Museums and Communities News
March 2015


Lia Phagan, 14, enjoyed a welcome reprieve from her room in UF Health Congenital Heart Center's Pediatric Cardiac Intensive Care Unit on March 12. Through a collaboration between the Harn Museum of Art and the UF Health Shands Arts in Medicine program, Lia escaped the confines of her hospital room and toured the museum - and in particular, its Monet and American Impressionism exhibition - virtually on a laptop. Images courtesy of the Harn Museum of Art.

Learn more about how museums are providing access for those who cannot reach the museum due to distance, illness, or disability below. 

Museums and Communities News is our monthly roundup of stories demonstrating the myriad ways AAMD member museums serve their communities.  


AAMD museums - we want your stories! If you have a community program you would like to see featured in Museums and Communities news please contact Alison Wade.

Art Classes for Veterans at the Burchfield Penney Art Center

A new partnership at the Burchfield Penney Art Center is offering art classes and a safe space to local veterans and their families. The Artists/Veterans Art Collaborative offers military veterans a safe, productive, healthy environment where they can network and forge new friendships while working with famed artist and author John Montague and the artist /founder Jackie Albarella creating original works of art. A tour of The Center's exhibitions are part of the evening's activities. The program is open to all veterans and war experience spans from Vietnam to Afghanistan.


The program was initially founded in 2010 by artist Jackie Albarella and Iraq veteran Dan Frontera. The two wanted to pay forward their personal experiences to help Vets cope with the tensions of coming home after deployment. More than half of the 2.6 million Americans dispatched to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan struggle with physical or mental health problems stemming from their service, feel disconnected from civilian life and believe the government is failing to meet the needs of this generation's veterans, according to a poll conducted by The Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation.


Through combat or traumatic events, many soldiers develop invisible wounds. Often expressed as anxiety, depression, family trouble and hopelessness, society may not recognize these as a component of daily life for veterans. "We want to stand behind our troops the way they support this great nation and what better way to do that than to support The Artists/Veterans Art Collaborative whose primary focus is helping and healing," said Mary Kozub, Burchfield Penney Museum Education and Tour Manager. 


Artists/Veterans Art Collaborative at the Burchfield Penney Art Center. 
Image courtesy of the Burchfield Penney Art Center.


Distance Learning from Crystal Bridges Reaches Rural Students

In a blog post at Art Museum Teaching, Anne Kraybill, Distance Learning Project Manager, describes the development of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art's distance learning program: an online, for-credit course in art history, American history, and museum studies, for Arkansas high school students. The museum developed the project in order to provide the benefits of museum field trips to students in rural areas. (In fact, the Crystal Bridges/University of Arkansas study The Educational Value of Field Trips found that student gains from a one-time fieldtrip in a variety of outcomes were two to three times higher for students in rural locations.)


The pilot course, called Museum Mash Up: American Identity through the Arts, included participants from Arkansas towns like Star City, population 2,248, located nearly 300 miles southeast of Crystal Bridges. Learn more about the process of creating this course - including research, content development, challenges, and next steps - at Art Museum Teaching. You can also read about a student's perspective in a separate Art Museum Teaching post


In Auburn, AL, Artistic Inspiration for Second Graders

A group of Alabama elementary school students recently had the opportunity to meet Chicago-based artist John Himmelfarb at the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art at Auburn University. Himmelfarb, whose exhibition TRUCKS is now on view at the museum, spent seven days working on "Grace," an unresolved 11-foot by 35-foot painting that is part of that exhibition. Over the course of two days, 180-second grade students from Auburn Early Education Center toured the exhibition with museum docents in small groups and had opportunities to engage in conversations with Himmelfarb and watch his process.


 "In talking with kids, I try to get them to ask questions and then respond honestly to those," according to Himmelfarb; he also said one of the things the students were most interested in was what happened when he made a mistake or didn't like what he painted. "I saw an opportunity to talk about making mistakes and the necessity of making mistakes if you want to learn something. It's a good thing to make mistakes."


"Sometimes I think that when we talk about artists and poets and authors, children think that that's something that's unattainable to them, so I hope that this allows them to see that painters are real people, and this is something that they could strive for and accomplish in their lifetime as well," said Dr. Shelley Aistrup, Principal of Auburn Early Education Center.


"Painting pictures and making sculptures is essentially about sharing," Himmelfarb said. "Sharing my experience about becoming an artist or what it is like or my day to day is really an extension of art."  



A group of second graders with artist John Himmelfarb at the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art at Auburn University. Image courtesy of the Museum. 



Exquisite Nashville Community Exhibition at the Frist Center 

Exquisite Nashvile, an exhibition of collaborative artworks created by four Nashville community organizations that celebrates the city's dynamic cross-cultural interactions, is currently on view at the Frist Center for Visual Arts. Inspired by the Exquisite Corpse-a creative game conceived by Surrealist artists and writers in the 1920s-Exquisite Nashville contains imaginative reflections of Nashville's various communities, including longtime residents, immigrants, refugees, and homeless individuals and families. 


The Exquisite Nashville project brought together participants of all ages from the Center for Refugees and Immigrants of Tennessee, Conexión Américas, the Edmondson Pike Branch of the Nashville Public Library, and Room in the Inn. Working with Middle Tennessee teaching artists Kaaren Hirschowitz Engel, Sisavanh Houghton, Meghan O'Connor, and Jamaal Sheats, each organization initiated a work that traveled to the other three groups for their respective contributions and alterations. 


Watch a short video about the organizations and artists behind Exquisite Nashville here:

Exquisite Nashville
Exquisite Nashville at the Frist Center for Visual Arts


For Those Unable to Attend, Technology Expands Art Museum Access

Art museums are implementing ways to allow those who cannot attend - especially people with disabilities or who are confined for medical reasons.


Through a collaboration between the Harn Museum of Art and the UF Health Shands Arts in Medicine program, 14-year-old Lia Phagan was able to escape her hospital room at UF Health Congenital Heart Center's Pediatric Cardiac Intensive Care Unit to tour the museum - and in particular, its Monet and American Impressionism exhibition - virtually on a laptop. "For that brief but treasured time we were transported," said Amy Bucciarelli, clinical art therapist with Arts in Medicine program. "We were not in a hospital. We were in the gardens of Giverny and experiencing the beauty of exploring the Harn museum. For those moments, she was not a patient. She was an art scholar, and Monet's biggest fan.

CBS Sunday Morning recently featured the de Young Museum whose two telepresence robots allow those who cannot physically go to the galleries a chance to tour the museum. The museum worked with Henry Evans, a former Silicon Valley executive who is now almost completely paralyzed, to implement the technology. 

"The fact that a quadriplegic can now wander through a museum on the other side of the other side of the plant or just across town while comfortably lying in bed at home is pretty remarkable," Evans said. 



The Blanton's Witness Voices Collects Community Response

The Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas has developed Witness Voices, a companion site to the exhibition Witness: Art and Civil Rights in the Sixties, on view at the museum through May. Witness Voices captures community conversation and response from Instagram, Twitter, and Tumblr; this material is combined with the museum's own posting and curatorial essays to create a stream of content to the exhibition. Responses include the artistic, such as a sketch of Nina Simone taken from a performance featured in the exhibition, as well as quick reviews or recommendations- in English and Spanish