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The Museum of Modern Art Now Offers Free Online Classes

The nine classes span contemporary art, fashion and photography

MoMA visitors walk around a sculpture by Barnett Newman titled Broken Obelisk. (Photo by Mario Tama / Getty Images)
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Looking to emerge from COVID-19 quarantine with more than just an overgrown hairdo? The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City is here to help with an array of free online courses that will ensure you emerge from this pandemic with a more sophisticated appreciation of art, reports Howard Halle for Time Out.

Like many museums around the world, MoMA’s brick-and-mortar building is currently closed. But the cultural institution maintains a vibrant digital presence through virtual exhibitions, remote learning resources and a library of insightful artistic criticism. Now, MoMA is adding another offering to the list, making nine classes freely available via Coursera, an online learning platform that hosts more than 3,900 massive open online courses (MOOC) and specializations. Courses range in length from 12 to 38 hours and can be completed at students’ own pace.

Understandably, the offerings focus on the museum’s wheelhouse: modern art. But the classes aren’t just for mustache-twirling art connoisseurs. Instead, they’re designed to guide everyday people to a deeper understanding and appreciation of the museum’s wide-ranging collection, which spans modern and contemporary art, fashion, and photography. Because the classes come straight from one of the world’s foremost art institutions, they feature prominent artists, designers, curators and historians as guest speakers and instructors.

Three of the classes are designed specifically for teachers (or homebound parents) looking to create lesson plans and interactive exercises for kids.

Check out some short videos and descriptions of each of the classes below.

What Is Contemporary Art?

This course answers its titular question using more than 70 works of art made between 1980 and the present, with a particular focus on art created in the last decade. By surveying the landscape of contemporary art, students will explore the diversity of approaches and mediums deployed by artists in response to the pressing issues and questions of our time.

Modern Art and Ideas

Organizing and encapsulating the various movements, trends and ideas present in modern and contemporary art can create confusing timelines of inspiration and imitation. This course takes a different, perhaps more accessible, tack, splitting the art and artists across four themes: Places & Spaces, Art & Ideas, Transforming Everyday Objects, and Art & Society.

Seeing Through Photographs

Drawing on MoMA’s extensive photography collection, this class explores what a photograph is and how the medium has been used throughout history. Conversations with artists and curators seek to introduce and elucidate the many factors that inform the making of an image.

This course is also offered in Mandarin.

Fashion as Design

In this course, MoMA draws on more than 70 garments and accessories to guide conversations with designers, makers, and historians discussing how to “look closely at what we wear, why we wear it, how it’s made, and what it means.”

In the Studio: Postwar Abstract Painting

If you’ve ever looked at an abstract painting by an artist like Jackson Pollock and wondered about his technique, this course is for you. Per the class’ description, it examines “materials, techniques and approaches of seven New York School artists, including Willem de Kooning, Yayoi Kusama, Agnes Martin, Barnett Newman, Jackson Pollock, Ad Reinhardt, and Mark Rothko.”

Art & Inquiry: Museum Teaching Strategies for Your Classroom

Aimed at teachers, this course seeks to help art enter the online classroom in engaging and educational ways.

Art & Ideas: Teaching with Themes

This course will help teachers create interdisciplinary lesson plans on particular themes that incorporate modern and contemporary art.

Art & Activity: Interactive Strategies for Engaging with Art

These strategies for teachers will help turn art into something students actively participate in as they learn.

Finally, if you burn through these classes and are eager to take your newfound appreciation of modern art for a spin, MoMA also has a podcast tour and a virtual gallery where you can browse its collection. Additional free Coursera offerings, meanwhile, include Yale University’s seminar on the science of well-being, the University of Edinburgh’s introduction to philosophy and Stanford University’s entry-level cryptography course.

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