Teacher Workshops

Be inspired to use portraiture in your classroom. No matter what subject you teach—social studies, English, or visual arts—you will learn and practice techniques to involve your students in creative and innovative ways. By using portraiture as a springboard into deeper discussions about biography and our collective history, the Portrait Gallery strives to create an unprecedented experience for teachers as we gain a glimpse into the past and examine the present. 

All professional development workshops during the 2021-2022 academic year will be virtual unless noted otherwise. All workshops require preregistration here

full length portrait of a Native American man draped in the American flag

Race and Representation: Depictions of Native Americans 

Wednesday, November 17, 2021
4:30–5:30 p.m.

Celebrate American Indian Heritage Month with us! Together, we will critically examine issues of representation and agency in select portraits of Native Americans from the museum’s collection. Educators will use thinking routines and analysis to discover how portraiture can illuminate complex narratives and offer perspective on who gets to tell the American story. 

waist length portrait of a young African American aviator

Engaging Young Learners with Portraiture

Wednesday, December 1, 2021
4:30–5:30 p.m.

Join the educators who lead our popular Young Portrait Explorers program as they model teaching techniques for young learners, Pre-K through 2nd grade. This workshop will use digital museum resources that support learning both in person and online. Use portraiture, movement, and art-making to engage young learners with art, history, and more. Educators will leave with ready-to-use activities, museum resources, and tools for fostering visual literacy in and out of the classroom.

Multiple self portraits of the artist in vibrant colors

Capturing the American Story: What’s Your Headline?

Wednesday, January 26, 2022
5–6 p.m.

Explore the ways in which artists and sitters use portraiture to convey individual, community/cultural, national, and global identity. By analyzing portraits, including self-portraits, participants will consider how artists tell the sitters’ stories, paying attention to how the artists’ choices reveal some—but perhaps not all—aspects of their subjects’ identities. Participants will explore how portraiture can be an avenue to represent their own identities and make meaning of what is important to them.

black and white photo of a young Asian woman in an interior with stylized trees

Ruth Asawa: Artist and Activist

Wednesday, March 2, 2022
4:30–5:30 p.m.

In this workshop, educators will explore Ruth Asawa’s life and work, from her time as a prisoner in an internment camp for Japanese Americans and later as an avant-garde art student, to her life as a mother, working artist, and arts activist. Learn how to incorporate her philosophies on arts education in the classroom. As Asawa explained, “through the arts you can learn many, many skills that you cannot learn through books.”

early head-view silhouette of an African American woman

Traces of a Life in Bondage: Flora’s Silhouette 

Wednesday, March 23, 2022
5:00–6:00 p.m. 

This workshop will focus on a life-size, hand-cut silhouette representing Flora (1777–1815), a woman who was enslaved in Connecticut, and the bill of sale that transferred her ownership on December 13, 1796, when she was nineteen years old. Her life story invites us to consider the period from the American Revolution to the close of the War of 1812 from a rarely considered perspective—that of an enslaved woman. Flora is emblematic of vast numbers of enslaved women whose likenesses and histories have gone unrecorded. Her silhouette was traced at life-size directly from her cast shadow, lending a tangible sense of human presence to her portrait. But who made it? And for what purpose? We will explore these questions through consideration of the few facts known about Flora's life; the regional differences that distinguished the experiences of enslaved women in the North and in the South; the social conventions of silhouette-making; and the history of representing African American women in late eighteenth and nineteenth-century American portraiture.