In July 2004, the Philadelphia Museum of Art received a $750,000 gift from Wachovia to support the establishment of a center that would serve as an unrivaled resource for the visual arts and education in the Philadelphia area. Today, this ambitious goal is realized with the opening of the Ruth and Raymond G. Perelman Building. Located on the second floor and overlooking Fairmount Avenue from the windows of one of the building's signature archways, the Museum's new Wachovia Education Resource Center provides a wealth of art information and workshops for teachers. It is a high-tech research site for curriculum planning and provides educators the means to make stimulating cross-connections, combining the visual arts with mathematics, science, history, language arts, foreign languages, and other subjects.
The Wachovia Education Resource Center enables educators to incorporate the study of arts by putting the information teachers need at their fingertips. It serves as a drop-in lending library to help them bring the arts to their classrooms, and is staffed during after-school hours and weekends for their convenience. Teachers from the five-county region of Philadelphia, southern New Jersey, and Delaware are invited to use its reference library to borrow curriculum materials and to explore the Museum's collections at its computer terminals and gain information about artists and art history. They can also view video and image resources and confer with the Museum educators. The center is also open to high school and college students, as well as the public.
"In a city where dedicated public school art and music teachers are a rare commodity, the Wachovia Educational Resource Center provides teachers everything they need to incorporate art into their lessons," said Barbara Bassett, Curator of Education for School and Teacher Programs. "Our commitment to the continuing education of teachers, and to igniting passion for the arts in their students, increases dramatically with this significant and much needed resource. It helps to fill a void in the Philadelphia educational community."
Steven Wills, a teacher who last served as Language Arts Department Chair for the Colonial School District in Montgomery County, has now assumed the role of the center's Project Coordinator. He will connect teachers with the latest technologies to explore Museum materials and preview the units and lessons they develop for their classrooms. "The response from educators throughout the region has already been tremendous," Wills noted.
"This is exactly what we, as a school district, have been waiting for," said Dennis Creedon, Administrator of the Office of Creative and Performing Arts at the School District of Philadelphia. "The opening of this center gives all of our teachers sorely needed access to the arts resources in order to present to today's students an enriching, vital source of inspiration and lifelong learning."
"At Wachovia, we're turning more and more of our resources toward education, with a special emphasis on making sure our teachers are properly equipped and educated," said Hugh Long, Wachovia State CEO for Pennsylvania and Delaware. "The opportunity to establish the Wachovia Education Resource Center was a perfect fit for us. This unique resource helps teachers achieve uncommon insight into one of the world's most significant art collections, and enables them to pass this knowledge on to their students."
Every year, the Museum draws 75,000 to 85,000 students from the Delaware Valley and beyond into its collection and exhibition galleries. They participate in lessons that parallel their studies in history, language arts, social studies, foreign language, math, and science. Museum educators lead tours of the collections, introducing different art-related topics depending on the students' age. Tours average one to one and a half hours and focus on a variety of topics from introducing the Museum and its collections, to investigating an individual artist, to exploring means of connecting art to the school curriculum. In addition, the Museum offers studies of the historic Fairmount Park Houses it administers, Mount Pleasant and Cedar Grove, where students can learn about life and art in early Philadelphia.
Annually, over 3,000 teachers participate in professional development courses and workshops offered by the Museum. As an approved credit provider for Pennsylvania and New Jersey, the Museum has a long history as an important source for teacher education. Teacher workshops and in-service days provide educators with opportunities to enhance their classroom teaching though the arts. The Division of Education partners with the University of the Arts in Philadelphia to offer many of these courses for graduate credit. In addition, specially produced teaching materials make it possible for teachers to bring the collections of the Museum into their classrooms.
Educators who would like to learn about the Wachovia Education Resource Center should call 215-684-7140 for more information.