Freedom of Learning

Norman Rockwell’s art is seen, touched, and discussed by schoolchildren



Photos by Anastasia Stanmeyer

It was not uncommon for Norman Rockwell, during the quarter-century that began in 1953, to visit with students at Stockbridge Plain and West Stockbridge Village schools. Central to his creative process as an artist was storytelling. In Rockwell’s iconic paintings, children represent possibility; they embody his belief that the next generation will show us the way. 

Rockwell’s influence was such that his hometown of Stockbridge became associated with the very depiction of small-town America, even being called Rockwellian. The artist and illustrator whose studio overlooked Main Street allowed him to observe his fellow residents’ daily lives. In turn, he was easily spotted traversing his regular bike route to Lake Averil. 

In today’s fast-paced world, as the quaint and idealistic portrayal of bygone days eludes the current generation, local children are benefiting from ongoing efforts by the Norman Rockwell Museum to make the work of a local American icon both accessible and relevant. 

This fall, pupils across Berkshire County will be given access to Rockwell’s legacy. Some will don white-cotton gloves and flip through original copies of The Saturday Evening Post in the museum archives. Others will learn to look for the messages in Rockwell’s work—recognizable pieces such as the artist’s 1943 series “The Four Freedoms” depicting Freedom From Fear, Freedom From Want, Freedom of Worship, and Freedom of Speech. His 1953 drawing United Nations includes 65 faces representing the countries of the world. Rockwell returned to this in 1961 with Golden Rule, an emblematic message that we are all one humanity, and representative of the type of work he would go on to do.

Rockwell’s Golden Rule proved pivotal in Maegan Warner’s third-grade classroom at Muddy Brook Elementary. Students used the painting as a springboard for discussion, not only to employ compassion and to better understand others but also to connect with their own stories. Warner cites the “incredible collaboration” as introducing a protocol that invites a line of questioning completely void of correct answers. “What do you notice?” and “What do you think?” were at the root of the lessons brought to the more than 70 Great Barrington third graders. Their responses were riveting: “I notice his skin is brown,” said one boy; “I notice his hands are clasped,” said another. “I notice she has a cloth on her head,” is another observation, all of which pave the way for important discussions about the challenges we all face—from race and religion as reflected in Rockwell’s painting to divorce and domestic abuse in the students’ lives.  

Creating an immersive program was the driving force behind the museum’s newest initiative. The Student Passport Program, piloted last year at Muddy Brook and Pittsfield’s Morningside Elementary and carried forward to other schools this fall, aims to provide a full-spectrum learning opportunity for third- and fourth-grade students throughout Berkshire County. 

“How do images make us think and feel?” is the type of question around which museum educators are building their programming. Norman Rockwell Museum director Laurie Norton Moffatt says she and her colleagues are “using Rockwell’s art to show us how to speak our mind and listen respectfully.” This, coupled with the fact that increased pressure on time and resources has caused a well-established field-trip program to diminish in schools, presented a logical space in which to develop the museum’s outreach. 

In the first step of the Passport Program, museum educators work with classroom teachers to identify a grade level, to find relevance to the curriculum, and to create a foundation of understanding for what will be seen at the museum. The second aspect involves a visit to the museum, where students and teachers are able to experience original works of art—significant, considering students’ pervasive digital experience today. At the close of this portion, each student is given an actual passport, valid for admission when the child returns with his/her family. 

The museum’s aim is “to make museum going a regular part of ongoing family life,” says Norton Moffatt who, along with Stephanie Plunkett, deputy director and chief curator, was instrumental in shaping the programming that ultimately will be made available to all elementary schools throughout the county. Last year, during the pilot program, a Family Day included transportation from Pittsfield to Stockbridge to encourage those families for whom transportation is an issue to attend. A full morning of tours and art activities for both adults and children was organized.

Illustration can communicate ideas and inspire change, says Plunkett. Rockwell’s work “retains a relevance that becomes more urgent and compelling as the world around us shifts. There are moments that elevate us as people, and these are the moments that we grasp when we are struggling in other ways—these are the moments Rockwell held onto.”


