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.
CATALYST Review’s Art Director, Yuehan Jia interviewed Greer Kudon (LTA’s Senior Education Manager) and Jenny Bevill (a Teaching Artist), to learn more about the innovative program.
This week’s post focuses on the strategic design and planning of the LTA program.
Catalyst: As Senior Education Manager, how would you describe the LTA program?
Greer: LTA is a 43-year-old program. Its goal is to bring arts into the New York City public schools in such a way that not only teaches art, but also helps students to understand the arts fully, so students can reflect on experiences and have arts become part of their daily lives. There are many artists out there, and many students do become artists in their careers. But we also try to provide students with the opportunities to become aware of the value of art and how it can affect their daily lives.
Catalyst: How do you envision the LTA program’s progress, over the next 5 years?
Greer: Currently we are happy with the amount of residencies that we’re offering to the New York City public schools, because it’s a very staff intensive program. We’re not just a program that is sending teaching artists to public schools; instead we are very involved with the school itself. Therefore, in terms of the quantity of our Teaching Artists, we are in a very comfortable place right now. We will also continue to deepen our relationships with individual schools and communities, over the past two years we’ve been not only reached out to the students that are participating in the program, but to the greater school and family community as well. For example, we invite families to attend special events at the Guggenheim Museum, making them aware of the programs that we offer beyond the Learning Through Art program, and helping them become more active New York museum-goers in general. We also are using our Teaching Artist tools in different ways than we have in the past. Jenny in particular has been leading professional development workshops for other teachers in the New York school area, and has attended and presented at some conferences. The voice of the Teaching Artist is very encouraging.
Catalyst: What are some of the challenges that LTA may face in the future?
Greer: Art education in general has been a challenge for 43 years – ever since Natalie K. Lieberman founded the program in 1970. The program was founded when she saw art programs being cut in the New York public school as a constant situation. Another great challenge in the school system is the high standards and high expectations of testing. This is a continuing challenge for principals to balance; it is necessary to prepare students accordingly for tests, but it is also important to make sure they’re providing students with appropriate art education programs.
Catalyst: What are the potential threats to art educations in public schools today, and how is the LTA program preparing to address them?
Greer: Testing is really a threat right now to all education. Obviously testing is necessary and required by the states and federal governments, but due to the high frequency of changing the principles, testing is causing difficulty in terms of the principals making choices with limited budgets. Often times they see arts more as the additional, therefore decisions are always hard to make.
Jenny: Our teachers strategically want the program to come in either directly before or directly after testing, because they figure it will help the kids to deal with stress in the testing. So we are able to use [the arts] in different ways, and in that way, we try to make the best of every situation.
Catalyst: What would you say are the most valuable assets of the LTA program, and how does the organization maintain and promote such assets?
Greer: The Teaching Artists are truly what I consider the most valuable asset of the program. We have 12 to 14 Teaching Artists each year and collectively they will have more than 100 years of experience. Jenny has been in her school for 10 years and others have been in their schools for equal amounts of time. We have a really amazing community that is so passionate about what they do. They are amazing educators and amazing artists and have quite the accomplishment in their careers, bouncing between the two parts of the world so eloquently. So we do our best to provide them with professional development, as Jenny said, monthly. We meet and we come together as a community. Sometimes we bring in an outsider to share some of their expertise, but a lot of the times we use the expertise in our community and share ideas in that way.
We have begun to send some of our Teaching Artists to conferences. Jenny attended the National Education Association Conference last year, and another Teaching Artist is attending a conference at the Kennedy Center this summer, working with students with special needs in arts. We really try to give them learning opportunities and opportunities in their careers as well.
Check back with us on October 28th, 2013 when we explore Learning Through Art’s community impact and economic support structure.
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.