Postcards to the Earth: PPS HeART of Portland Exhibition and Showcase 2021

This month, the Portland Art Museum is celebrating the extraordinary work of Portland Public Schools students and teachers with an Ansel Adams-inspired installation in the Museum gift store windows. The installation is part of the annual K-12 student arts showcase, The HeART of Portland, scaled down for a school year in which most students spent most of their time learning from home. 

While, in previous years, the student art exhibition filled the Miller Gallery and 1,000 people gathered in the Kridel Grand Ballroom for opening night performances, this year PPS educators had to reimagine the showcase for a time of limited in-person experiences. The result is a poignant display of students’ Postcards to the Earth—200 works from 15 schools on view in the Museum Store and in an online gallery—and a Spring Showcase viewable on the PPS YouTube page and the district’s Facebook page starting this Thursday, June 10, at 7 p.m.

The Postcards to the Earth project carries on the tradition of the Museum and PPS staff collaborating to provide meaningful learning experiences for both students and teachers. In March, visual art teachers immersed themselves (virtually) in the exhibition Ansel Adams in Our Time, attending an online lecture by Julia Dolan, Ph.D., the Museum’s Minor White Curator of Photography; the lecture was followed by an interactive workshop. Teachers then designed a lesson connecting students to their own natural landscapes, real or imagined. Students recreated images of a natural environment that is personally significant to them, using the achromatic palette so often used by Ansel Adams. Finally, students wrote a message of gratitude to the earth.

“After a year of connecting through computer screens, it is so rewarding to see student artwork in real life, enlivening the windows at the museum!” Carolyn Hazel Drake, the PPS district leader for visual arts, shared. “This project was a success for students from ages 6 to 16, and the range of creativity and personal expression reflected in their postcards is downright inspiring.” Here at the Museum, we are continually inspired by the creativity and dedication of art educators and the amazing work their students create. Thank you, PPS educators, for connecting your students with the Museum in deep and meaningful ways. Thank you, Portlanders, for supporting the Arts Education and Access Fund (aka the Arts Tax) and ensuring that every Portland student receives excellent education in the arts.

Be part of this collaborative project! 

  1. Think about this prompt: What in nature are you grateful for or impressed by? 
  2. Choose what you are grateful for to draw on the front of your postcard or select a view outside your window to draw. (PPS students used black and white pencils on brown cardstock. Some chose to add a color. You can use any materials you like.) 
  3. Write a thank-you note to the Earth on the back of the card. What are you thankful for in nature? Do you have a favorite outdoor activity that you like to do? 
  4. Photograph the front and back of your card and share it with us on Instagram #postcardstotheearth @portlandartmuseum @pps.visualarts.

Postcards to the Earth will be on view in the museum gift store through August 1. 

See more student artwork in the full PPS Heart of Portland online gallery, and learn more about Ansel Adams’ photography in our online experience of Ansel Adams in Our Time. The exhibition is on view at the Museum through August 1, 2021, and kids 17 and under always visit for free.

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