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September 9th, 2008
Cultural Institutions Partner with School District to Offer Public School Fourth Graders an Eye-Opening Art and Literacy Adventure

The Philadelphia Museum of Art, in partnership with The Barnes Foundation, The Fabric Workshop and Museum, the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania, and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, announced today the launch of Art Speaks! This new initiative is designed to send the Philadelphia School District’s 14,000 fourth graders on an action-packed art adventure that will open their eyes to the area’s artistic treasures and at the same time augment their literacy skills.

Funded by a $246,550 National Leadership Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, these five art institutions have collaborated to design a museum visit program that is aligned with the School District of Philadelphia’s core curriculum in art and literacy. The initiative has garnered additional generous support from The Delphi Project Foundation, GlaxoSmithKline, Target, and Commerce Bank through the TD Charitable Foundation.

“Today we are going to share the treasures that together make Philadelphia a great cultural city,” Mayor Michael Nutter said. “We are launching a remarkable partnership that will bring these treasures to every fourth grader in the Philadelphia Public School District, or rather, take every fourth grader on a learning adventure inside some of our finest art institutions. It’s a mix of art and literacy designed to fire up the imaginations of our children, the next generation, and our greatest treasures of all.”

“This is a tremendous collaboration among some of our nation’s finest art institutions, charitable foundations and corporations,” said Dr. Arlene C. Ackerman, Superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia. “This will provide a wonderful opportunity to develop and sustain the cultural and social health of our children. Art Speaks! will open up the wonders of our art museums to thousands of our children and inspire them by the power, beauty and magnificence of the visual arts. I am grateful for this wonderful gift to our students. This partnership demonstrates what we can accomplish when we come together for the benefit of children.”

“IMLS proudly supports Art Speaks! through the National Leadership Grants for Museums program,” said Anne-Imelda M. Radice, Director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services. “Museums and schools are natural allies. Over the course of the project, teachers, students and parents will become more comfortable using museums and museums will have a better understanding of how to serve those audiences.”

Museum educators from the five participating institutions worked closely with school district officials to create the Art Speaks! curriculum, which introduces fourth-graders to art museums and art concepts while reinforcing reading, writing and creative thinking strategies that are embedded in the school district’s literacy and visual arts curricula. Fourth-grade teachers will soon receive newly developed multimedia and printed teaching materials, and begin to plan their free class trip to one of the five participating institutions. Teachers will obtain a manual that includes activity sheets and other resources for writing and discussion activities; an orientation DVD to play for students; and five teaching posters and a CD-ROM that will introduce one work of art from each institution. These works are the ceremonial teahouse Sunkaraku, designed by Ōgi Rodō (Philadelphia Museum of Art); Henri Matisse’s painting Seated Riffian (The Barnes Foundation); Faith Ringgold’s story quilt Tar Beach 2 (The Fabric Workshop and Museum); Alexander Calder’s sculpture Jerusalem Stabile (on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania); and Winslow Homer’s painting Fox Hunt (Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts).

Works of art naturally foster conversation, creative thinking, discussion and even friendly debate — all hallmarks of the literacy concepts fourth graders are learning in school. As students gear up to visit a visual art institution (a first for many participants), Art Speaks! will expand their knowledge of art and artists and reveal how the literacy skills they are practicing in school come into play in real-life situations. The program will also serve as a future model of how multiple museums can work with schools — as well as each other — to develop a common curriculum, enhance their educational resources and reach broader audiences.

Art Speaks! is a milestone collaboration,” said Marla Shoemaker, senior curator of education at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. “Never before have five art institutions in the region worked together on a project like this. The children in Philadelphia’s public schools are the future stewards of our great cultural resources, and they deserve access now and always to the best of what this city has to offer. By linking with public school curricula in art and literacy, museum trips become a serious part of each student’s education, both as a fourth grade learner mastering reading, writing, and creative thinking, and also as participant in the cultural life of our great city.”

Educators from all five institutions began planning Art Speaks! in fall 2006, with guidance from an advisory committee comprised of educators from the Philadelphia School District’s Office of Creative and Performing Arts and the Office of Curriculum, Instruction and Teacher Development, as well as from Temple University, the University of the Arts and Moore College of Art and Design. Since the spring of 2007, pilot versions of Art Speaks! have been tested in more than 25 schools Several youngsters who participated joined the launch at City Hall to share their experience in the pilot program.

What Philadelphia is saying about Art Speaks!:

David Brigham, Edna S. Tuttleman Museum Director of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts:

“What an exciting opportunity to instill what we hope will become not only a lifelong love of art in these students, but also an enduring passion for learning that can be fueled by visiting all of the partnering cultural institutions and allowing educators and children to benefit from the artistic riches of Philadelphia. The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts is thrilled to be a part of this program.”

Derek Gillman, Executive Director and President of the Barnes Foundation:

“We are thrilled to be welcoming so many children from the Philadelphia School District to the Barnes Foundation as part of the Art Speaks! program. The curriculum relates to our own educational goals and I know that the children who participate will benefit so much from their visits to these great art institutions. This is a tremendous effort — and a true model for collaboration between the cultural community and public school system.”

For more information, contact:

Philadelphia Museum of Art

Molly Petrilla
Press Officer

Norman Keyes, Jr.
Director of Media Relations

The Barnes Foundation

Andrew Stewart
Director of Marketing and Public Relations
610-667-0290 x1567

The Fabric Workshop and Museum

Jeffrey Bussmann
Assistant to the Directors
215-561-8888 x229

Institute of Contemporary Art

Jill Katz
Director of Marketing and Communications

Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts

Gigi Lamm
Public Relations Manager

Social Media
Twitter/Facebook/Instagram/Tumblr/YouTube: @philamuseum

We are Philadelphia’s art museum. A landmark building. A world-renowned collection. A place that welcomes everyone. We bring the arts to life, inspiring visitors—through scholarly study and creative play—to discover the spirit of imagination that lies in everyone. We connect people with the arts in rich and varied ways, making the experience of the Museum surprising, lively, and always memorable. We are committed to inviting visitors to see the world—and themselves—anew through the beauty and expressive power of the arts.

For additional information, contact the Communications Department of the Philadelphia Museum of Art phone at 215-684-7860, by fax at 215-235-0050, or by e-mail at The Philadelphia Museum of Art is located on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway at 26th Street. For general information, call (215) 763-8100.

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