From the Field

The Art of Seeing at the Toledo Museum of Art

November 20, 2014

“Visual literacy is the ability to derive meaning from images of everything that we see.  Being a literate person in the current media-driven, image-saturated culture extends beyond the traditional boundaries of simply reading and writing text.”

This concept, as put forth on the Toledo Museum of Art’s website, was enforced from November 5-8, when the International Visual Literacy Association held its annual conference at the museum.  Innovators from fields as varied as medicine, film and education convened for a series of keynote lectures about the rise of visual language. The lectures were free and open to the public. The conference, titled The Art of Seeing: From Ordinary to Extraordinary, also brought together researchers, educators, museum professionals, artists, business thought leaders and the general public during sessions about the rise of visual language in an increasingly image-saturated, digital world. The Art of Seeing was the first International Visual Literacy Association conference to be hosted by a museum.

“We need to teach people how to see; how to slow down, take their time and pay attention,” said Toledo Museum of Art Director Dr. Brian Kennedy. Kennedy contends it is important for people in every field: doctors and nurses; reporters and police officers;  plumbers, geographers, bus drivers and cooks. “Understanding what we see could save a life, solve a criminal case or help prepare for a natural disaster.”

Learn more about visual literacy and its importance in the museum and beyond through the Toledo Museum of Art’s The site features videos, teacher resources, and further reading on visual literacy.

More about the IVLA conference is available in The Toledo Blade and on the Museum’s website.


Image: Matt Russell leads a WordShop session at the Toledo Museum of Art on November 6, 2014. WordShop is a United Way Women’s Initiative that uses the visual arts to enhance children’s writing skills. The workshop was part of the International Visual Literacy Association’s conference The Art of Seeing: From Ordinary to Extraordinary, the first of its kind to be hosted by a museum.  Image courtesy of the Toledo Museum of Art.