In the October 2009 issue of Smithsonian Magazine, there’s an article on Amy Herman, an art historian and lawyer, who uses fine art to teach the fine art of observation:
A Caravaggio appeared on the screen. In it, five men in 17th-century dress are seated around a table. Two others stand nearby, and one of them, barely discernible in shadow, points a finger — accusingly? — at a young man at the table with some coins.
Among the officers a discussion arose about who robbed whom, but they soon learned there could be no verdict. No one was being accused or arrested, Herman said. The painting was The Calling of St. Matthew, and the man in the shadow was Jesus Christ. The cops fell silent.
Later, Deputy Inspector Donna Allen said, “I can see where this would be useful in sizing up the big picture.”
Some of the comments on the Web version of the article are interesting, too. One of them mentions the Sherlock Holmes stories. Another mentions a program called Visual Thinking Strategies, something I hadn’t heard of before.
If I ever have the opportunity to take Ms. Herman’s training, I think I’ll do it. What about you?
Go read Teaching Cops to See, from Smithsonian Magazine
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