“Field trip” – Arts and Humanities Working Group at the Smithsonian

by Christian Clansky

smithsonianAHWG members listen to the Smithsonian’s Karen Avery discuss educational outreach and programming in the Kogod Courtyard.

After a good year of strategic thinking and planning that brought the Arts and Humanities Working Group back into action, the group decided to round the year off away from a conference room table. Members accepted an invitation from the Smithsonian American Art Museum to learn about its educational outreach and programming. An added perk: a tour of the museum’s special exhibit Georgia O’Keeffe and Ansel Adams: Natural Affinities.

Curator Toby Jurovics led us through the exhibit and discussed the museum’s efforts to create a visual “dialogue” that represents the unique relationship between O’Keeffe and Adams. Despite their common subjects and personal connections, this is the first time that the two artists have been paired together in an exhibition.

Following the tour, the group was handed an assignment sheet. It read, “Select a painting and photograph…then use your reflections to begin writing about your chosen pair.” The task is one that the museum asks its school groups to complete. But a written document isn’t the end goal. Instead, students use their organized reflections to create an audio podcast. The Smithsonian has found this to be an excellent way to engage students in the arts.

The Smithsonian’s Karen Avery also discussed a program which buses in groups of students from local school jurisdictions, and its methods of marketing exhibits and events to students.

Moving into 2009, the Working Group expects to plan other site visits to explore regional arts and humanities organizations of varying sizes and levels of public visibility. If you are interested in joining the Arts and Humanities Working Group, please contact Christian Clansky, clansky@washingtongrantmakers.org.