The Far Reach of Rockwell
The educational arm of the Norman Rockwell Museum has been central to its mission. “It was Norman Rockwell’s wish that his collection be used to educate and engage the broadest of audiences,” explains Norman Rockwell Museum director Laurie Norton Moffatt. An extensive digital curriculum for grades K-12 is available through the museum’s website. And a $1.5-million grant from the George Lucas Family Foundation has been earmarked to strengthen the museum’s Digital Learning and Engagement Division, enabling the museum to create a range of robust multi-media experiences for visitors onsite and online as well as for its traveling exhibitions. The partnership between the museum and Lucas, an avid collector of Rockwell art, evolved from the shared belief that Rockwell’s art transcends generations and cultures, communicating universal ideals.

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February 2018

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Cost: Members: Free; Non-Members: $5

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Sponsor: Fairfield Museum and History Center
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More information

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Sponsor: Fairfield Museum and History Center
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More information

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Sponsor: Fairfield Museum and History Center
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Cost: Free

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View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203-831-9063
Contact Name: Maritime Garage Gallery
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More information

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Cost: Free

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View map »


Sponsor: Pequot Library
Telephone: 203-259-0346 ext.115
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New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: (203)801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

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Vermont based artist Alisa Dworsky opens an exhibition of new works, including InVersion, a large scale, site-based volumetric work, at CYNTHIA-REEVES, located on the campus of MASS MoCA in North...

Cost: Free

Where:
CYNTHIA-REEVES
1315 MASS MoCA Way
North Adams, MA  01247
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Sponsor: CYNTHIA-REEVES
Telephone: 413-398-5257
Contact Name: Kristen Jussila
Website »

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EVERY THURSDAY | 7:30 PM - 10:00 pm Music | Spoken Word | Comedy | More Hosted by Don Lowe Hunt Hill Farm is excited to announce OpenMic night every Thursday night.  Please stop by to...

Cost: donation

Where:
Hunt Hill Farm
44 Upland Road
New Milford, CT  06776
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Sponsor: Hunt Hill Farm
Telephone: 860.355.0300
Contact Name: John C. Maxwell III
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Robert Deyber (born August 1955 in Greenwich, Connecticut) is an American artist best known for literal visual portrayals of cliches, euphemisms, and idioms from the English and other languages....

Cost: Free

Where:
Byrde + the b
10 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06794
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Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 212 255 6247
Contact Name: Steven Miller
Website »

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Come see and shop for Xavier Ricolfi's new line of jewelry just in time for Valentine's Day!  French designer Xavier Ricolfi draws upon his industrial design background, ...

Cost: free

Where:
Byrde + the b
10 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06794
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Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 212 255 6247
Contact Name: Steven Miller
Website »

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Spaght Gallery; February 8, 2018 - July 23, 2018 Seeking opportunities and a better life is an ideal uniting our shared American identity. This exhibition provides and intimate look at the...

Cost: Members: Free; Non-Members: $5

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
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Sponsor: Fairfield Museum and History Center
Telephone: 203-259-1598
Contact Name: Visitor Services Manager
Website »

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Spectrum: Annual Contemporary Art Show What’s Now/What’s New Open Call For Entries Spectrum is a juried exhibition of original, contemporary artwork by local and regional...

Cost: $26 for members/student / $41 for non-members

Where:
, CT


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The Loft Gallery will host Litchfield artists, Barbra Kraut and Joan Morosani, from February 21 through April 8. ​The exhibit will highlight abstract paintings by Ms. Kraut,...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Smithy and Loft Gallery
10 Main Street
New Preston , CT  06777
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Sponsor: The Smithy Store
Telephone: 860-868-9003
Contact Name: Susan
Website »

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The 10th annual “Close To Home” event to benefit the Pacific House Young Adult Program will be held Friday, February 23rd at the Hyatt Regency Greenwich.  This popular,...

