Accessing the Art World

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When I was growing up in Columbus, Ohio, we’d take family trips to the Columbus Museum of Art.  I remember three things about those trips. One was a Deborah Butterfield horse in the lobby that seemed huge at the time; another was a frayed Renaissance tapestry that filled the main stairwell.  The third was a small painting of a boxing match by Columbus’ own George Bellows.  Imagine my delight to discover when I arrived at Art in Action that Bellows’ Dempsey and Firpo is a highlight of our fourth grade program and that the same sense of movement and energy I saw in that painting is exactly what we teach here.

One of the most interesting themes  to come out of the Implementation Study of Art in Action that the John W. Gardner Center for Youth and Their Communities at Stanford University just concluded is this:: Art in Action “exposes participants to the art world and invites their participation – within the Art in Action classes and beyond.”

Of course, it is a core component of our program that we encourage students to learn about, examine and discuss important works of art, art movements and the artists and cultures that created them.  But this takes the impact even further.  One parent docent explains it this way:

“Being able to go to a museum with my son and we’ll both see a name that we recognize…we’ll stand there and have a discussion about the piece of art that we studied last year…”

And for me, an art historian, I was even more excited by this quote:

[Art in Action] gives students confidence…to have the right to go to a museum. It’s something that they know about and it’s not something for other people. It’s something for them too.”

Now, I’ve been part of the “art world” for a long time. I’ve worked in art museums, curated art exhibits and traveled to art fairs near and far. I will be the first to agree that art can seem like a closed environment,with access granted only to the wealthy and to PhDs. But that perception greatly diminishes the power that art and cultural experiences have.  For our students and their families, art gives them power to see stories about their cultures and themselves, the power to have pride in making connections between artworks and artists, and, ultimately, the power to enjoy beauty for beauty’s sake. I am deeply proud and humbled that as a result of our program the art world embraced 55,000 children, their parents and their teachers this year alone.

If you want to help us provide this kind of exposure and impact to more children, their families and their school communities, please donate to our annual appeal today.

Thank you, and best wishes for a happy new year.

–Jeffrey Dollinger, Executive Director