Art and Words Workshop

Ekphrastic Poetry in the Art Room

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I recently had the pleasure of taking a summer art institute at Kutztown University with Dr. Julia Hovanec, which completes my Masters in Art Education program. During the workshop, we met a few very inspiring artists and art educators who all had their own creative use of words in artwork. However, one highlight for me was reading Dr. Hovanec’s article titled “The Art of Words: Ekphrasis in Action!” found in the November 2016 issue of Art Education. This article has a wealth of strategies and uses of ekphrastic poetry in the art classroom. Ekphrastic poetry is the use of words to describe something visually. Artists and poets alike have created artwork inspired by poetry and poetry inspired by art. Students can do the same by looking closely at a work of art and writing words that come to mind, or they can listen to a poem and create a work of art from their own interpretation of the words and the imagery that it invokes. In her article, Dr. Hovanec references this famous painting by Charles Demuth that was inspired by William Carlos Williams’ poem The Great Figure.


Among the rain

and lights

I saw the figure 5

in gold

on a red





to gong clangs

siren howls

and wheels rumbling

through the dark city.

Poem and artwork retrieved from
Article retrieved from!&aulast=Hovanec%2c+Julia+L.&id=DOI%3a&site=ftf-live&IdpId=%2c

Words are for Artists too!


Victor Stabin

One of the visiting artists during the KU art institute was Victor Stabin, a successful practicing artist who created a curriculum for art educators using the dictionary. He asked us to create a list of words that were unfamiliar (we were assigned a letter as a departure point). From the list, we chose a group of 2-3 words to then illustrate how ever we saw fit. The results were truly amazing and we learned new words in the process!



Kevin McCloskey

Another visiting artist was KU’s very own art professor Kevin McCloskey. During the institute, Professor McCloskey had us observe and draw snail shells and spoke about the role of the artist researcher while creating this collection of non-fiction picture books. These wonderfully illustrated children’s books capture the hearts and minds of students, integrating science and language into art.

More books can be found at

“Picture Writing: Fostering Literacy Through Art And Image Making Within the Writing Process”

Another valuable resource that was discovered during the KU art institute was “picture writing”. On, there are some wonderful artwork examples and testimonials given by children who created art and responded with descriptive and expressive words.

beth_olshansky.jpgBeth Olshansky, author of “The Power of Pictures: Creating Pathways to Literacy Through Art”, is a driving force of picture writing in art education today. In it she shares evidence that supports how art is an integral part of how we communicate, and when combined with writing deepens the learning experience. Below is a video clip of Beth Olshansky guiding this interdisciplinary approach in the elementary classroom.

There are also a wealth of resources for educators found on this website that guide the picture writing process in the classroom:



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