Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Public Museum Use

There is a vast world of information and knowledge to be had, if only an educator takes it upon themselves to help reveal this world to students. Through many not for profit agencies, this world of knowledge has been protected and shared with the public by way of museums, galleries, national parks, cultural history centers and the like. This uncovery for the student could be done by traveling afar to another portion of the country via the internet, visiting a nearby city by bus, or simply by being encouraged to peer a little bit closer at the immediate, surrounding community and the hidden information that lies beneath the surface. Through these experiences a student will engage in hands-on, first person learning that will remain with them and perhaps influence their world for the rest of their lives. 
A youth’s mind knows only what they experience in their daily lives, in the routine of class schedules, extra curricular practices, and family struggles. If a student lives in an urban or suburban area, or comes from a more affluent family stature, many more opportunities to expand their informational world are available, and more than not, supported. However, if a student resides in small town, USA, or comes from a low-income family existence, little opportunity to expand their horizons exist. Their world remains in an immediate state of cause and effect, with little knowledge of the vastly complex, outside world that they live, unless an educator steps up to the challenge of this need.
In my experience, hailing from a virtually invisible community of 500 residents, my experience of the bigger world beyond its circumference came from yearly, family vacations (until I was ten) to specific destinations, or college prep English classes in high school, where once a year we would take a trip into (three hours away) Chicago to the Shakespeare Theater, The Art Institute or The Science & Industry Museum. Through these experiences, “engaged by rich and meaningful experiences,” (Attenborogh, 92) my awareness of the arts and other relational opportunities for further exposure to new and exciting information was opened up and I became a sponge for new information that made my life less mundane.
Once away at college, a professor took us on a field trip to the nearby Des Moines Art Museum and would occasionally stroll us through the Cedar Rapids Art Museum. I also spent a semester arts term in New York City, where various professors exposed a myriad of avenues of expression and information, then made more “real” to me. Educators made these experiences possible for an under privileged adolescent from “little-nowhere-town” and allowed me to become connected to “our history, from beauty, from other cultures, and from other forms of expression.” (Attenborough, 88). They made the information available, went “to great lengths to encourage the acknowledgement of the arts” (Attenborough, 87) as important to view and understand. But, this was also mainly due to the proximity of the artifacts to my physical being, as I was experiencing a world that was outside my own.
This form of exposure was crucial for my development as a person, let alone a teacher or an artist, and provided “a way into a myriad of subjects, which (made) those subjects more approachable and accessible.” (Attenborogh, 93) For, within these experiences, lies the moment that sparked a cultivating, memorable, lasting effect upon the student (me), and who they (I) will eventually become. One never knows. But, one thing’s for sure that we do know, that the failure to provide these experiences, as an educator, will not produce anything.

Contemporary Issues in Art Education; Yvonne Gaudelius, Peg Speirs; Prentice Hall; Upper Saddle River, New Jersey 07458; 2002

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