Today’s Ever-Changing World: Reimagining the School-Museum Partnership

Hilary Katz, Head of Teaching & Learning, and Alexandra Laroche, Manager of School Partnerships, discuss The Phillips Collection’s dynamic school-museum partnerships. Read their full article for DC Project Zero.

In the post-pandemic world, The Phillips Collection has been revisioning what school-museum partnerships can look like. We are looking for ways to sustain the success and accessibility of virtual programs that can reach students and teachers across the country, as well as returning to the engagement of in-person learning.

Kindergarten students from Noyes Elementary School create torn-paper collage portraits during a Phillips field trip focusing on “Making Friends.”

Our virtual professional development workshops aim to provide concrete arts integration ideas for teachers to incorporate into their existing curricula. Teachers who participated in our most recent hybrid Summer Teacher Institute: The Meaning We Make reflected:

  • •   “This has shown me that art is accessible to all students, no matter age or ability.”
  • •   “I was able to take away tons of techniques and strategies that I can apply immediately to my teaching practice!”

We will continue to organize both virtual and in-person teacher workshops open to all educators.

Teachers participate in a hands-on artmaking workshop during the 2022 Summer Teacher Institute.

Building Long-Term Relationships

We’re eager to see students and teachers back in the galleries as well as in their classrooms. Beyond taking a single-visit field trip to the museum, we strive to create opportunities for long-term and sustainable relationships with teachers who participate in our courses and programs. Before the pandemic, our teacher programs and school partnerships functioned relatively separately. Now, teachers who participate in one of our professional development workshops are prioritized for becoming a school partner, resulting in more intentional and impactful collaborations.

Washington School for Girls students create prints in connection to Lou Stovall: The Museum Workshop. Their prints are currently featured in a student exhibition, Art + Music: More than a Feeling, at the Phillips, on view through early 2023.

Upcoming School Partnerships

For the 2022-23 school year, we have plans to partner with approximately 15 schools across DC, Maryland, and Virginia, in varying capacities, providing Art Kits and Art Cards (see below), facilitating museum visits, leading arts-integrated lessons in the classroom, offering teacher professional development, showcasing exhibitions of student artwork at the Phillips and THEARC, and more. Ultimately, we aim to create customizable, collaborative partnerships to expand students’ critical thinking about relevant topics, encourage students and teachers to consider new perspectives, and enhance traditional classroom learning.

Langley Elementary School teacher Brittany Root poses in front of her students’ lightbox artworks during our spring 2022 student exhibition. As part of their partnership this school year, Langley Elementary students will again be featured in our spring 2023 student exhibition.

Examples of what’s happening this school year:

  • •   In-person professional development workshop for a DCPS elementary school on integrating the arts into specific English-Language Arts units.
  • •   An exhibition at the Phillips will feature the work of over 300 students from three DMV-area schools, connecting curriculum goals to our special exhibitions.
  • •   Eight grade levels from a single school will visit the museum and participate in personalized, hands-on artmaking activities related to what they are learning in class.
  • •   Representatives from the Phillips are working with teachers from 4 grade levels at Inspired Teaching Demonstration School to design field trips, classroom visits by Phillips Educators, and artmaking activities that align to their upcoming units.
  • •   Multiple teacher workshops for DMV-area teachers, for specific schools, and as collaborations with other educator organizations.
  • •   Distribution of Phillips “Art Cards.” In our search to create engaging materials during the pandemic, we created these card decks to bring art into any lesson. They consist of 54 reproductions from works in our collection and are transferable to several games, allowing everyone’s ideas and opinions to create conversations surrounding artworks and different themes. A teacher who used the Art Cards commented that their students “have seen a more diverse selection of art than I am able to show in class.”

The Phillips Art Cards in Action

If you can’t make it to a workshop or a field trip, we have digital resources for educators to engage with the Phillips:

The Phillips Returns to Italy

In partnership with the US Department of State, The Phillips Collection collaborated with museums across Italy in fostering diversity and inclusion for audience and program development. Anne Taylor Brittingham, Deputy Director for Education and Responsive Learning Spaces, and Donna Jonte, Head of Experiential Learning, discuss the workshops conducted on their travels to Italy, October 15-19, 2022.

After finishing up our time at the EDI Global Forum in Naples, Donna Jonte and I shifted to presenting workshops in collaboration with the U.S. State Department. The workshops were a continuation of the projects we conducted May 2-6, 2022, in Rome and Naples. However, this time we expanded our audiences and the region in which we worked.

Procida, Italy

On Saturday, October 15, we participated in a Cultural Hackathon on the island of Procida. Procida was awarded the Italian Capital of Culture 2022. The colorful destination is the first island to be given the title since the award was established. Recipients of the award become a focus for improved cultural heritage and tourist development, with numerous projects and initiatives to benefit the region. During the application process for the title, Procida presented a vision entitled “la cultura non isola” (culture doesn’t isolate). Procida planned 44 cultural projects with 330 days of programming, involving 240 artists and eight cultural spaces, including a 16th-century palace turned prison, now transformed into an arts-space with site-specific installations.

As an island, Procida is at an interesting moment—the award brought an influx of tourists. How will the island maintain the momentum generated by the rise in tourism, while not forgetting their local communities who are with them 12 months of the year? Hackathon workshop participants thought about ways of engaging new audiences (both local and tourists) and how to balance new media and technology with more low-tech opportunities for engagement. We focused on the role of empathy in identifying and growing audiences, starting with the user at the center of all the programs and resources we develop.

