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Center for Engagement and Community Development

Beach Museum of Art promotes early childhood art education

Ten years ago, the Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art received a grant from the Kansas Art Commission to promote early childhood art education. This allowed them to consolidate the few classes they had under a new initiative: ArtSmart!, a program dedicated to teaching children about the composition and making of art. Classes are held weekly during the summer and during school breaks. According to Kathrine Schlageck, senior educator at the museum, the groups maintain a stable base of returning students.

Art Smart “Land-grant [recipients] were always intended to be one of those bridges between the university and the community. They’re not just serving both audiences, but a place where they can intermingle… We’re very focused on serving the community, especially early childhood or families. So many kids have grown up in the program… ten-, eleven-, and twelve-year-olds still come back for programs they started way back then,” said Schlageck.

Schlageck teaches the ArtSmart! classes later in the afternoon so kids can attend them after school. These classes are divided into certain age groups, such as Toddlers and Twos, to focus on the specific developmental ages of the children. Preschool groups are also invited, and the Beach sees many groups from HeadStart and KinderKare throughout the year.

What sets the Beach apart from other art programs is the involvement of the parents or caretakers. They are invited to stay for the whole program and assist their children with the craft project. Schlageck said the museum attempts to model ways to participate in art in hopes the parents will do the same when encountering art in other places.

Kim Richards, education assistant, teaches classes specifically for homeschooled students every third Tuesday of the month. The classes are small, with only 10-12 students each. Last session, the students learned the differences between two- and three-dimensional art. They talked about the proportion, balance, and rhythm of some pieces in the galleries and explored the idea of “telling a story on all sides” with the outdoor installation, “Where the Heart Belongs” (2013) by Joan Backes and permanent gallery piece “Chair on Painted Rug” (1992) by Wendell Castle. The session concluded with the students making their own “found object” sculptures, enhancing the alternative media theme.

Richards was a docent at the Beach six years ago, and returned two years ago to teach classes. She begins the opening lesson, gives the gallery tour, and helps with the art projects at the end of the session. “We give them a range of information because they are at a range of ages,” she said. “It’s fun to see them all interacting. I think it’s a testament to the fact that art reaches you at any age… it allows you to grow and learn at your own pace. This class is a working example of that.”

Richards is assisted by Kelly Service, senior in art education, the education intern at the Beach. She originally applied to be a gallery attendant, but when the museum discovered her major, she was offered the intern position. She had previously helped with the summer programs and classes. She says her internship at the Beach Museum has helped her develop her lesson plans and gives her a chance to work with the students. “Getting that one-on-one time is my favorite part - seeing that little light bulb go off!” she said.

Renata Pope, a local homeschooling mother, has been sending her children to the Beach since last September. She and a few other homeschooling mothers met through their church and attend the classes as a group.

“I use it because I don’t have the knowledge of art and I wanted to expose my kids to that,” she said. “It gets them out of being at home all day doing our homeschool work. It’s something new and fun to do. They go back [home] and learn more. They go online and expand on what they learned.”

ArtSmart! classes are $3 per child or $1.50 for Friends of the Beach Museum members. The classes are open to anyone, servicing mainly Manhattan and the Flint Hills area. Upcoming events at the Beach Museum are “Meet the Music,” a public strings student performance on Nov. 7, “Visual Inquiry: 2013 Kansas State University Faculty Art Exhibition” on Nov. 14, a Christmas craft workshop on Dec. 8, and the “Picturing Kansas” exhibit in January.