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Nevada City School of the Arts teacher gets an education in Renaissance art

Andrea Conte, an artist-in-residence at Nevada City School of the Arts, was one of 51 participants in the 2015 Teacher Institute on Art of the Renaissance at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
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Andrea Conte is familiar with the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. The artist-in-residence at Nevada City School of the Arts frequently takes advantage of the lessons and resources posted on the gallery’s website and incorporates them into her classroom.

So when she found out the museum was offering its 2015 Teacher Institute on Art of the Renaissance — six days of lectures, gallery tours and activities aimed at K-12 teachers — she decided to apply. She knew the program was selective; still, she submitted her application and kept her fingers crossed.

“I was amazingly surprised and absolutely excited when they said, ‘Oh, you’re in,’” Conte said. “I could not believe I got accepted for it.”



Conte was one of just 51 teachers nationwide chosen to participate in this year’s program, which was offered in two sessions at the museum last July and August.

Participants spent time studying Renaissance artists and their works, learning about the social and cultural context of the art and working on strategies to incorporate visual art into their lesson plans.




Conte, a native of Argentina who has been living in Nevada County for about 15 years, is a longtime lover of the Renaissance period and was eager to learn more about it.

“Classical art is the foundation for so many things,” Conte said. “Not just the painting, but the concepts and the whole idea behind it.”

And she was exposed to a variety of those concepts as a participant in the institute. She attended lectures on Renaissance history; she also spent time in the museum’s gallery, where she got an up-close look at how those historical influences translated into art.

Institute participants attended a concert performed with Renaissance musical instruments, and were treated to a step by step demonstration of the technique Raphael used to create his oil paintings.

That demonstration was a surreal moment, Conte said.

“Here we are in this gallery, these beautiful Raphael paintings (in front of us) and our expert on Raphael painting for us,” Conte said. “It was just amazing.”

But the six days weren’t just spent the art of the time period. A focus of the institute was on helping the participants, who teach a variety of subjects at their respective schools, develop ways to present what they learned to their students.

“It was how can you bring the concepts and put them in the classroom in a different way,” Conte said.

She’s already started doing that at Nevada City School of the Arts, where she teaches art to third through eighth graders.

Conte said she picked up new journaling exercises and warm-ups to share with her students, as well as innovative ways to explain artistic concepts, such as layering paint on a canvas.

One of her classes has already experimented with creating paint in pigments used frequently in Renaissance paintings.

But perhaps the most valuable takeaway from her summer experience is the network of teachers from all over the country that she can now rely on to exchange ideas and evaluate teaching strategies — her very own “think tank,” she said.

“We keep in touch, we share lesson plans, share information and other opportunities,” Conte said. “We’re trying to establish communication within classrooms so kids get the experience of talking to kids all over the country.”

She’s also sharing what she learned over the summer with her colleagues at Nevada City School of the Arts.

“I’m just very excited,” Conte said. “It’s very inspirational to be able to bring that all back.”

She said attending the institute helped renew her passion for the arts — something that will ultimately enrich her students’ classroom experience.

“Having something new that was actually taught so well that you’re excited about, you can convey that to the children,” Conte said. “When you have a teacher that loves what they do, students kind of love what they’re doing.”

To contact Staff Writer Emily Lavin, email elavin@theunion.com or call 530-477-4230.


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