Interview by Luna Yuehan Jia with Greer Kudon and Jenny Bevill – Part 2
Since it was founded in 1970, by Natalie K. Lieberman, The Guggenheim Museum’s Learning Through Art (LTA) program has served more than 100,000 economically and culturally diverse students in New York City’s public school system. LTA addresses the lack of arts programming in public schools, by assigning experienced Teaching Artists to classrooms and providing an innovative approach to education through art. LTA benefits both educators and students, by promoting critical-thinking, problem solving, and creativity.
This week’s post focuses on LTA’s focus on community impact and the economic support structure of the program.
Catalyst: How has LTA impacted the New York City community? What changes can you identify as a result of your program?
Greer: We hope that the LTA program spreads deeper [than] just the 90 students that we are working with in an individual school, [and] that the students can go home and are able to share their work with their families. We give out family passes so that students and their families can have free access of the museum, and they can attend the free programs during the weekend. We have tracking on the activities through our system to show us the effect and potential improvement. We launched our Facebook page about two years ago, and our fan base covers local, national and international users, and is growing at a steady rate. The idea of the fan page is that we can continue to share the work that has been done in the schools through social media. So we post photos and videos on it constantly. One of the lovely stories Jenny can share is about an artist finding us through social network.
Jenny: In one of my fourth grade programs we have been studying artists that make public art. One of the artist’s names is Kurt Perschke and he did a piece called “RedBall Project”, Someone had brought him up to me and it was just perfect. We knew it would be really fun and the kids were going to love it, so we showed them a couple of videos and the kids actually ended up doing a lot of works inspired by Kurt. After the museum put the work on Facebook page, Kurt got in touch with me, offering to come to the school and meet the kids. And he did. It turns out he lives just one or two neighborhoods away in Brooklyn. After that we began to cultivate our relationship with them as working contemporary artists that have connections to our program.
Greer: The program itself is not transferable to take to a different community or different place, because it is really particular to the Guggenheim and what has been developed here throughout the years. But like Jenny said, we share all the methodologies and approaches involved throughout the development of this type of program. And for the interest of teachers, we are happy to share this kind of information to help them in determining what works best for them and their community. One of the most valuable assets for me in the LTA program is the strong relationship we have with the community schools. This kind of relationship can only be established through long cooperative processes. Therefore it is a method that is really hard to duplicate. Even with our 17 residencies, each residency looks so different, but they all have the same goal and working with the same construct of what we want. Jenny, as well as other Teaching Artists, are out there offering their experience to the teachers and communities, while at the same time each city and community needs to find out what is working for them.
Catalyst: What visible value does the LTA program add to the community and the economy?
Greer: One of the very unique things is that we are curating exhibitions of the student’s works here at the museum, and a gallery is dedicated. By that alone, the museum has shown the value of the program and what the students are doing to commit to this kind of special experience. Our exhibition and some other exhibitions in the museum always attract large amount of visitors, and we are able to show the people coming to the museums what kind of program we are doing. Jenny herself was amazed by the exhibition and decided to join the program 10 years ago. We have a comment book that includes amazing comments. The improvements [in] the community can indicate that the value of the LTA program.
Catalyst: How is LTA funded, and what does the LTA program do to attract public and/or private funding?
Greer: The program has been well supported, since established, through public and private individuals. I think it is well-respected in the community and in the field. Therefore people are willing to support it. We’ve received some Federal funding for research. From 2003 to 2009, the program was involved in research studies about how the program affects student’s literacy skills and problem solving skills. That research is available in the field and has been disseminated through a variety of workshops and professional development sessions. The type of support that we have received throughout the history of the program helps us to continue to maintain the support that we need to move forward.
Catalyst: How did the recent economic crisis impact the LTA program?
Greer: Fortunately it doesn’t really affect us. We were still able to maintain similar support that we have had over the years and maintain the same amount of residencies. It is an institutionalized program and it is part of the Guggenheim Museum’s educational belief, so thankfully they will be able to continue in the same function and direction without having to change in any dramatic way.
That concludes today’s exploration of Learn Through Art’s social value and economic dealings. Join us on November 4th, 2013 for our final installment of this three part interview.
Bios of Interviewees
Greer Kudon is the Senior Education Manager of Learning Through Art at the Guggenheim Museum. She oversees the Museum’s 43-year old artist-in-residency program, in the New York City’s public schools. Previously, Greer worked as the Senior Manager for School Programs and outreach at the Jewish Museum, and the Head of School Programs at the Whitney Museum. She also was a 5th grade bilingual (Spanish) elementary school teacher in the New York City public schools. Greer has her BA from Washington University in St. Louis and an MA in Arts Administration from NYU.
Jenny Bevill is a Teaching Artist in the Guggenheim’s Learning Through Art program. Prior to her work at the Guggenheim she worked with the Brooklyn Museum, the Center for Arts Education, and the Department of Education Sites for Students program. Jenny earned her BFA from Parsons School of Design and her MA in Art and Art Education from Teachers College. As a Learning Through Art Teaching Artist, Jenny teaches long term residencies in the New York City public elementary schools, where she provides direct service to approximately 175 students in grades three through five each year. In addition to this, she collaborates on curriculum development, arts integration, and using art to build community with the school staff. Since 2008, she has been involved with a federal grant at the Guggenheim Museum, exploring The Art of Problem Solving. The research identified seven areas in which teacher behaviors can promote student creativity such as: flexibility and risk taking. Jenny regularly leads professional development workshops for teachers, both at the museum and offsite, to disseminate these findings and help teachers create classroom environments that promote creativity.