Stop Taking Your Art Students to Art Museums!
Written By: Anne Wright – Education Manager of Artisan’s Asylum
Let me start by saying that I studied art in high school, was an art history major in college and then went on to pursue a Master’s degree in Arts in Education at Harvard. Art and the history from which it is produced is important to me. So important, in fact, that for the last couple of decades whenever I visit a museum and see a famous work of art that I studied in school, I would come home and check it off in my AP Art History textbook as a badge of honor. I visited the Isabella Stewart Gardner last month and the MFA the month prior to see the Ansel Adams exhibit. Art museums have a special place in my heart that connects me to the beauty and majesty of this life and our world around us.
That said, there is a huge problem with art museums: Equity. Nearly all of those check marks in my art history book are placed next to paintings, sculptures or prints made by, you guessed it, dead white guys.
As seen here in this landmark study published this month, of the top 18 museum’s online collections, women and people of color make up just a fraction of the museum’s total collection.
I’m sure museums are aware of the problem, and many are taking active steps to bring pairity to their collections. Some museums out there are solely dedicated to highlighting people of color, women or artists who don’t identify as one gender. But these types of museums are few and far between and there are art students in every city across the US studying how their work connect and fits into the larger landscape of the art world. While these are all active and great steps, there’s an easier solution to showing students the spectrum of art makers and creators in our world — Bring your students to local artist studios where at this exact moment people of all backgrounds are creating art!
In Somerville, Artisan’s Asylum alone has 400 members and 160 studios with makers, crafters, fabricators and creative individuals exploring the world of making on a daily basis. And we’re one of a dozen artist studios in an area that’s only 4.2 miles across at its widest point. In a typical day, artists and makers are starting new projects and finishing other projects that are hung on half walls and structures around each of their studios or displayed in our foyer for visitors to see. They work collaboratively with other artists to gain new ideas and stretch their capacity as learners and makers through conversations and classes. This is the type of context that young artists should see works of art in, not only hung in a fancy gallery where they must sketch quietly.
The availability and accessibility of local makerspaces and artist collectives means that underfunded schools and/or schools with more diverse populations can travel shorter distances to see practicing artists creating contemporary works. Students have the benefit of seeing art take place in real time before their eyes and created by people that come from their local communities.
It also behooves spaces like Artisan’s and other art studios to build better programming to bring in students from their surrounding communities and support tours, demonstrations and workshops for the next generation of artists.