Monthly Mentor

Natalie C. Jones (February)
Each month, a different member is the guest writer for the NAEA Monthly Mentor Blog. Natalie C. Jones is an artist, small business owner, and the director of education at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture. She has 10 years of experience working as an art teacher and teaching artist throughout the east coast and the Midwest. Click "GO" to read her full bio.



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December 01, 2020

Necessity is the Mother of Invention: Adapting Crystal Bridges’ Educational Programming in the Time of COVID-19.

By Sally Ball, Interim Head of School Programs

2020 has been the fastest and slowest year of my life, a year filled with duality. Education was not immune to this phenomenon. For me, this has been the most difficult year I have ever experienced as an educator, and it has also been the one that has sparked the most creativity and innovation.

At Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art we offered mostly in-person programming prior to the pandemic. When quarantine forced us to discontinue this model, we were left wondering: What does museum education look like when you cannot be in a museum or have an in-person audience?

A Community Social Connecting Campaign: During the spring and summer, the Education department answered this question with a variety of new offerings. The museum’s Community Engagement team identified key areas of community support, including a social connecting campaign to foster connection with vulnerable and isolated groups. As part of this campaign, we commissioned nine local artists to create original artworks around the word “TOGETHER,” which were then turned into postcards that the community colored in and murals that traveled to hospitals and care facilities in Northwest Arkansas.

Picture1Courtesy of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Photo by Ironside Photography.

Picture2Courtesy of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Photo by Ironside Photography.

Educational Videos for Schools: The School Programs team developed a YouTube video series called Bridging the Gap to support teachers in their new virtual classrooms. These short, digital art engagements, created using Screencastify for voiceovers, were designed to connect teachers and students with works of art at Crystal Bridges.  

Art Kits for Children: The Public Programs team created My Museum Kits, which include close-looking videos, artmaking videos, and art supplies for kids.

Picture3Courtesy of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Photo by Ironside Photography.

Going Forward: The experiments that began as a response to the pandemic have fostered new ways of teaching at Crystal Bridges. For example, the Bridging the Gap videos led to the genesis of free live virtual school tours. These tours capitalize on the advantages of using technology while still delivering our student-centered, dialogue-based explorations of art, and are available to any classroom, anywhere. The My Museum Kits were so well received that we now create kits for our different audiences, including classrooms, families, and adults with dementia,  and plan to continue them well into the future.

The learning curve has been steep, the pandemic stressful, and the reimagining of our educational practice has been challenging, but for me, it has also been the most exciting and invigorating experience of my educational career.

To learn more about School Programs offerings at Crystal Bridges, sign up for our Educator eNewsletter.



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