Visual Literacy Interactive at the Museum of Art in Puerto Rico


"The Elements of Art" is an art education digital interactive produced for el Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico (Puerto Rico Museum of Art) in San Juan Puerto Rico. The kiosk is physically located in the ActivArte gallery. A space dedicated for education at the Museum. The content was developed by Doreen Colón Camacho, director of education at MAPR and Mariano Desmarás, Creative Director of Museum Environments.  The project was sponsored by La Fundación Angel Ramos. 

Goals:In Puerto Rico, there are a few opportunities for school aged children to receive skill based arts education and to learn about the artistic heritage of the island. Our goal was to respond to both of these educational needs. The digital experience would provide guidance in essential concepts of the elements of art and design principles, and allow for the visitor to produce visual products in evidence of understanding the new concepts. The experience is to strengthen interpretative analysis of visual arts and provide guidance for the transferring the new knowledge into a tool for producing and making visual arguments. All the while, the visitor is also being acquainted with Puerto Rican art and artist. Every example used to illustrate a visual concept uses a Puerto Rican work of art as object of the lesson. 

Initial menu page with animated icons. The program is fully bilingual.

Different pages of visual literacy lessons

Before and after of the exercise area

Students drawing on the digital canvas

Retracing the Parameters of Visual Literacy

Currently Visual Literacy can be defined as “the ability to interpret, negotiate, and make meaning from information presented in the form of an image..” This definition taken from Wikipedia, accurately calls-out the emphasis on the interpretation or reading of images in today’s practice of Visual Literacy. In the curriculum of our interactive, we wished to expand on this approach and include “making” as part of visual literacy. Just like we think of writing as essential to literacy, we deem visual production as a necessity of the visually literate. For this reason we emphasizes the interactive part of the program. We believe that when the student understands the making of an image then they are better equipped to deconstruct and re-interpret it. It is more evident to viewer that the image was “produced”; it did not come that way. Someone made it, therefore it can be critically un-done. Just like an architect can tell how a building is made, we wanted our user to like-wise understand the tectonics of an image. 

Our approach, in some ways, reverts to the origins of Visual Literary as it was expounded in “A Primer of Visual Literacy” by Donis A. Dondis (1973). The book elaborates a “problem solving” method that uses visual elements (unity vs fragmentation, stability vs instability, etc). The MAPR interactive picks-up on some of this approach however we do not intended the user to produce an explanation of the picture. We want the user to learn and develop a visual language. The results are often poetic and not an explanation. Nevertheless it represents a transference of a new skill.