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After School Art Programs

Prichard Art Gallery

The FY21 UI Prichard Art Gallery education outreach efforts were re-shaped by the pandemic and inability to host traditional school day tour groups or in person After School Art Programs (ASAP). ASAP was delivered by local teaching artist, Jennifer Rod, with support of U of I Art Education student, Amanda Harlow on Zoom for virtual participants. Pre-pandemic, all activities took place at the Prichard on Main Street in downtown Moscow. As pandemic closures shut down gallery activities, ASAP moved to a hybrid of in-person and Zoom delivery.

Our usual school day programs provide first-person experiences with contemporary artists’ work. ASAP is a small size (capped at 12 participants in the range of 6-11 years old) long term engagement program with an emphasis on artmaking for life-long competencies in principles and practice. Docent tours and ASAP provide what we call a T strategy; tours reach a broad populace but shallow touch; ASAP is smaller, but greater depth.

The Essential Question that guided our projects’ focus was:

Why do people value artworks, and select them for presentation/why do artists follow/break from traditions?

Art Core Standard 7: Perceive and analyze artistic work.
Art Core Standard 8: Interpret intent and meaning in artistic work.

Docent-led and self-guided tours are inquiry-based and encourage active viewing. Each exhibit presents a unique opportunity for students to explore, make connections, and ask themselves why the artwork they are engaging with is selected for presentation. Tour curriculums reinforce visual literacy, sensory experience, and response.

For the Fall exhibit `Out of the Woods`, and the Spring MFA Exhibit, the gallery shifted to self-guided tour materials instead of in-person Docent-led class visits. The tour materials asked visitors to look slowly, ask questions about what they are seeing, and develop ideas about why the artist(s) selected their methods and mediums. Relevant art vocabulary was introduced or reinforced where appropriate. For example, when viewing the large-scale origami of Ted Kelchner and Andrea Marcussen, viewers were asked to think about Negative Space, and why the artists chose to arrange the origami seals in a certain way to interact with space and light. The goal of inquiry-based exhibit exploration is to encourage active viewing instead of passive and quick walk-through visits.

At the conclusion of the project, students responded to questions related to the identified Standards:

Art Core Standard 2: Organize and develop artistic ideas and work.
Art Core Standard 3: Refine and complete artistic work.

With self-guided tours it was more difficult to gauge the impact of our prompts. We received feedback from one of the parents from the home school tour group stating that her children spent two hours creating with the art materials we sent them home with. She said that some of this work reflected what they experienced in the gallery as well as branching off into their own ideas.

ASAP students received individual material kits that were utilized for the entire year both for the in-person and virtual attendees. Even with more limited supplies and other pandemic obstacles, the students were able to explore a wide range of skills and concepts. Attendees were introduced to a variety of methods including print, sculpture, textile, drawing and painting. Throughout each week they enhanced their fluency in the elements and principles of art. The program concluded with each student exhibiting up to 10 works they created throughout the year. The works were displayed in the classroom (that also flexes as an exhibit space) and were on view to approximately 500 visitors during Moscow Art Walk on June 19, 2021.

Impact

Self-guided printed tour materials were created for exhibits by Assistant Director, Sonja Foard. These were available for free at the front of the gallery for each of the exhibitions. Tech Trep Academy, a distance learning charter school that serves K-10 homeschooling families scheduled family sized self-guided tours with take home lesson plans and materials for 58 children. We initially printed out 100 additional tour guides for other visitors. Through the course of the exhibition, we had to reprint several times. It was enjoyable to watch viewers slow down to consider each of the art works and the scavenger hunt brought energy to the gallery reminding people that engaging with artwork is fun.

One of the students that has been attending our After School Art Program for 3 years brought his family to the gallery for the Artwalk exhibition. During this past year we have watched him embrace abstract ideas and apply them to his works. As he pointed out his artwork he explained to his family (and now a growing group of onlookers) the decisions he made in each work. For example, he talked about the marks he used to depict a basket in his still life were chosen based on how the basket would feel if you were holding it.

Reflection

Due to recent budget cuts, the gallery staff went from two full-time employees in 2020 to a single half-time employee beginning in January 2021. This combined with the COVID 19 restrictions our reach was limited. With ICA funds we were able to keep the After School Art Program going, providing much needed in-person social distanced learning opportunities as well as expanding the program to online. The online ASAP allowed us to reach students that live in more rural areas and had not been able to attend in the past.

We only had two consistent online students this past year, yet we are certain with more promotion targeting those rural communities we can raise those numbers. It was great to be able to share artwork between online and in-person classrooms, however, when we taught the last two weeks separately, we were able to cater more to the individual students’ interests. This approach would also allow us to offer more time options for potential participants.

Although created in reaction to the pandemic, the self-guided tours and art scavenger hunts proved to be an approachable and highly successful way of getting people to engage with the exhibitions for longer periods of time. Moving forward while it is still safe to do so, we would like to move to a less wasteful self-guided tour model perhaps using iPads rather than printed paper.

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