Harvard Art Museums Receive Award from the National Endowment for the Arts

The Harvard Art Museums announce they have received a 2010 National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Access to Artistic Excellence grant. The grant of $75,000 is among the largest gifts awarded by the NEA in Massachusetts last year and will help further advance the Art Museums’ teaching and research mission. The grant supports the program Engaging New Americans: Explorations in Art, Self, and Our Democratic Heritage, designed by the Art Museums’ Education Department. This gallery-based program provides classes to recent Boston-area immigrants that incorporate the principles of object-based teaching, up-close engagement with original works of art, and key lessons from American civics and history. The classes are an innovative complement to traditional citizenship exam preparation and create opportunities for participants to immerse themselves in American art and history while building English language skills and a museum-based vocabulary.

“This important gift from the National Endowment for the Arts enables the Harvard Art Museums to reach out to new audiences and to use art and art instruction to strengthen communities,” said Thomas W. Lentz, Elizabeth and John Moors Cabot Director of the Art Museums. “By utilizing the rich and varied collections of the museum, and creating new opportunities for observation, reflection, and discussion, the Engaging New Americans project seeks to broaden and enrich the path toward citizenship in a unique way.”

A successful pilot of the Engaging New Americans program was completed in 2009 in collaboration with the Massachusetts Alliance of Portuguese Speakers (MAPS). The NEA award has enabled expansion upon the pilot activities and aids in further partnerships with MAPS, Centro Latino, Inc., and the Everett Adult Learning Center, as well as other service providers for immigrants in the Boston area. Funds are used to support multiple classroom and informational visits to the Art Museums’ Arthur M. Sackler Museum, publish a sourcebook for students, and create a family day event at the Sackler Museum.

Maria Schaedler-Luera was hired in October 2010 as a part-time Community Educator at the Art Museums to help coordinate and develop the Engaging New Americans program. She holds a master’s degree in the Intercultural Relations Program from Lesley University, with a concentration in Arts for Social Change. Her thesis focused on her work in using improvisational theater to teach English to Brazilian immigrants. Schaedler-Luera, who was born in Brazil, is fluent in Portuguese, Spanish, and English. Museum Educator Judy Murray is developing the student sourcebook for the program, which will include thought-provoking questions about featured works of art, activities to develop English language skills, and information about American history and government. Murray earned a master’s degree in 19th-century American history from Boston University and has taught high school history. Prior to joining the Art Museums, she worked as the head of the Gallery Instructor Program at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and as Director of Visitor Learning at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.
“The project aims to provide new generations of Americans with an opportunity to become comfortable in the museum environment, engage in deep and personal ways with original works of art, and add their own experiences to our shared narrative of American history,” said Ray Williams, Director of Education at the Art Museums. “Our hope for the future of this program is to disseminate the model to other museums across the country, introducing a new way to engage diverse communities.”

Harvard Art Museums, 32 Quincy Street, Cambridge, MA 02138


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