CORVALLIS - An innovative, critically acclaimed art history book written by an Oregon State University professor has been developed into a 10-part television series that will air nationally this fall on the Public Broadcasting System.
The ambitious $1.2 million project, funded by the Annenberg Foundation at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, also will result in a second edition of the textbook, an instructors' resource manual, a study guide, a web site, and supplementary CD-ROM software.
Called "A World of Art: Works in Progress," the 10-part television series explores the creative process that artists go through, said Henry Sayre, a professor of art at OSU. It is scheduled to run in Oregon beginning at 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 28 on Oregon Public Broadcasting.
It was Sayre's 1994 book, "A World of Art," that spawned the project. Praised for its inclusiveness, it incorporated not only the art of masters like Picasso, Van Gogh and Rembrandt, but works ranging from Imunu art of New Guinea to Baule carvings from the Ivory Coast.
More than 170 of the book's 700 images were "non-traditional," and another 90 dealt with art created by women, "about double what most other books had done," Sayre said.
The book caught the attention of the Annenberg-Corporation for Public Broadcasting Project, which worked with Sayre and producer Sandy Brooke to develop the 10-part series.
"As we began to work on it, the focus became quite clear," Sayre said. "In the beginning, we merely wanted to do something on the creative process - filming something from beginning to end. But it occurred to us, what we really were doing was changing the art appreciation curriculum.
"The project allows art teachers to shift the focus from the 'monument' to the process itself," he added. "It sort of demystifies art. Artists are not necessarily geniuses; their works are often the products of thinking and hard work - not all that different from the creations of engineers or designers."
The television series will offer a unique window into the creative process used by 10 very different artists, each narrating their own 30-minute segments. Filming each work in progress took weeks, even months.
The series was produced by Oregon Public Broadcasting, in association with OSU.
The project is gaining the attention of the art world. A second edition of Sayre's book has just been published by Prentice Hall, and is being used by a number of colleges and universities as a text. All of the artists featured in the PBS series have been included in the 500-page book, which highlights 30 works in progress, from Raphael's "Alba Madonna" to Bill Viola's 1995 video installation, "The Greeting," that was based on a 16th century painting.
OSU art faculty have created a sophisticated World Wide Web site to help teachers with the curriculum and to link users with art around the world, from the Metropolitan Museum to The Louvre.
An interactive CD-ROM designed by OSU art students lets users experiment with balance, color and perspective - without having to do original drawing. The 256 color palettes provide a dizzying array of choices, Sayre noted.
"It creates a play field for students to experiment," he said. "For example, there is a shirt and collar with a striped tie. With a little experimenting, you can make the ugliest shirt-tie combination in the world, or the most attractive, or something in between. The CD provides a pseudo-studio so that students face some of the same problems and choices artists face."
When put together, the result is a comprehensive, multimedia package that looks at art history and the creative process through film, print and CD-ROM, supplemented with resources available via the Internet.
"It's a whole new way to look at art," Sayre said. "Traditionally, you couldn't take a class of 350 people into an artist's studio. Now you can, and that's pretty neat."
Sayre, who laughingly says he "can't draw worth a lick," has been on the OSU faculty since 1984. The professor of art history received his bachelor's degree from Stanford University in 1971, and his Ph.D. from the University of Washington in 1976.
The $1.2 million grant from the Annenberg Corporation is one of the largest grants ever awarded OSU in the humanities.