New Website Presents Civil War Using Chicago Art Collections

April 12th, 2012

Chicago, IL—Seven premier cultural organizations in the city have joined forces to develop “The Civil War in Art: Teaching & Learning through Chicago Collections” (civilwarinart.org), a new web-based resource featuring nearly 130 works of art in their collections to connect students and teachers to the issues, events, and people of the era.

Funded and developed by the Terra Foundation for American Art, this unique online tool launches today on the anniversary of the attack on Ft. Sumter, which marked the beginning of the American Civil War.

Created in conjunction with teachers, historians, and museum and library professionals, the website showcases artworks ranging from photographs describing the war experience and paintings made to celebrate the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation to prints that show how women aided the war effort and sculpture memorializing Civil War heroes in parks.

A high-resolution zoomable gallery of the objects, many of them previously unavailable online, allows students and teachers to examine the pieces in remarkable detail.

Other distinctive elements of this new web resource include:

  • An extensive integrated glossary of nearly 200 art and historical terms and biographies,
  • Short illustrated essays examining the causes and impact of the war and the role art played, and
  • Lesson plans developed by teachers for teachers.

According to Terra Foundation President & CEO Elizabeth Glassman, “The Civil War in Art demonstrates our long-standing commitment to support Chicago K–12 teachers, as well as highlight American art in local collections.”

The project evolved from the Terra Teacher Lab initiative, an annual year-long professional development program for Chicago public school teachers that employs the history of American art to promote critical thinking in the classroom and enrich social studies, language arts, and visual art curricula.

Organizations contributing art and content to The Civil War in Art include the Art Institute of ChicagoChicago History MuseumChicago Park DistrictChicago Public Library, DuSable Museum of African American HistoryNewberry Library, and Terra Foundation for American Art. Historian Margaret Storey and art historian Mark Pohlad, both faculty members at DePaul University, served as consultants and writers.

Additionally, 14 Chicago teachers provided input that informed the development of the site. One of those teachers, Ozni Torres, a U.S. history teacher at Roberto Clemente Community Academy High School, explained, “We wanted an accessible and easy-to-use resource that would aid us in the classroom. This website definitely achieves that goal—I think the students are really going to respond well to it.”

“Although students and teachers were our target, the audience for this material is wide-ranging: parents, history enthusiasts, or anyone anywhere in the world interested in the American Civil War,” said Terra Foundation education programs officer Jennifer Siegenthaler. “The project reflects our desire to bring American art to the world and the world to American art.”

Terra Foundation for American Art

Established in 1978, the Terra Foundation for American Art is dedicated to fostering the exploration, understanding, and enjoyment of the visual arts of the United States. With financial resources of more than $250 million, an exceptional collection of American art from the colonial era to 1945, and an expansive grant program, it is one of the leading foundations focused on American art, and devotes approximately $12 million annually in support of American art exhibitions, projects, and research worldwide.