at MoMA. The MoMA project was designed to meet specific course objectives while strengthening the students’ basic academic skills and to address their need for exposure to art.
Since this project was partially supported by the “Looking Through MoMA” program, a MoMA educator provided a guided tour in the museum and an in-class presentation to help students understand how to look at art and have them make reflections more freely. The Museum and its resources provided an exciting path to incorporate art into the topics of psychology, while creating and supporting an academic environment that fostered a strong liberal arts education. The MoMA project utilized the richly diverse characteristics of LaGCC students, as it brought different perspectives together through art in both a very personal and public way. This marriage of art and science not only produced high quality research papers that critically examined current topics and issues in psychology, but challenged students’ preconceived negative attitudes about what art, especially modern art, is and to whom it belongs in our society. Student research titles included: Miro and Psychoanalysis; Dali’s The Persistence of Memory (1931) and Alzheimer’s Dementia Processes; van Gogh’s The Starry Night (1889) and the Role of Spirituality in One’s Happiness; Rauschenberg’s Bed (1955) and the Function of Dreams; and Warhol’s Orange Car Crash Fourteen Times (1963) and PTSD.

Keywords: Museum of Modern Art, NY, Teaching Psychology, Collaborative Learning, Art and Science, Liberal Arts Education, Urban College Students, Transformative Learning, John Dewey, Writing Intensive Curriculum, Creative Writing

International Journal of the Inclusive Museum, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp.133-144. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 622.484KB).

Dr. Nurper Gokhan

Associate Professor, Social Science Department, LaGuardia Community College of the City University of New York, Long Island City, New York, USA

Dr. Nurper Gokhan is a clinical psychologist in New York. She received her PhD from Fairleigh Dickinson University, NJ in 1995. Since 2001, she has been faculty at LaGuardia Community College of the City University of New York. Her research interests include parenting skills training, children’s emotion regulation processes, and creative pedagogy in psychology. Trained in the cognitive behavioral approach, Dr. Gokhan specializes in the treatment of anxiety disorders. Recently, she has been exploring the value of mindfulness and other contemplative practice as a therapeutic adjunct to Cognitive Behavioral Treatment and as a training modality for psychology interns. Born and raised in Turkey, Dr. Gokhan has resided in New York City for over twenty years making frequent visits to Turkey and has been involved in various cross-cultural projects.

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