Reflections on Arts Education

Before starting my internship at the Gibbes Museum of Art, I didn’t have a true understanding of what arts education meant or how powerful it can be. I had read about arts education and heard how effective it is from countless Arts Management classes at the College of Charleston, but it never clicked until I experienced it firsthand this semester while interning in the Education department with Rebecca sailor, Curator of Education. Being able to interact with kids – whether it was handing out maps at the museum on Second Sunday, or doing crafts with them at an arts fair in Mount Pleasant – has given me a newfound appreciation for arts as a creative outlet for children. Even though I am an art history major, double minoring in arts management and studio art, concepts like seeking funding for arts education are relegated to paper topics and online quizzes for my classes and can feel far removed at times. Connecting with children through my internship has made these concepts come alive.

One of the programs that resonated with me is Art to Go. Through this program, teaching artists from the Gibbes are able to go to Title I schools in the Charleston County School District. This year those schools included Goodwin, Mitchell, Pinehurst, Murray LaSaine, and Angel Oak Elementary. Each year Art to Go culminates with the Charleston Marathon in January and the student’s artwork is on display at the marathon expo. I helped one of the teaching artists, Tara White, move one of the projects from Mitchell Elementary to the expo at Burke Middle High School, and saw the tangible results of this amazing program. The finished projects from each school were on display in the gymnasium, and I enjoyed hearing the teaching artists describe their experiences with the kids.

Goodwin Elementary School at Expo

Goodwin Elementary School’s art project on display at the Charleston Marathon Expo

Teaching Artist Tara White said,

“Art to Go provides an incredible experience, not just for the students participating, but also for the educator. As a teaching artist for two years at Goodwin Elementary, I’ve built relationships with approximately 300 students! The most memorable experience happened this year with two fifth grade girls who had not previously enjoyed art class and were getting into trouble at school. However, they chose to give up time on the playground to stay inside and paint with me, choosing art over negative situations. The girls’ willingness to try something out of their comfort zone continues to leave a lasting impression with me, and I’m so glad that Art to Go provided a positive intervention for them”.

Arts education doesn’t stop with children. Throughout my internship, I have been able to follow tours and hear lectures as part of the programming for adults from influential people like Peter Rathbone, who has worked at Sotheby’s New York since 1972 and orchestrated some of their highest American painting sales. I also sat in on studio art classes including pastel, and drawing the human form, that were filled with students from all walks of life. Whether it’s attending lectures by incredible people, or tackling a studio art class in an unfamiliar medium, it’s amazing to see adults continue their own arts education.

This internship has been one the most rewarding experiences that I have had in college and has helped me narrow down my passions and interests within the overwhelming art world (which is very helpful considering my graduation coming up in two short weeks!). Growing up, I was lucky enough to have taken art classes and attended arts camps that instilled in me a great passion for the arts! I am happy to say that I got to be a part of the Education department at the Gibbes, which is offering other children and adults in Charleston and surrounding areas similar opportunities.

Taylor Drury, Education intern

Education intern Taylor Drury posing in front of her favorite John Westmark painting “Exaltation.”

Taylor Drury, Outreach and Education intern, Gibbes Museum of Art

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