Dear Colleagues

We invite you to participate in Picturing Early America: People, Places, and Events 1770-1870, a four-week-long summer institute on interpreting and teaching early American art to be held from June 27 to July 23, 2010, in Salem, Massachusetts. Picturing Early America explores the primary pictorial forms in American visual art from the British colonial settlement to the aftermath of the Civil War.

The three units - portraiture, history painting, and landscape - will include a particular focus on works drawn from NEH's initiative Picturing America. This NEH poster series, which has already been distributed to thousands of schools, captures forty canonical works of American art that reflect the artistic and cultural history of the United States. Through the institute you will come to a deeper understanding of these works in their historical contexts and explore different methods of visual analysis. You will develop strategies and tools to use the Picturing America series and other examples of American art in your classrooms.

The institute's multidisciplinary approach will benefit teachers of American history, literature, art, geography, social studies, American studies, and other fields. History teachers might use images from Picturing America to explore questions such as colonial religious identity, origins of the American Revolution, conflicts between the concept of Manifest Destiny and traditional Native American life, or the development of abolitionism and the Civil War. Literature teachers might use these images in the study of early environmental writers such as Emerson and Thoreau. Art teachers could use Picturing America to introduce strategies for representation, expressive techniques, and the relationship between form and content.

The format will be divided between presentations by scholars, discussions of readings, on-site study of visual resources, and work on individual projects. Curators and education specialists will guide us through some of New England's richest cultural institutions, such as Historic New England, the American Antiquarian Society, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Wadsworth Athenaeum, to name a few. During field trips and in the classroom we will analyze objects and images from the perspectives of the maker and the patron, and study their aesthetic qualities as well as their technology and social uses. These interpretations will shed light on how objects and images promoted the circulation of ideas in 18th and 19th century America. The institute will move beyond painting and sculpture to consider architecture, the domestic interior, decorative arts, historical landscapes, prints, illustrated books, and photography as well as the intersection of literature and the visual arts. We will think critically about how American history has been interpreted and represented over time. Each participant will have the opportunity to develop a unit plan that can enrich courses already taught or help prepare for new courses.

Picturing Early America's faculty reinforces the program's multidisciplinary approach and commitment to increasing your content knowledge and pedagogy. In addition to the project director, art historian Dr. Patricia Johnston, the faculty includes nationally-recognized art historians, scholars, and museum curators, who have researched and written extensively about issues in American history and visual culture. The faculty and curators are augmented by pedagogy specialists and a master teacher, who will help you define and research your individual projects and assist you in employing the rich diversity of America's visual culture in your classes. More information about each of them is available on this website.

A historic seaside community located approximately 16 miles north of Boston, Salem is the ideal location to study early American art and culture. Salem, the surrounding towns on the North Shore of Massachusetts, and Boston are rich in unparalleled visual resources -art, architecture, historic landscapes, decorative arts, prints, illustrated books, and manuscript collections. Although most people associate Salem solely with the 1692 witch trials, there is much more to the city's history and culture. Salem was one of the most important cities in the colonies and the new nation, from its days as one of the earliest landing sites of the English colonists, to its rise as the first major port in the United States, to its heyday as a thriving hub of American commerce and the home of Nathaniel Hawthorne.

The four-week institute will accommodate twenty-five K-12 educators from across the country. Participants will receive a $3300 stipend to offset travel and living costs. Participants will have the option of staying in Salem State College's state-of-the-art residence hall. This complex, opened in 2004, features an on-site fitness center and laundry facilities, and it is within a minute's walk from the workshop's meeting rooms and computer labs. The cost for a private room is $38 per night. Institute participants who elect not to stay in the residence hall should contact local hotels and bed-and-breakfasts as soon as possible, since Salem is a popular and relatively expensive summer tourist destination (see the Accepted Applicants and Salem Resources page for further information). During the institute, all participants will have access to the resources of the Salem State College library, the nationally-renowned Peabody Essex Museum, and to a special collection of resources created for this project.

For actively participating in and completing Picturing Early America: People, Places, and Events 1770-1870 teachers will receive professional development points (PDPs or CEUs) according the guidelines of their own school districts. We will provide you with a letter to take to your superintendent, who will then award credit. Participants can also choose to earn graduate credit from Salem State College. Those who choose this option may register for the course and pay tuition on site. For more information see the Accepted Applicants page.

To apply to attend Picturing Early America: People, Places, and Events 1770-1870 you must complete the online cover sheet located at You should then print out the form and mail three copies of it, along with three copies of your resume and application essay (as outlined on this website under "Applicant Info"). Please send all in triplicate to:

Patricia Johnston

Art Department MH314

Salem State College

352 Lafayette Street

Salem, MA 01970

We also require two letters of recommendation in support of your application. Please note that all applications must be postmarked by March 2, 2010 to guarantee consideration. Successful applicants will be notified of their selection on April 1, 2010, and will have until April 5 to accept or decline the offer.

Please consult other pages on this website for more detailed information about the schedule of events, our faculty, accommodations and travel, graduate credit, and the abundant local cultural resources available in Salem and in nearby Boston. You can direct any additional questions by email to

We look forward to meeting you and exploring American art and history with you.


Patricia Johnston

Professor of Art History