Director’s Note: A Collaborative Program with Rochester City School №23

Childhood experiences in museums can inspire a deep appreciation of art and history and can help individuals see from a young age that museums are places where they are welcome.

The National Art Education Association and Association of Art Museum Directors recently completed a large-scale study investigating the benefits for students in grades 4–6 of facilitated single‑visit art museum programs, guided by inquiry-based learning, versus a similar program within the classroom. The benefits from the museum programs included:

• Students ask more complex questions about an artwork

• Students are more accepting of multiple interpretations of an artwork

• Students are more likely to think of art in terms of material properties

  • Students have greater emotive recall of the experience

In the fall of 2013, the Memorial Art Gallery began their Expanded Learning Collaboration with Rochester City Schools in which elementary school students visit the museum several times in a school year to participate in guided looking, discussion sessions, and hands-on activities. The program — now serving Schools №23, №29, and №45 — is part of the school district’s Project-Based Learning curriculum.

Given the initiative’s success, the Memorial Art Gallery approached the George Eastman Museum and Writers & Books to broaden its scope. After meeting with faculty and administrators from Francis Parker School №23, the Eastman Museum and Writers & Books have launched a collaborative program that is a natural partnership of word and image, in conjunction with the sixth-grade curriculum on identity.

From late January through April, sixth-grade students are exploring identity and personal expression through interdisciplinary lessons led by arts educator Roxana Aparicio Wolfe; poet and teaching artist Anderson Allen; and curators Lisa Hostetler, Jamie M. Allen, and Heather Shannon and collection manager Ross Knapper from our Department of Photography. In addition to viewing and discussing photographs at the museum, the students are creating their own photographs that will become a basis for their writing.

Museum visits include tours of the historic mansion, our History of Photography Gallery, and the exhibition #LarsonShindelman #Mobilize. The students, on a tour of George Eastman’s residence, saw how one’s home and possessions can reveal details about one’s identity, and they gained new insight into his life as an inventor, innovator, and leading Rochesterian.

The History of Photography Gallery always provides a rich environment for students to develop critical observation skills. The current installation considers persistent themes in American society — including issues of race, gender, and colonialism. Even during their first gallery visit, students quickly identified and thoughtfully discussed connections between the photographs on display, current events, and their own daily lives.

The current exhibition in our Project Gallery, #LarsonShindelman #Mobilize, offers an ideal context for exploring these themes. The new works by Nate Larson and Marni Shindelman examine the power of social media as a way to assert one’s identity. Their art prompts discussions about public and private information, as well as social issues surrounding a citizen’s right to protest, gun violence, and discrimination based on race, gender, or sexual orientation.

Visits to the Eastman Museum and to Writers & Books, along with in-class sessions, ignite curiosity and bolster visual literacy, self-expression, and critical thinking. While complementing teacher instruction, the program goes beyond the classroom to provide students new experiences and a broadened worldview. By the end, students will have created a personal documentary photo essay that highlights their individual development and role as young citizens.

The Eastman Museum and Writers & Books in the past jointly organized summer camps that similarly combined photography and writing, but this is the first time the two institutions have partnered with a school. Our work together has been creative and collegial.

The collaboration with School №23 is supported in part by a grant to Writers & Books from the Palma Foundation. The museum welcomes additional sponsorship funding to support the partnership — please contact our Development Office at (585) 327‑4942.

In 2018, the George Eastman Museum hosted more than two thousand children and teens in K–12 class groups. We are eager to expand our educational programming, and we will engage with educators to develop museum-based opportunities that will benefit students, teachers, and families. As part of our mission to serve the community, our goal is to create meaningful experiences for children and deepen their understanding of themselves and the world.

Bruce Barnes, Ph.D.

Ron & Donna Fielding Director

March/April 2019 Bulletin

George Eastman Museum

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