By James Cuno

We shouldn't underestimate the power of arts education to simply provide a child acccess to institutions of civic promience.  That is, I remember a Chicago school teacher tell me that the most important thing we csn do at the Art Institute is to let her students feel welcome in the museum, that it is their museum too and that all such civic institutions are accessible to them.  Once they feel welcomed, and respected, they can engage with the works of art on view with confidence and be ready to return on their own.  Sometimes I think we claim too much when describing the benefits of the arts.  Sometime it's as simple as a child feeling that the museum or the symphony or the theater is there for them too, that it isn't just for those other folks but that they too have acccess to such instutions and are just as worthy of finding delight in them as anyone else.


James Cuno

December 5, 2008 11:34 AM | | Comments (3) |


The difficulty with opening up the art world is that the artists themselves have a tendency to create an opaque universe where it is assumed that non-artists do not have the faculties necessary to understand or appreciate the artwork. The attitude is alienating and contributes to the mistaken notion that fine arts museums and the works they contain are somehow beyond the casual audience.

The importance of a certain ownership which you describe, where a child can feel comfortable in a place of "high" art because they feel their own appreciation of what they experience is valid, cannot be underestimated. Which is why I absolutely love the children's book corner in the AIC. It really brings the message home that art is accessible, and fun, and that they are allowed to have opinions about it in its most humble and its most grand representations.

I also have a favor to ask, if possible. I am one of the associate editors in chief of Fnewsmagazine, the student publication of SAIC. I'm writing a feature for February about Obama's arts policy and I'm looking for comments from people of interest to the Chicago art world. If you would be interested in participating with some of your opinions, please email me at I would love to talk to you. Thank you,

Aurelie Beatley

I couldn't agree more. Thanks for this comment - James Cuno

This is a very important point. When I taught in an inner city high school, I learned how few students ever went downtown much less to an arts venue. I talked with students and planned excursions to get them to places they did not think they were welcome to go. The Houston Museum of Fine Arts had a Wallace grant "A Place for All People" through which the Museum sponsored mural art in neighborhoods and at the museum, created a student docent program, and included a student photography gallery at the museum. Families came and participated because their children were part of the institution.

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This Conversation For decades, as teaching of the arts has been cut back in our public schools, alarms have been raised about the dire consequences for American culture. Artists and arts organizations stepped in to try to... more

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Aurelie Beatley commented on Access: The difficulty with opening up the art world is that the artists themselves...

James Cuno commented on Access: I couldn't agree more. Thanks for this comment - James Cuno...

Susan Sclafani commented on Access: This is a very important point. When I taught in an inner city high school...