Cost: $50.00

Where:
Hyatt Regency Greenwich
1800 E. Putnam Avenue
Old Greenwich, CT  06870
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Sponsor: Pacific House
Telephone: 203-406-0017x304
Contact Name: Lisa Planchard
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UMass Amherst Libraries present the 24th Annual Du Bois Lecture, featuring Dr. Reiland Rabaka

Cost: Free

Where:
Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center
14 Castle Street
Great Barrington, MA  01230
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Sponsor: UMass Amherst Libraries
Telephone: 413-577-0932
Contact Name: Whitney Battle-Baptiste
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The winter exhibit at the City of Norwalk Parking Authority’s Maritime Garage Gallery entitled, “Worth a Thousand Words" features artists’ renderings that convey...

Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
Norwalk, CT  06854
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Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203-831-9063
Contact Name: Maritime Garage Gallery
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Opening Reception: Thursday, February 15, 2018, 6:30-8:30pm. Light hors d'oeuvres and wine served. Enjoy a gallery tour and scholarly presentation at 7:00pm by Dr. Peter Bayers, Director of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Pequot Library
720 Pequot Avenue
Southport, CT  06890
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Sponsor: Pequot Library
Telephone: 203-259-0346 ext.115
Contact Name: Front Desk
Website »

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Heather Gaudio Fine Art is pleased to present “Jeremy Holmes: New Sculpture,” the first solo exhibition of the artist at the gallery.  The show will open with a public reception on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
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Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: (203)801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Vermont based artist Alisa Dworsky opens an exhibition of new works, including InVersion, a large scale, site-based volumetric work, at CYNTHIA-REEVES, located on the campus of MASS MoCA in North...

Cost: Free

Where:
CYNTHIA-REEVES
1315 MASS MoCA Way
North Adams, MA  01247
View map »


Sponsor: CYNTHIA-REEVES
Telephone: 413-398-5257
Contact Name: Kristen Jussila
Website »

More information

One-Time Cladies Night for Adults Interested in Learning to Use the Potter’s Wheel Looking to get your hands dirty and learn how to use the potter’s wheel? Try Clay Center’s...

Cost: $50

Where:
Clay Art Center
40 Beech Street
Port Chester, NY  10573
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Robert Deyber (born August 1955 in Greenwich, Connecticut) is an American artist best known for literal visual portrayals of cliches, euphemisms, and idioms from the English and other languages....

Cost: Free

Where:
Byrde + the b
10 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06794
View map »


Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 212 255 6247
Contact Name: Steven Miller
Website »

More information

Come see and shop for Xavier Ricolfi's new line of jewelry just in time for Valentine's Day!  French designer Xavier Ricolfi draws upon his industrial design background, ...

Cost: free

Where:
Byrde + the b
10 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06794
View map »


Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 212 255 6247
Contact Name: Steven Miller
Website »

More information

Spaght Gallery; February 8, 2018 - July 23, 2018 Seeking opportunities and a better life is an ideal uniting our shared American identity. This exhibition provides and intimate look at the...

Cost: Members: Free; Non-Members: $5

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Sponsor: Fairfield Museum and History Center
Telephone: 203-259-1598
Contact Name: Visitor Services Manager
Website »

More information

Washington, CT. Shepaug Valley School will host Minds in Motion™ Shepaug on Saturday, February 24, 2018 from 12:00-4:00. Co-presented by Region 12 and Connecticut Association for the Gifted...

Cost: $15

Where:
Shepaug Valley School
159 South Street
Washington, CT  06793
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Sponsor: CAG
Telephone: 203-291-6586
Contact Name: Julie King
Website »

More information

Spectrum: Annual Contemporary Art Show What’s Now/What’s New Open Call For Entries Spectrum is a juried exhibition of original, contemporary artwork by local and regional...

Cost: $26 for members/student / $41 for non-members

Where:
, CT


Website »

More information

Broadway comes to Ridgefield! Daniel C. Levine directs Andrew Lloyd Webber’s smash-hit Broadway musical, JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT, featuring an all-star Broadway cast. If...

