Art Center of the Bluegrass
The Art Center of the Bluegrass has been awarded a prestigious federal grant in support of its field trip program. Inspire! Grants for Small Museums is a special initiative of the Museums for America program, administered by the Institute of Museum and Library Services. It is designed to help small museums implement projects that address priorities identified in their strategic plans.
Of the 230 applications submitted by museums and libraries across the country, only 60 projects were selected for funding. Notification of the award came in August, timing which Executive Director Niki Kinkade calls “perfect.” She says, “We were well into the planning phases for The Art of Being Black: Conversation and Experience. We knew that we wanted this exhibit to reach students beyond just Boyle County because the message and the content of this show is just so relevant and timely. The grant award from IMLS was the boost we needed to really expand this program into new audiences.”
For the past several years, the Art Center has operated a strong in-house field trip program serving primarily students from schools within Boyle County, including both public school districts, the Kentucky School for the Deaf, and private schools in Danville. This year, the organization has shifted its field trip program to an online format, using a combination of recorded lessons, live video meetings, and printed materials to connect students with the artwork on display in the Art Center galleries.
In the fall, nearly 600 students explored the En Plein Air exhibit, learning the history of the art style, its continuing relevance today, and how they can create their own artwork at home.
For the winter show, the Art Center is on pace to connect with more than 1,200 students from all over the state.
“This is one of the great benefits to doing virtual field trips,” says Kinkade. “We are able to reach students that would never have realistically been able to visit our building, even without the added complications of the pandemic.” Teachers from Jessamine, Fayette, Mercer, and Madison counties have all jumped at the opportunity to participate in field trips.
Sarah Campbell, Arts Integration Coordinator for the Partners For Education at Berea College has helped identify school districts in Eastern Kentucky that might benefit from participation. She says, “With a mission to ensure all Appalachian students succeed, Partners For Education at Berea College integrates arts throughout our work to foster connection and engage and empower the students and families we serve. Many of our partner schools have limited access to arts education and arts institutions, so this field trip program provides a rare opportunity to view and discuss a professional art exhibit.”
The Art Center tapped Danville artist Yolantha Harrison-Pace to be the lead facilitator for its winter field trips. “We have worked with Yolantha in the past, so we knew what a tremendous educator she is,” explains Kinkade. “She also has artwork in the show, which made her the perfect choice to be our liaison to students throughout Kentucky.”
Kinkade explains that the three inter-related exhibits that make up The Art of Being Black: Conversation and Experience provide a framework for students to explore questions of identity, community, race, and self-expression. In addition to joining a live video meeting with Harrison-Pace, all participating students also receive a 32-page printed exhibit booklet that includes images from the exhibits along with creative prompts through which students can engage with the themes of the show.
Harrison-Pace says, “I am so excited and honored to have been part of this marvelous exhibit of human excellence, of Black experiences and conversation not just as the Art Ambassador emceeing the field trip but as an artist. This exhibit resonates with me on many levels. You cannot become what you have never seen or experienced. You cannot change what you know nothing about.”
The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s libraries and museums. They advance, support, and empower America’s museums, libraries, and related organizations through grant making, research, and policy development. Their vision is a nation where museums and libraries work together to transform the lives of individuals and communities. To learn more, visit www.imls.gov.
“As pillars of our communities, libraries and museums bring people together by providing important programs, services, and collections. These institutions are trusted spaces where people can learn, explore and grow,” said IMLS Director Crosby Kemper. “IMLS is proud to support their initiatives through our grants as they educate and enhance their communities.”
Harrison-Pace says, “It has been a turbulent past year with all of the marches and unrest politically. I asked myself, “What happens after we put down our protest signs, and take off our marching boots?” I feel part of the answer of next humanitarian and community best practices is the way the Art Center of the Bluegrass has made a commitment to share the plight and joy of being an African American in our community.”
Grant funding is available to provide free field trips to fourth grade students anywhere in Kentucky. Space is available on a first-come, first-served basis. Please contact [email protected] to schedule a field trip. The Art of Being Black: Conversation and Experience is on display through April 17th and field trips are ongoing through the end of the school year.