SAM makes a difference with Family Art Friday

Seattle Art Museum, Photo: Robert Wade.

Seattle Art Museum’s core mission as Seattle’s preeminent visual art institution is to connect art to life. In fulfillment of this mission, there is perhaps no more important place to start than by bringing art into the lives of children and youth in the Seattle area, particularly students who have limited access to art education and art museums.

In collaboration with teachers and administrators, SAM’s numerous creative learning opportunities, including museum tours and art programs at SAM and in schools, are designed to ignite curiosity, foster critical thinking, develop creativity, and help students appreciate diverse perspectives and cultures.

SAM’s longstanding relationship with Midway Elementary School (a school with no visual art teachers and with many students from economically disadvantaged households) in the Highline School District is an excellent, working example of SAM’s efforts to foster access to the visual arts, particularly in underserved schools.

As part of Midway’s ongoing monthly “Family Art Friday” initiative, SAM facilitates a bimonthly art project to be completed by every class in every grade level. The museum develops the curriculum and trains teachers for the art lesson, helping to build their artistic teaching skills. Extending the opportunity for art engagement beyond students and teachers, parents are also invited to join in the activities. A recent “Family Art Friday” lesson at the school focused on Northwest Coast Native American art. The response by the community and students alike was overwhelmingly positive. Families of Native American heritage were glad that Native American art was the subject of the lesson. The school district was so pleased with the results, that some of the students’ artwork is now on display in the district’s offices.

In addition, during the year SAM brings the entire Midway Elementary School to the museum for a one-hour tour and a one-hour art workshop, working with SAM staff, docents, and teaching artists. Excitement is high as students see in person for the first time the very art works they learned about in school, on a scale they had not imagined. For many, this is their first visit to a museum.

To further accessibility to SAM’s collection and programs, Midway students are invited to create their own family engagement day. The students receive a free museum pass so they can bring their family to see SAM’s collection and exhibitions such as the popular recent exhibition, Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic, or to take part in SAM’s triannual “Family Festival.”

Children’s involvement with art goes hand-in-hand with academic achievement, creativity, social and emotional development, civic engagement, and equitable opportunity. The Midway Elementary School art program is part of a broader art education initiative run by SAM serving approximately 40,000 students in schools throughout King County. SAM’s programs like the one at Midway can be expanded and enhanced with support from a Cultural Access Fund, authorized by King County vote.

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