On July 23, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) was proud to host the grand opening of the student art exhibit Museums: pARTners in Learning at its headquarters in Washington. In their second collaboration, ED and the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) worked for more than a year to present the visual artwork and creative writing from the arts education programs at 16 academic museums. Students, family members, teachers, and art museum directors from across the country celebrated the opening of the exhibit of magnificent work by students ages 5–17.
Deputy Under Secretary Jamie Studley welcomed guests to the Department and thanked AAMD for its partnership, adding that “we [at ED] are all about partnerships because we recognize that it is only in working together that we can achieve our goals.” Studley not only emphasized the critical partnership for learning between art and other classroom subjects, such as chemistry, history and math, she also noted the importance of art “as a source of inspiration and a way to practice discipline, build skills, and get better at doing something.”
Rebecca Martin Nagy, director of the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art at the University of Florida, asserted that all of the art museums in the country, as well as around the world, are committed to education. “It’s what we do!” she said. She too stressed the importance of partnerships, citing AAMD’s work in collaboration with ED as well as the 242 AAMD members that work with each other, with 40,000 schools, and with other community organizations.
Anthony Madorsky, a 10-year-old student artist in attendance from Meadowbrook Elementary School in his hometown of Gainesville, Fla., made family members and his art teacher proud when he delivered remarks on his painting La Florida. He drew his inspiration from Frank Hamilton Taylor’s A Trip on the Ocklawaha, a painting in the Harn collection. Anthony explained that he tried to depict “the untouched majestic beauty [of Florida] before the Spanish colonization,” a different way than people usually see Florida. “When Ponce de León discovered Florida, he called it ʻLa Florida,’ meaning ‘land full of flowers.’ I believe each of our brains is a ‘La Florida’ as it is a place full of ideas like flower buds and, as people help us improve these ideas, they can bloom into flowers,” Anthony concluded — an eloquent depiction of “becoming educated.”
Anna Mebel, the poet-in-residence at the Harn Museum, also touched on the different portrayals of her home state, Florida. She recited her original poem, Florida, which was inspired by Karen Glaser’s Within the Swamp, Roberts Lake Strand, a photograph in the Harn collection. Mebel said it depicts Florida from a local’s perspective and made her reflect on the meaning of “being Floridian,” especially as she prepares to move to Syracuse, N.Y., for graduate school. Her poem’s two stanzas paint a picture of Florida from two different points of view — that of a foreigner and that of a local.
Amanda Stambrosky, the choreographer and dancer-in-residence at the Harn, performed an original piece, Down to the Lake, to James Vincent McMorrow’s song The Lakes in response to four Florida landscape paintings in the Harn collection. She wanted to explore the state’s beauty and evoke the same emotions that Florida’s colors, lakes, and natural beauty evoke in her. Amanda incorporated her hair in her performance. Midway, she let it loose from the bun she wore as both an expression of “letting loose” and a representation of the flow and movement of the palm trees and wind. For her, concluding the piece by pulling her hair back in a bun portrayed “resuming life, yet kind of changed.”
The program closed with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, an 11-year tradition of ED’s Student Art Exhibit Program, when student artists cut the ribbon to officially open their exhibit at the Department. “The art is beautiful,” “wow!,” and “so much talent” were some of the remarks by guests as they viewed the 67 pieces of work, evidence of creativity and learning in all fields from k–12 students.
The exhibit will be on display through the end of August in the ED headquarters lobby at 400 Maryland Ave. SW. The Student Art Exhibit Program produces seven art exhibits a year as well as a jazz informance with the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz and a professional development seminar for educators with Crayola. To visit the exhibit, contact Jackye Zimmermann (Jacquelyn.Zimmermann@ed.gov; 202-401-0762).
Click here to see additional photos from the exhibit opening.
Greta Olivares is a rising senior at Middlebury College and a summer intern in the Office of Communications and Outreach at ED.