The Blanton’s signature K-12 program is Art Central, a multiple-visit school program for fourth and fifth graders from typically under-served communities. Students learn about artistic media, messages in art, museum careers, and are introduced to the exhibition process over the course of four visits to the museum. In the spring semester, each class creates a miniature museum that allows them to apply all they have learned during the year.

In this post, two art teachers Nancy Schilhab and Kelly Schafer reflect on their students’ experiences in the program:

Nancy Schilhab, Riojas Elementary School Art Teacher

Riojas student on Gallery Night

A Riojas student in her role as art educator on Gallery Night.

After our last Art Central museum visit, the students were filled with excitement to experience the process of creating an exhibition for our school’s annual Gallery Night. Each of the four classes selected a theme, and they planned and prepared the event as curators, installation staff, educators, and membership staff. In our art class, each student used his or her imagination to create an “Artist Trading Card” that communicated a message reflecting their class theme. You could feel the energy in the room as they pondered which museum job they wanted to be.

The students who settled on being membership staff created invitations to publicize the event, interviewed each student artist, and selected pictures that documented their experience in Art Central to share with people attending Gallery Night.

The students in the role of installation staff constructed the walls with cardboard and masking tape. They could not wait until the curators selected colors for the museum. Once the colors were decided upon, these students had to mix paint colors to match the curators’ choices from paint swatches back in the art room.

When the project was completed, everyone involved was proud of their class’s “mini museum” and at Gallery Night all that they learned was evident in the exhibition itself. The visual display as well as the presence of our student “educators” during the event was fantastic! Visitors who stopped by to observe the “mini museums” and ask questions were amazed at what the students knew. I heard comments like, “Wow! I never knew about a curator until I was in college!” and “These students are delightful. What a privilege to have this experience over four museum visits!” Personally, I LOVE the Art Central experience!


Kelly Schafer, Old Town Elementary School Art Teacher

mini-museum projec

An Old Town Elementary School mini-museum project.

I do feel that my students will remember their Art Central experience positively throughout their lifetime! The year-long focus on art and museums will certainly have a longer-lasting, deeper impact than the one-time field trips I’ve taken students on in the past. And I love that the students recognize their value and continually express how lucky they feel to have been a part of it all!

By the fourth visit, one of the neatest things is to see how comfortable and at home students felt entering the museum. By this point they had taken full ownership of the learning experience and were acting as museum educators themselves for our chaperones. I know adults who are intimidated to step into an art museum and talk about what they see, so the confidence instilled in my students through the Art Central program is priceless!

another mini-museum project

An Old Town Elementary School mini-museum project.

Following visit four, my students were eager to create their very own versions of a mini-museum! As a group, the class chose the theme “History & Mythology.” We discussed what media we should use in our artworks next. Within the range of limited materials available, everyone could choose their own media. I had to steer some students interested in mezzotints and lithography to simpler printmaking techniques more feasible for an elementary classroom. But I thought, how cool it is that they even mentioned these terms! I definitely, definitely had not been introduced to these words or concepts when I was in fifth grade.

They worked on their individual artworks, which we then reproduced in miniature for our museum. They took on the various roles and worked together to determine wall colors, lighting, and framing. We had limited time to accomplish the finished products. They are nothing fancy, but the students had an absolute blast and couldn’t be prouder. We shared our completed gallery spaces, each with its own artist statement, in the school library to engage our school community and to keep our Art Central students talking! This really is a fantastic culminating project that motivates students to show off all of their acquired learning!

Learn more about The Blanton’s Art Central program.

One Response

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