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Originally published Friday, October 8, 2010 at 3:07 PM

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Teaching Picasso

The Seattle Art Museum's landmark exhibit of more than 150 original Picasso paintings, sculptures, drawings and photographs, should reignite the public's passion for arts education

See for yourself

"PICASSO: Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris" — The exhibit runs through Jan. 17.


The Seattle Art Museum's Pablo Picasso exhibit, featuring a cache of the works of the 20th century's most influential artist, signals a curatorial feat.

I'm hoping it also signals a reigniting of the public's passion for arts education.

Let's face it: Art is alive and well everywhere but in the classroom, where it battles for survival amid a necessary focus on core subjects and tight budgets that must prioritize paper and pencils over art supplies.

No need to abandon reading, writing and 'rithmetic. Students can learn these subjects through the 150 original Picasso paintings, sculptures, drawings and photographs included in SAM's exhibit.

Research shows the arts can help children improve academic performance and develop 21st-century skills from problem-solving and critical thinking to entrepreneurship and creativity.

Indeed, President Obama's arts-education platform states: "In addition to giving our children the science and math skills they need to compete in the new global context, we should also encourage the ability to think creatively that comes from a meaningful arts education."

SAM offers many opportunities, the main one is docent-led tours purposely set for students to be less art lectures and more conversations about art.

Picasso was an incredible painter whose cubist period shows an influence of geometry's lines and planes, but he was also a person immersed in world cultures, as revealed by his paintings that are influenced by African masks and European impressionists. He was also a fan of literature, music and dance.

Picasso was so iconic: math, science, literature, you name it. The prolific painter's work can be a window through which to view these subjects.

Nearly 12,000 kids have signed up to tour the exhibit so far, including student groups from Oregon and Montana. SAM has a bus subsidy to help schools pay for transportation. About 1,500 students will learn about Picasso at their schools via teaching artists through the museum's "Art Goes to School" program.

My son is a fourth-grader coping with the shift in mathematics from numeracy to geometry's study of shapes and configurations. I'm desperate to help him grasp the mathematics of points, lines and curves. It will be worth the price of admission to begin our conversation in front of a Picasso art work.

— Lynne K. Varner

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