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Charm City Conference Memoirs

April 22, 2010

So there I was nearly one week ago ending a week in Baltimore, Maryland by trekking through the galleries at the Walters Art Museum soaking up all the visual and mental goodness that the works of art would allow me.  Beautiful Barbizons.  This respite of art viewing was the perfect transition between the National Art Education Association (NAEA) Conference the week prior and another busy work week ahead of me.

Fortunately, several of my colleagues and I were able to attend the NAEA conference in Baltimore this year to share our work with others and learn from fellow educators in museums, schools, and universities.  It’s a great opportunity to reflect and recharge so that we can get back to doing that important work that we all do.

This year’s conference theme was Art Education and Social Justice.  Museum educators kicked off their exploration of this theme during a pre-conference session held on April 13.  Artist Joyce J. Scott, a native of Baltimore and a bit of spunky lady, entertained us with a keynote presentation of images and stories from her life and challenged us with the ideas in her art, which often confront head-on tough social issues.  She is an active member of her community and a teaching artist.  Joyce says she ‘teaches kids to be just with each other’, and she encourages us as museum educators to think about how museums are the perfect context for this kind of teaching and learning.  Think about all of the great issues that museums could address. In break-out sessions that followed the keynote, we heard from colleagues across the country who are actively working for change within their communities.  Art on Purpose and The Baltimore Museum of Art integrated exhibition artworks and ideas into experiential programs for children, homeless people, addicts, and immigrants.  In another session, educators from the Worcester Museum of Art questioned where social change fits into our day-to-day work and led a conversation about “Is Art Enough?”  How does social change fit into your world?  Can arts education impact social change?  What is the role of a museum?

At the conference, NAEA set up a studio for the presentation of current strategic planning initiatives for the organization.  Attendees were invited to participate in focus groups and also design-thinking exercises that contributed to a new vision for the association and perhaps, a re-envisioning of our field.  Other exciting announcements included a new study out about the impact of No Child Left Behind on arts education.  This nationwide study was initiated and compiled by F. Robert Sabol, PhD and is a must read!  Likewise, the NAEA Web site has information up about the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and the Nation’s Arts Report Card.  My advocacy brain was on high alert by the end of the conference, and I came back to Dallas anxious to follow through on a few great ideas I heard at the conference about how to be a stronger advocate for the arts in my community.  The Philadelphia Museum of Art invites high level school district administrators and principals to hold meetings at the PMA.  In exchange for free meeting spaces in a beautiful art museum, PMA educators spend one hour with the group sharing about their work with students and teachers.  At The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, educators are now working with parents to develop more advocates for the arts.

I’ll finish up with a list of selected highlights from the many sessions I attended throughout the week:

  • Artist Luba Lukova – graphic design and social justice
  • Dewey and Freire – a presentation about the influences of philosophical theory on our practice in the 21st century
  • The Whitney Museum of American Art presents: “How Working with Artists Changes What We Do and How We Do It” — on Friday, May 28 the U.S. Marines will do a weapons display in the Whitney Museum, a program suggested by artist Nina Berman to “open up” dialogue around her artwork.
  • Recreating Creativity – a panel presentation from college professors discussing creativity within various contexts: history, psychoanalysis, and philosophy
  • American Visionary Museum Director Rebecca Hoffberger delivering the keynote speech at the Museum Education Division luncheon – “Museums are at their very best when they are broadcasting inclusiveness.”  The number one educational goal of this institution: Expand the definition of a worthwhile life
  • Bumper stickers: Art Makes You Smart.  Stand Up for the Arts!
  • Rika Burnham and Elliott Kai-Kee focus on the museum educators’ struggles for interpretation – How do we use our own interpretations in our work in the galleries?

Nicole Stutzman
Director of Teaching Programs and Partnerships
(NAEA Museum Education Division Western Region Director)

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