Photos by Cary Pollock and John Watson. At left, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. At right, FPS students look at Old Self: Portrait of the Artist as He Will (Not) Be. Variation #2 (2010) by Evan Penny
When Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art opened just a stretch of I-540 away, several Fayetteville teachers were given a chance to help this fledgling world-class museum develop its education program.
FHS TV and Film teacher Peggy James was one of those who joined the Crystal Bridges School Programs Advisory Committee. "I want my students to be able to experience art and to realize that video and art have a lot in common. I think that exposing them to art in a museum like this can help them develop a creative eye," said James.
Recently James was one of the first teachers to bring her classes to tour the museum. The goal of the tour James' students were given seemed to be to engage them, as opposed to merely lecturing them about the work. Students listened as guides gave some background to a few of the pieces in the collection, but then were asked their thoughts about aspects of the work. Students were also given the opportunity to briefly sketch one of the works, and to write down their reflections on another.
After the tour, students filled out a questionnaire designed to help Crystal Bridges educators refine their tour, and then were given time to explore the museum on their own (with their chaperones).
Sydney, one of James' 10th grade students, said, "No one has ever had the opportunity before to go to a museum like this without leaving this area. Maybe now that they can, more people will have a chance to realize they have an interest in art." During her visit, Sydney was most impressed by the actual building. "I had never seen anything like that. The building was a piece of art itself. And I love the grounds."
"The School Programs Advisory Committee members have been helping us integrate the curriculum into the tours. They advise us on our topics and allow us to test things out," said Crystal Bridges' School Programs Manager Anne Kraybill.
Kraybill said that ultimately they are trying to create the next generation of museumgoers. "What we're trying to do is to make sure that all these kids know that this museum is for them. 90-95% of the students [who visited since the school tours began] had never been here before. Many had never been to a museum before."
Root Elementary School 5th grade teacher and Crystal Bridges' School Advisory Board member Marjo Burk said, "Crystal Bridges has gone above and beyond making teachers feel a part of creating the tours for students. We have had quarterly meetings and had a sneak peak at the museum before the opening. The education directors have integrated Common Core into the tours seamlessly. In addition, our students will be used to train the guides and we will give feedback on their learning and what needs to be tweaked. As a teacher, I feel like this is a huge gift to education."
All school museum visits are paid for through a grant from the Willard & Pat Walker Charitable Foundation. K-12 school groups are given pre- and post-visit materials to use in the classroom, a 60-minute guided tour, and a brown bag lunch. The Willard and Pat Walker School Visit Program also reimburses schools up to $250 towards the costs associated with transportation and substitute teachers.
Click here for more information about Crystal Bridges Museum.
Click here to see a documentary by FHS TV students Dalton Williams and Rachael England about the dedication of Crystal Bridges.
Photos: At left, the cafe area. At right, FPS students look at Rosie The Riveter (1943) by Norman Rockwell