Cost: $69.50

Where:
The Ridgefield Playhouse
80 EAST RIDGE
RIDGEFIELD, CT  06877
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Sponsor: Ridgefield Magazine’s Broadway & Cabaret Series, Partially underwritten by Books on the Common and Adam Broderick Salon
Website »

More information

The Loft Gallery will host Litchfield artists, Barbra Kraut and Joan Morosani, from February 21 through April 8. ​The exhibit will highlight abstract paintings by Ms. Kraut,...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Smithy and Loft Gallery
10 Main Street
New Preston , CT  06777
View map »


Sponsor: The Smithy Store
Telephone: 860-868-9003
Contact Name: Susan
Website »

More information

Ridgefield Operation for Animal Rescue (ROAR) will host its annual ROAR WITH LAUGHTER gala and fundraising event on February 24th at Rolling Hills Country Club in...

Cost: $175 per guest | table of 10: $1,650 | table of 12: $1,980

Where:
Rolling Hills Country Club
333 Hurlbutt Street
Wilton, CT  06897
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Sponsor: ROAR
Telephone: 203-438-0158
Website »

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Ahmed Gallab makes music that is joyful and generous, with a razor-sharp message about community and social justice. He led the 15-piece Atomic Bomb Band, with collaborators that included David...

Cost: $10-$26

Where:
MASS MoCA
1040 MASS MoCA Way
North Adams, MA  01247
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Telephone: 413-662-2111
Website »

More information

Broadway comes to Ridgefield! Daniel C. Levine directs Andrew Lloyd Webber’s smash-hit Broadway musical, JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT, featuring an all-star Broadway cast. If...

Cost: $69.50

Where:
The Ridgefield Playhouse
80 EAST RIDGE
RIDGEFIELD, CT  06877
View map »


Sponsor: Ridgefield Magazine’s Broadway & Cabaret Series, Partially underwritten by Books on the Common and Adam Broderick Salon
Website »

More information

Seldom has there been such a merging of intellectual rigor and emotion as in Johann Sebastian Bach’s Gamba Sonatas. The slow movements reach remarkable spiritual height and the outer movements...

Cost: $38 general seating / $15 students

Where:
Saint James Place
352 Main St
Great Barrington, MA  01230
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Sponsor: Close Encounters With Music
Telephone: 800-843-0778
Contact Name: Close Encounters With Music
Website »

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On Saturday February 24 at 7pm, join New Pond Farm’s team of astronomy volunteers and gaze through the telescopes at the 9-day Old Moon and several galaxies and star clusters. The team will...

Cost: $4 per New Pond Farm member ($12 max. per member family), and $6 per non-member

Where:
New Pond Farm Education Center
101 Marchant Road
Redding, CT  06896
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Telephone: (203) 938-2117
Website »

More information

Opening Reception: Thursday, February 15, 2018, 6:30-8:30pm. Light hors d'oeuvres and wine served. Enjoy a gallery tour and scholarly presentation at 7:00pm by Dr. Peter Bayers, Director of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Pequot Library
720 Pequot Avenue
Southport, CT  06890
View map »


Sponsor: Pequot Library
Telephone: 203-259-0346 ext.115
Contact Name: Front Desk
Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Art is pleased to present “Jeremy Holmes: New Sculpture,” the first solo exhibition of the artist at the gallery.  The show will open with a public reception on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: (203)801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Vermont based artist Alisa Dworsky opens an exhibition of new works, including InVersion, a large scale, site-based volumetric work, at CYNTHIA-REEVES, located on the campus of MASS MoCA in North...

Cost: Free

Where:
CYNTHIA-REEVES
1315 MASS MoCA Way
North Adams, MA  01247
View map »


Sponsor: CYNTHIA-REEVES
Telephone: 413-398-5257
Contact Name: Kristen Jussila
Website »

More information

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