Gone are the days when the impact of art museums was felt largely within their walls, when an institution’s purpose was to house artwork and awe visitors. While this intent remains key, today’s art museums are forming partnerships outside their institutions to educate, expand their reach — and broaden their impact. Major beneficiaries of this innovation include educators and students.
This was evident on May 12, when the results of the education programs at 16 major museums were featured at the opening of the student art exhibit “Museums: pARTners in Learning 2015.” The museums are all members of the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD), which partnered with the U.S. Department of Education (ED) to develop the exhibit on display at ED headquarters through June.
In opening remarks, Jamienne Studley, ED’s deputy under secretary of education, cited the benefits of having students “participate in the age-old challenge of understanding the world through art.” Through art, she said, students learn critical thinking, interdisciplinary skills, creativity, focus, problem-solving, teamwork, persistence and collaboration.
By integrating art into other core disciplines, schools can provide students the strategies Jamie listed to master rigorous material and enrich learning. The opening highlighted ways schools accomplish such integration through collaboration with art programs at museums in their communities.
AAMD’s members alone serve roughly 40,000 schools in a given year. Their programs range from single-visit museum tours to partnerships with shared teaching, curricula design and professional development. For example, a program at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville, “Stop, Take Notice,” taught art’s role in promoting social change and public awareness. The museum helped a high school highlight concerns about pedestrian safety, with a project incorporating street art, after one of the school’s students was killed in a crosswalk.
Johnnetta Cole, director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art and incoming president of AAMD, spoke at the opening to the value of partnerships: “I want to lift up the power of partnership by sharing with you the words of a wonderful African saying. “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’ It’s good going together.”
In Washington, D.C., the Phillips Collection developed Prism.K12, a nationally recognized program for arts integration, and approached Kenmore Middle School in Arlington, Virginia, about creating math lessons in conjunction with the museum’s recent exhibit on surrealist Man Ray. Phillips’ educators worked with Kenmore educators in art, science, technology, engineering and math to develop integrated, interdisciplinary lessons.
Guests at the opening stepped into the students’ shoes to experience one math and art lesson — “Increasing Exponentially.” For some, this required harking back to middle school for a reintroduction to the concept of exponent, a quantity representing the power to which a given number or expression is to be raised. In the case of this exercise, it was the number 2.
To master this concept, each guest built a tiny hanger from pipe cleaners. Groups of guests then constructed multi-tiered mobiles from the hangers, with each tier containing more hangers to reflect the exponential increase
Preparation for College and Careers
Art can launch 21st-century careers, as 16-year-old Yuliya Kosheeva explained. Yuliya arrived from Uzbekistan about four years ago. Her passion for art blossomed in 2014 when she enrolled in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Saturday Sketching For Teens. “Finding this class,” she told the audience, “helped me find myself.” During one session, she focused on a bronze sculpture of a Mexican warrior, which she used as the basis for a charcoal pencil sketch. In the class, Yuliya discovered ways to merge her love of traditional art forms with computer art, which she now intends to study in high school and college, and pursue professionally.
Nancy Paulu is on the staff of the Office of Communications and Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education.
All Department photos are by Paul Wood. More photos from the event may be viewed on the Department of Education’s Flickr site.
The Department’s Student Art Exhibit Program provides students and teachers an opportunity to display creative work from the classroom in a highly public space that honors their work as an effective path to learning and knowledge for all. To visit the exhibits or for information about exhibiting, contact Jackye Zimmermann at email@example.com.