Left to right: Agostino Riitano, Director of Procida 2022; Michelle Lee, Public Affairs Officer US Consulate Naples; Anne Taylor Brittingham; Raimondo Ambrosino, Mayor of Procida; Donna Jonte; Martina Romanello, Program Assistant Procida 2022 at Palazzo d’Avalos

Procida Hackathon workshop participants

On Monday, October 17, we led a workshop for university students at the Fine Arts Academy, Naples. In the morning, the students gave us a tour of their collection, using different strategies to engage people in looking at art. In the afternoon, we thought about connection—what connects art together, what connects art to us, and what connects art to today. First the students picked the image from The Phillips Plays Art Cards that they felt connected to. Then working as a group, they picked five connected artworks and identified emerging themes such as “You see what you want to see,” “Absence and Presence,” and “Movement and Confusion.” They thought about why they were attracted to certain images, how their biases affected their choices, and how it was different to select images as a group versus as an individual.

University students working in small groups

University students with Director of Fine Arts Academy Professor Renato Lori and US Consul General Naples, Tracy Roberts-Pounds (center)

On our last day in Naples, October 18, we presented a workshop for teen immigrants at the Dedalus Cooperative’s art studio in the Officine Gomitoli’s Intercultural Centre, located in the Formiello neighborhood in a restored building that has had a past life as a convent and a woolen mill. Dedalus has been working with immigrants in Naples for more than 30 years, offering social services especially to unaccompanied minors, trafficking victims, and vulnerable women. We met Dedalus’s artistic coordinator, Alessia Montefusco, on our previous trip to Naples in May, when she brought teen immigrants to the Museo Madre for our workshop.

Alessia and a new group of teens welcomed us to the Dedalus art studio. First, we introduced ourselves by choosing one image from the Phillips Art Cards game that reflected a part of our identity. Then, to begin our exploration of the power of landscape, past and present, interior and exterior, we discussed Sam Taylor-Johnson’s Self-Portrait as a Tree, a photograph from our collection. Next, with watercolor pencils and paintbrushes, we sketched details from real or imagined landscapes. Finally, we put all three images together in a narrative sequence that depicted our different landscapes—past, present, and future.

Teens engaging with Phillips Art Cards in the Dedalus art studio

After wrapping up in Naples, we went to Rome for one last day of programming on October 19. In the morning, we met with museum employees from Civic Museums across Rome. After our presentation in May 2022 on the development of games to engage visitors, the network of museums developed a single game designed to connect multiple museums in multiple locations across the city. They presented their prototype to us for feedback. We discussed challenges and opportunities for engaging audiences, in particular local Roman audiences that may not regularly visit the civic museums.

Presentation by Civic Museums of Rome

Then in the afternoon, we were able to meet with the director of the Pantheon, Gabriella Musto, about ideas for how we could collaborate with them in a similar way to what we did with the Civic Museums of Rome. While they get millions of visitors a year, they are interested in ways they can more deeply engage with their local communities.

We are grateful to have had the chance to build global relationships, sharing our audience-engagement strategies with museum educators from around the world and continuing our work with colleagues in Naples and Rome.

EDI (Education Integration) Global Forum

Deputy Director for Education and Responsive Learning Spaces Anne Taylor Brittingham shares her experience at the Education Integration (EDI) Global Forum in Naples, Italy

From October 12-14, Donna Jonte, Head of Experiential Learning, and I were able to attend the inaugural convening of the EDI (Education Integration) Global Forum. The EDI Global Forum seeks to inspire change, promote sustainability, connect communities, spark innovation, and rethink education. The three-day conference in Naples, Italy, brought together 200 museum professionals representing 180 institutions actively working with education through the lens of art and culture. After years of isolation, it was amazing to be at a conference with people from 5 continents, 80 international institutions, and 100 Italian organizations. Through a series of keynote lectures, participatory workshops, and collaborative working groups, the convening focused on five themes: Accessibility, Diversity and Inclusion, Sustainability, Art and Well-Being, and Institutional Structure.

EDI Global Forum participants at National Archaeological Museum

I moderated a session with the Pinacoteca in São Paolo, Brazil, and the MANN (National Archaeological Museum) in Naples. The session brought together perspectives from Naples and San Paolo to address how to engage communities that museums are not always prepared to welcome, including sex workers, the homeless, and youth without access to cultural institutions. As a part of the workshop, we performed a “SWOT” analysis of the strengths, weakness, opportunities, and threats to engaging a group at risk of social exclusion. Museum professionals from London, Switzerland, Germany, Brazil, Italy, and the United States discussed how we can not only reach these traditionally excluded audiences, but also how to prepare staff to welcome all guests to the museum.

Anne Taylor Brittingham, The Phillips Collection; Gabriela Aidar, Pinacoteca Sao Paolo; Angela Vocciante and Elisa Napolitano, MANN Naples

I was also able to be a part of another working group that considered issues of sustainability—in particular focusing on how to address the waste generated by exhibition and education programs. How can we create institutional policies that address and solve the waste problem? What is our responsibility to be leaders in confronting this waste problem head on?

Throughout the three days, Donna and I connected with museum professionals from around the world and heard about work that’s taking place in their museums around diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion.