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ArteJuntos/ArtTogether with Katonah Museum of Art

October 27, 2021 9:08 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

Located about an hour north of New York City, the Katonah Museum of Art is a non-collecting institution producing three to four exhibitions each year that cover a range of art and humanities topics. The Katonah Museum of Art’s bilingual family literacy program, ArteJuntos/ArtTogether promotes school readiness for preschool children. It fosters social inclusion through parent engagement and access to informal learning experiences. Supported by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), ArteJuntos/ArtTogether empowers parents to become resourceful facilitators of their children’s learning while encouraging families to enjoy museums together. Since its inception almost 15 years ago, ArteJuntos/ArtTogether has strengthened and grown with its partner organizations for Westchester County’s growing Latino community.

The exterior of the Katonah Museum of Art in Katonah, NY


ArteJuntos/ArtTogether started as a response to the museum wanting to be better connected to the changing demographics of our area and to our communities in general,” said Margaret Adasko, Katonah Museum of Art’s Curator of Education. “Over the years, this program has taken many different forms. We’ve worked with school and community organizations, but the main goals of the program are to work directly with parents and their young children so that we are sharing all the ways you can use museums and art to learn together.” ArteJuntos/ArtTogether uses artwork from the museum’s exhibitions as source material for inquiry-based discussions and collaborative art-making activities. 

“It was the museum’s former director of education who had a relationship with a family literacy program based in Tarrytown funded by Even Start, which no longer exists.  The museum was seeking ways to support the parent community and started offering some programming in partnership with this group,” said Helena Vidal, Program Manager. Even Start was funded by the US Department of Education and offered grants to support local family literacy projects that integrated early childhood education. “This collaboration between the KMA and Even Start was so successful that word got out in Tarrytown and then in Ossining. Eventually, there was a desire and interest when the Even Start program ended for the Museum to continue working with a family literacy program in Ossining. This led to the original IMLS grant application that laid the groundwork for the curriculum, the community partnerships, and refining the program’s objectives and outcomes,” said Vidal. The museum was awarded an IMLS Museums for America Grant in 2010 for just over $115,000 for the development of ArteJuntos/ArtTogether.

“In every iteration of the ArteJuntos/ArtTogether we’ve tried to stay connected with our partners to be flexible and  to support their needs,” said Vidal. “We see it as part of our primary objective of the program– to support what our partners are trying to do and what they offer their constituencies.”

How the program works

Each ArteJuntos/ArtTogether program includes ten sessions that take place at partner site classrooms and at the museum. It begins with a parents-only session with a discussion about cultural institutions as informal learning resources. The goal of this first session is to support New Americans who don’t yet feel that museums are a space created for them. 

A parents-only session is designed to support immigrants who may not yet feel that museums are a space created for them. This session includes a discussion of cultural institutions as informal learning resources, the role of parent support at home, and the use of dialogue to develop observation, critical thinking, and emergent literacy skills in preschool children. The Katonah Museum of Art educator models inquiry-based teaching, giving parents tools to engage children in discussions about works of art, books, and the world around them. The parents also participate in an art activity that will later be introduced to their children. In the activity pictured here, connections between line and emotion are explored.

“An important component of the program is parent-only sessions.” said Vidal. “During these workshops we talk about the value of museum learning and ask the caregivers to share their own experiences in museums.”

The program also includes a discussion about the role of parental support at home, the importance of play, and the use of dialogue to develop observation, critical thinking, and literacy skills. Museum educators model an inquiry-based teaching methodology, giving parents tools to engage children in discussions about works of art, books, and the world around them. “We’re modeling conversations with works of art and demonstrating not only how to engage a child with a work of art but with the art-making,” said Vidal. To support parents at home, the museum models collaborative, open-ended art activities and provides bilingual “Art at Home” activities and art supplies.

Father and daughter display their series of portraits made with a variety of art materials in connection with the exhibition Matisse Drawings: Curated by Ellsworth Kelly From the Pierre and Tana Matisse Foundation Collection.

“It’s all part of sharing strategies for how we look at art, how we talk about art, and how you can engage your children in a discussion about art and art-making that is also supporting their school readiness,” said Vidal. “We support the idea that a parent is their child’s most important teacher, which is an objective of effective early childhood programs. ArteJuntos is aligned with our partners goals of supporting parents’ development of this role.” 

Through this program, the museum wants to create multiple entry points by eliminating barriers such as language and transportation, and by giving parents the tools to support a positive museum experience. “I like to talk to them not just about the Katonah Museum of Art as an entity that we want them to visit but we really want them to feel comfortable visiting any museum,” said Vidal.

Reaching Community

Student artwork is displayed in an annual exhibition at the Ossining Public Library, where families, friends, and members of the community can view it. A combination of students’ individual artworks, families’ written descriptions of the artworks, collaborative class projects, and photos of the program are included in the exhibition.  

In order to reach the Latino community, the museum started with an internal committee that was tasked with reaching out to different organizations. “We talked with teachers, and we talked to community organizers,” said Adasko. “Recently, Helena [Vidal] and I went on several listening sessions and identified many organizations that were responding to these immigrant communities. We had meetings with all of them.” Through these community-based organizations, Adasko and Vidal were able to speak directly with organizational leaders and asked what they needed most, what they wanted, and to better understand what were the opportunities for collaboration. “From these listening sessions, we were able to develop a few target partners that we’ve continued working with to today.” 

Through the Pandemic

The ArteJuntos/ArtTogether program continued through the pandemic virtually utilizing Zoom and drop-off art kits that partner organizations delivered directly to families. “Early on in the pandemic, spring 2020, we started making take-home packets that included art materials, books, and online and written materials for parents to continue the program on their own,” said Adasko. The museum distributed 350 packets in the first year and slightly more in the second. “It didn’t make up for not being able to work with families in person in the museum but we were happy to provide resources that supported parent and child engagement at home.”

The take-home packets were given to families even if they were not directly involved in the program. “We were able to expand our reach significantly through the distribution of these resources to families that were not engaged specifically in the ArteJuntos program and hopefully provide some support during those difficult months.

The museum also used funding from existing grants to purchase larger screens and update technology for classrooms so that the program could be presented virtually.

At the conclusion of the 2020-2021 program, after an almost entirely virtual year, parents and children visit the Katonah Museum of Art together to view the art they had learned about virtually and practice their new art-looking skills. Photo courtesy of Margaret Fox Photography.

Measuring Success

Since the program began, nearly 1500 families have participated. The Katonah Museum of Art grew its partnerships with organizations including First Steps Early Literacy, Neighbors Link, Mount Kisco Child Care Center, Head Start of Mount Kisco, and the Community Center of Northern Westchester. The  museum further engaged with these community partners in correlation with the current exhibition, ARRIVALS, which explores American origin stories through five centuries of art. “Neighbors Link in Mount Kisco is an important anchor organization that we’ve worked with over the years with ArteJuntos ,” said Vidal. “As a result, we were able to engage the organization and participation of their constituencies in aspects of this exhibition.”

The museum measures success in other ways too. “Sometimes we will be in the Learning Center and  will see a family that has previously participated in the  program and it’s rewarding to see that they have come back,” said Vidal. “A lot of the families that we work with have multiple children that go through the program When these families return, the parents often talk about things that their older children remember from the program and it’s exciting to hear the impact.”

Photo courtesy of Margaret Fox Photography.

What’s Next

The Katonah Museum of Art just completed a two-year $50,000 IMLS Inspire! Grant for Small Museums that increased the total number of sessions and increased the number of partner organizations. In 2021, the museum was awarded $25,000 from the NEA, its second NEA grant for ArteJuntos/ArtTogether.

“We’ve experienced how drastically things can change in the past two years,” said Vidal. “As a result, we have learned that  listening and being responsive to what the community needs is essential to the success and impact of this program”

Learn more about the Katonah Museum of Art: http://www.katonahmuseum.org/

The Museum Association of New York strengthens the capacity of New York State’s cultural community by supporting professional standards and organizational development. We provide advocacy, training, and networking opportunities so that museums and museum professionals may better serve their missions and communities.

Museum Association of New York is a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization. 

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