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Amanda Friedeman

Seeing with Ears, Hearing with Eyes: An Art and Music Experience

We are bombarded with sounds and images almost constantly; in many instances, music and images have become inseparable, whether on television, in video games, or in blockbuster movies. Adolescents, a key audience targeted by entertainment conglomerates, are particularly receptive and attuned to this juxtaposition of sound and image.

            In this culture of ever-increasing multi-sensory stimulation, art museums are often perceived as silent, sterile environments with little to offer young visitors. Students of all ages visit art museums as part of class field trips. Museum education departments are challenged with providing relevant, engaging and memorable experiences which will make students want to continue visiting museums. During previous museum education research, I found that the needs of middle school students were not fully considered; programs for middle school students are frequently adapted from those designed for early elementary or high school audiences. The resulting programs are inadequate, in part because students are seldom consulted or asked to participate in designing programs for their peers. For this reason, I decided to focus on this gap in current museum education practice.

            During this thesis research project, I collaborated with fifth-through-eighth-grade students from a school on Chicago’s Near West Side. The students selected works of art that appealed to them from within the Art Institute of Chicago’s collection. They chose songs to highlight particular aspects of each visual object. The songs ranged from contemporary R&B to jazz standards and experimental music. In developing these music and art pairings, students were able to make connections between auditory and visual experiences and relate to the works of art in ways that they found meaningful.

            These pairings formed the basis of a tour of the Art Institute given to middle school students from other Chicago elementary schools. During the tours, the students were able to discuss and interpret the works of art in numerous ways, including aesthetic appreciation, historical contexts, and their individual reactions. Post-tour interviews allowed these discussions to continue and afforded students an opportunity to reflect on their experiences.

            This thesis project empowered middle school students to approach works of art and to make their own interpretations. It demonstrated an approach to using music to create relevant museum programming for middle school audiences and provided a foundation for my continued exploration of innovative museum education practices.


Amanda Friedeman received her A.B. in Art History from Princeton University in 1999. As an undergraduate, she completed an internship in Art Education at the Chicago Children’s Museum and continues to teach music and art workshops there. While at SAIC, she completed an internship in Museum Education at the Art Institute of Chicago.


Thesis Advisor: Drea Howenstein Associate Professor, Art Education

Thesis Reader: Giselle Mercier Instructor, Art Education

Second Reader: Levi Smith Associate Director, Student Programs, Department of Museum Education, Art Institute of Chicago

Peer Reader: Patricia Rain Gianneschi-McNichols MAAE Candidate, SAIC




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