Memphis Brooks Museum School Partnership Enters 33rd Year

Art in the Basic Curriculum provides quality art education

Memphis, TN – As it wraps up another successful school year, the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art is pleased to announce that its Art in the Basic Curriculum (ABC) program will continue into 2011-2012. Founded in 1979, the program is a partnership between the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art and twenty elementary schools in the city of Memphis. It provides art education to fourth- and fifth-graders enrolled in Memphis City and Jubilee schools.

“At the Brooks, we put our world-class art collection to work to serve as a resource for the Memphis community,” said Cameron Kitchin, Director of the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art. “We are in a position to offer students an educational experience unlike any they would find in the classroom.”

The ABC program brings art education to Title 1 schools and students who formerly received limited or no learning opportunities in the visual arts. Studies have indicated that art education programs can lead to improved literacy and academic performance in many areas of study. For many of the 1,450 children served by ABC last year, the program is their only access to education in the visual arts.

Administered by the Brooks’ Assistant Curator of Education Jenny Hornby and museum educator Molly Kennedy, the ABC program consists of five lessons conducted over the course of the school year: three in the classroom and two at the museum. Teachers are given lesson plans for each session that include pre-and post-visit activities and ideas for integrating art into the core academic subjects. Lessons are aligned with Tennessee State Curriculum Standards and foster the development of important 21st century skills such as communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity. During a typical session, students examine and discuss artwork and then solve a creative problem to produce original works of art. Themes might include: identifying the elements of art such as line, shape, and color; developing a story or conveying meaning through art; exploring climates and cultures though landscapes; and investigating history through the lives of artists.

Art education is often one of the first programs to be cut or downsized in difficult economic times. For instance Jubilee schools—which serve some of Memphis’ most at-risk kids—were forced to eliminate art entirely from their curriculum in recent years. Additionally, educational reform policies such as No Child Left Behind often place a heavy emphasis on standardized test scores, leaving little room for experiential learning programs such as art. The Brooks Museum is a unique environment where classroom teachers and museum educators can foster the development of important skills that have been eliminated from the curriculum such as communication, creativity, and critically thinking.

Several studies suggest that education in the visual arts art can improve literacy and academic performance. According to data gathered by Americans for the Arts, art education refines cognitive skills, develops problem-solving abilities, and stimulates memory. All of these contribute to improved intellectual and academic performance. In 2010, 87% of classroom teachers participating in ABC reported that the program benefited their students’ achievement in school. Ninety percent of teachers believed that the ABC program improved their student’s scores on TCAP.

Another benefit of the program is introducing children to the museum, and showing them that it is a place where they are welcome to visit and explore.

“What makes the ABC program special is the fact that it is a multi-visit program which allows students to develop a relationship with the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art,” said Jenny Hornby, Assistant Curator of Education at the Brooks. “At the beginning of the school year, many students are uncomfortable with the creative challenges presented and apprehensive about their first trip to the museum. By the end of the school year, they are relaxed at the museum and asking to take photographs with their ABC educator.”

“It is inspiring and motivating to watch,” she added.

Art in the Basic Curriculum (ABC) is generously sponsored by ArtsMemphis, Tennessee Arts Commission, Robert and Martha Fogelman Charitable Trust, J.D. Buckman Charitable Trust, International Paper Foundation, St. Mary’s Community Fund, and an Anonymous funder.

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About the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art

The Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, located at 1934 Poplar Ave. in historic Overton Park, is the largest art museum in a three-state region of the American South. Over 9,000 works make up the Brooks’ permanent collection including ancient works from Greece, Rome, and the Ancient Americas; Renaissance masterpieces from Italy; English portraiture; American painting and decorative arts; contemporary art; and a survey of African art. For more information on the Brooks, and all other exhibitions and programs, call (901) 544-6200 or visit

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