Virtual Art Program Engages and Educates Children During COVID-19

American Alliance of Museums

Duane Townsend

The Progressive - April 1, 2020

Before COVID-19 upended education in the United States, approximately 1.6 million children between the ages of five and seventeen were homeschooled, representing a little more than three percent of the total number of school-aged children.

But today, virtually every child, pre-K through grade twelve, is studying at home, utilizing a cobbled-together mix of online instruction, videos, and collaborative presentations using Internet-based meeting tools like Skype or Zoom.

Their guardians, meanwhile, have had to become supplemental educators and are looking to the arts—from music and movies to theater, painting, and poetry—to keep kids engaged in learning and push panic to the sidelines.

Thankfully, many museums, galleries, and visual artists have stepped into the fray.

One example is Keep Kids Smart with ART, a program sponsored by the Boca Raton Museum of Art in Florida, which provides a free online program that not only introduces viewers to a wide array of existing art, but also offers constantly updated suggestions, via the museum’s Facebook and Instagram pages, for in-home spin-off projects.

“Art, culture, and creativity have always made a difference in powerful ways, especially during challenging times,” the museum’s Executive Director Irving Lippman wrote in a press statement. “Being inspired and creative have not been canceled.”

The seventy-year-old museum, with its own art school and art faculty, is showcasing two exhibitions in this educational effort. The first, Eye to I, zeroes in on sixty self-portraits from the Smithsonian Museum’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., that were completed between 1901 and 2015. 

The selections on view include paintings, drawings, and woodcuts by renowned artists, among them María Magdalena Campos-Pons, Chuck Close, Edward Hopper, Jacob Lawrence, Alice Neel, Louise Nevelson, Alison Saar, Roger Shimomura, and Lee Simonson. The styles are varied, but all are meant to provoke an emotional response that gives students a jumping off point to create something of their own.

The second online exhibition, Edward Steichen: In Exaltation of Flowers, introduces viewers to seven ten-foot-high wall panels featuring two women and dozens of flowers that Steichen painted for the New York City home of Eugene and Agnes Meyer, he a hugely successful investment banker, and she a journalist and social activist. The website features the panels alongside a photograph of purple and blue delphiniums. The suggested assignment asks the viewer to cut shapes from multi-colored pieces of construction paper to create a “flower mosaic” in response. 

The focus, the Museum emphasizes, should be on fun, not on output. And the goal? Pleasure. ...
Read full report at The Progressive

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