Interview by Luna Yuehan Jia with Greer Kudon and Jenny Bevill – Part 3
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.
Our final post centers around the what makes LTA unique: its leadership initiatives and approach.
Catalyst: As a manager, how do you encourage LTA’s Teaching Artists to deliver the best outcomes in the most efficient way?
Greer: We have between 12 and 14 Teaching Artists each year, that teach between 15 to 17 residencies across the city. The program is structured in a particular way. We begin the year with a teaching orientation, when all the participating teachers and Teaching Artists attend a full day for professional development at the museum. On that day there are variety of speakers and different dialogs about the year ahead and the field in general, and then the Teaching Artists meet with a smaller group of teachers to begin planning for the year. We usually have four staff members on hand: myself and two Associate Managers and the Associate Coordinator. We are all assigned to work with particular residencies, and we can work closely with the Teaching Artists, teachers, schools and the students who come to the museum throughout the course of the year. After the Teaching Artists have their first day beginning to plan, they return for the second day to share their plan as a group. Everybody has to participate in the discussion and show ideas. After that, the Teaching Artists put together the plan and determine the goal of the year, but at same time they have the autonomy in their own classroom. When the Teaching Artists are in the schools, they run different facilitated sessions and work with different teachers in their own individual ways to make sure everything works together. As for me and my staff, we are out there in each school three or four times a year, observing the Teaching Artists in action, and meeting with the group to support the programs. We participate in the discussions with a really collaborative approach but we are in deep trust with our Teaching Artists. We trust their abilities, as well as their dedication.
Jenny: You asked a question about the leadership: Greer and other management staff at the Guggenheim have been so encouraging. And because of that, me and the other Teaching Artists always want to do more. They provide us with lots of opportunities, like the research study, presenting at conferences, and running professional development programs for other teachers from other schools. This year, for first time, we were working with another charter school network called “Success Charter Network”. We work with about 14 art teachers there, sharing our methods and findings with them, so it gives us other opportunities to lead not just in our classroom, but also with other schools and other programs. Unlike many other teaching artist programs, our Teaching Artists meet together once a month for the whole year – not only when we have orientation at the beginning of the year . We also have monthly meetings so we can share what we are doing and bounce ideas between peers and staff. That is really a supportive community of Teaching Artists that can only found in our program.
Catalyst: What makes the LTA program stand out from the other arts education programs?
Greer: There are a lot of reasons for our program to standout. For starters, we are one of the only museums around that offers an extended residency programming to public schools. Although there are many arts education programs in New York schools that offer extended residency programs, they do not have a museum as their grounding base. So it’s the fact that this is a Guggenheim-based program, and we are committed to this type of outreach to the schools, that makes the program unique. And because the students get to visit the museum three times over the course of the year, they have the opportunity to really connect to the institution in such a way that they can truly understand what it means to visit a museum and become a part of the museum community.
And the other piece that I mentioned earlier that differentiates us is that it is not just an art-making program, it is an art integration program working with curriculum as well as art subjects in the area. When Jenny visits each school she sees each class in 90-minute sessions, which is basically double the amount of time any class really ever meets. So she gets to spend more time with the students in the classroom.
There’s constant research on the subject. Even though we are not part of the research study right now, we document everything so it can help us constantly learn and change everything we did to find the best way to serve community.
Jenny: Not only is the length of each session longer than the usual course, but we also have a total of 20 weeks in the course period. We basically are there for the entire year and the teachers are co-teaching with the Teaching Artist. What happens in my school is that there is a teacher who has learned these projects and techniques with me, and they can go on and do these things on their own. Therefore, it is really an education on both sides, because we are allowed to stay in the same school for multiple years. For instance, I have been in my school for 10 years with the same teacher, and a lot of the teachers have stayed there for seven years, so we’ve really been able to develop this trust relationship to openly share our ideas, and it is all because we have this history of working together, and that is what really brings out the value of LTA.
Catalyst: How do you engage students in LTA programming?
Jenny: The key is to break up the session so we are learning art while talking art and creating art, but if the subject is not interesting then the students will not talk about it. For the first 15 minutes we look at some works that will support our goal for the day, and after some instructions and demonstrations the students then have a nice length of time to make art. The Teaching Artist, teachers, and assistants then work with the kids individually after the 90 minute session. The students meet up with the Teaching Artist, who provide feedback, so the students can think about what they are doing and internalize this before the period ends. That for me is really the most luxurious event in the whole 90 minutes session. The reason for our success is the reviewing, because if you just make art and walk out of the room, the learning will not stay with you.
That concludes our three part series of interviews with Greer Kudon and Jenny Bevill of the Guggenheim’s Learning Through Art program. Let us know your thoughts.
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.