Measuring Arts Education, Part I

February 24, 2010

As museum educators, we’re always looking for ways to engage students and adults in looking at and talking about art, both here on campus and out in the community. With these goals in mind, we developed Art Programs with the Community: LACMA On-site five years ago when LACMA received the largest endowment in our history ($23.9 million) from former trustee Anna Bing. Since then, we’ve been investing approximately $1 million a year in the schools and community of L.A.’s District 4—an area with a student population the size of the entire Boston public school system.

In developing this program, I was just as interested in creating meaningful experiences centered on our collection here at LACMA as I was in demonstrating that we can make a measurable difference through teaching from works of art. We’ve taken a multilayered approach to the program where we reach not only students and teachers but also families through workshops at libraries and community organizations in L.A. Working from a California Standards-based curriculum designed by our education staff, teaching artists introduce lessons that include talking about and looking at images of art from the collection, in addition to making art. The focus is also on big ideas: “How artists use their work to share experiences or communicate ideas,” “How art plays a role in reflecting life,” or “The role of a work of art created to make a social comment.”

Have we made a significant impact? The answer is a resounding “yes!” But don’t just take my word for it—in the coming weeks my colleague Elizabeth Gerber, manager of school and teacher programs, and evaluator Susy Watts will follow my blog entry with postings about the process of evaluating our program and the impact its had on our community—the methodology of which is more interesting than you might think…

Jane Burrell, Vice President of Education and Public Programs