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Contemporary Museum branches out in the community

Museum establishes art education programs for community of Baltimore

The Contemporary Museum located in the Mount Vernon Cultural District is working to bridge the gap between art and the general public. It seeks not only to introduce the community to renowned artists but also to educate.

"The [...] museum has a strong education focus," says Lisa Keir, executive director of the Mount Vernon Cultural District.

Interim and Education Director Leslie Shaffer says the museum has incorporated a number of community-based projects in order to educate the public about contemporary art.

  • Coffee, Conversation, and Contemporary Art: The program is geared toward the senior citizen population of Baltimore and is a collaboration with the Arts and Aging program of the Baltimore City Commission on Aging and Retirement Education. Shaffer says she travels to senior and community centers and engages in a conversational session with senior citizens about art. There are also bus trips to regional museums and gallery tours.

  • Connecting with the Arts: The program is geared toward Baltimore City teens and focuses on arts education.

  • Museum in your school: This a semester-long partnership with teachers that introduces students to contemporary art. Museum staff work with students in and out of the regional museum.

  • Fellowship Program: The program brings artists and curators to the region for six months to study Baltimore for artistic inspiration. The participants collaborate with a number of art institutions and displays Baltimore culture in a new way.

(Sources: Contemporary Museum, Baltimore Business Journal)

The benefits of art education

Shaffer says she feels that the art education programs are important because they teach people a "visual language." She also says that this language of art interpretation can help people understand and process the world around them.

"They begin to examine things they see, like advertisements, and they begin to ask questions," she says.

Shaffer says she loves to work with children because "they are very imaginative." "They teach me something every time," she says.

She says she always tries to make art fun for young people and prefers long-term projects like "Museum in your school" because it takes time to get young people truly interested in understanding art.

She also tries to make students feel comfortable about art interpretation.

"Everybody is right, there is no one definition" says Shaffer. "There are no wrong answers."

She says that "people are used to a beginning, middle, and end in almost every facet of life, but art is more often about a single moment." She believes that once students learn this, the interpretation of art is easier.

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