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Building an Innovative Program of Arts Education

The Charge: Use creative teaching strategies to contribute to arts education in the K-12 system in Colorado Springs with community-based and experiential learning. Create audience-centered, inquiry-based tours to develop students’ visual literacy skills and their ability to think critically about what they see in order to engender curiosity and build capacity for understanding themselves and the world.

What’s Happening: As part of this initiative, the FAC made a change to the volunteer docent program in May 2018 by changing it to the Gallery Tour Program. This allows the program to be more audience-centric, creating observation and discussion-based tours that are experiential in nature. The tour leaders are trained to engage visitors in discussion in order to connect people more personally to the artwork, creating relevance for museum visitors, and instilling critical thinking skills and an openness to a variety of perspectives. Tour leaders are also able to connect tours to U.S.-wide K-12 Common Core and Colorado state standards.

The new format also includes a Student Guide Program in which Colorado College students across all disciplines and years serve as FAC Museum guides on a weekly and as-needed basis. Their primary duty is to facilitate positive visitor experiences in multiple ways: they are trained to encourage dialogue about the exhibitions and artwork; they also demonstrate and carry out interactive activities for visitors to use, such as inquiry-based art cards, visual analysis games (e.g., scavenger hunts and dice) and exhibition-related creative projects (e.g., community loom, zine-making, and collage-making). Student guides understand the variety of tools available to visitors that lead to deeper understanding of art and artists, including gallery guides and interpretive materials, then direct visitors to use these tools.

“It’s a pretty creative job and I really enjoy it,” says Emily Gardner ’19, who works as a guide. “I get to use the things I used in the class The Power of Arts in Education directly in this job. Whether it’s with students of any age or adult community members. I get to help engage them further in the arts.”

Student Guides also conduct assessments of the exhibitions and educational materials, which then informs the museum on future design of exhibitions and interpretive tools. During bi-monthly meetings, student guides learn about new exhibitions, related artistic processes, and museum education approaches. Also, group discussions co-led by student guide facilitators include topics such as professional development, leadership, interpersonal communication techniques, public/community engagement, and team-building.