Art professor’s journals chronicling four decades of journeys featured in new exhibit


Visual journals chronicling Penn State art education professor Brent Wilson’s four decades of journeys across North America, Europe, Egypt, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Korea and Brazil will be on display from May 15 to September 13, in the Eberly Family Special Collections Library, 104 Paterno Library. “Brent Wilson: Journals and Journeys Too” will feature art journals from the Wilson archival collection, housed within the Penn State Special Collections Library.


The 90 art journals contain a wealth of visual and written records documenting Wilson’s travels from the 1980s through 2013, where he taught, conducted research and lectured in many countries and in the United States. They chronicle his visual and verbal responses to national and international professional conferences, his eight years as head evaluator for the Getty’s discipline-based art education regional professional development institutes and his time spent in Washington preparing “Toward Civilization,” a report to the president and congress on the status of arts education, in 1988. In addition, the journals highlight the struggles involved in developing an art structure for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.


The journals reveal the outlines for books, book chapters, journal articles, diagrams and rudimentary theories. There are plans for thousands of paintings and sculptures and draft pages for artist books. They contain hundreds of pages of playful collaborative drawings made with children—graphic conversations that Wilson describes as “third-site pedagogy.”


“My journals are filled with schizophrenic, unrestrained images surrounded by mostly pedestrian prose and a few poems—they show my attempts to make a profession and a life more interesting than they would otherwise be,” says Wilson. He says that while it is difficult to pinpoint the time he first became a journal keeper, he began writing little notes in his sketchbooks and began drawing pictures in his datebooks as early as 1979. Over time, he became fascinated by what sketches and sentences could say to one another, and their dialogues became a daily preoccupation.


Wilson taught in Penn State’s art education program from 1974 until 2004. During his tenure he pioneered the study of children’s image making in natural settings and developed a paradigm-changing theory relating to how children learn to draw by borrowing images from popular culture. Among his research interests were the study of language used to describe and judge works of art, the assessment of art educational outcomes, the extra-structural dimensions of art teaching and the nature of child art.


Wilson was the principal art consultant to the National Assessment of Educational Progress in Art from 1967 to 1982. He drafted the National Endowment for the Arts “Toward Civilization: A Report on Arts Education” and worked as an evaluator for the Getty Trust between 1982 and 1996. He is the recipient of the National Art Education’s Manuel Barkan Award and the Distinguished Achievement Award by the Educational Press Association (both shared with Marjorie Wilson). He received the Edwin Ziegfeld Award given by the International Society for Education in the Arts and has been invited to give Studies in Art Education and Lowenfeld Lectures in recognition of his research. In 1988, he was made a Distinguished Fellow of the National Art Education Association and in 1989 was named the organization’s Art Educator of the Year.


Three special events will be held in conjunction with the exhibition:

  • The Brent Wilson Gallery Talk, on Friday, June 5, at 3:00 p.m., in the Special Collections Library;
  • An online Digital Journal Website demonstration, on Thursday, July 9, at 2:00 p.m., in Foster Auditorium, 102 Paterno Library and
  • The Art Education Graduate Student Colloquium, on Wednesday, September 2, at 7:00 p.m., in the Special Collections Library.


For more information about the exhibit, the Wilson archival collection and access to digital journal images, contact University Archivist Jackie R. Esposito, 814-863-3791 or