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An Education First At The deCordova: Pre-School At The Museum

Surprisingly, some RCA readers seem to have interpreted my last post, about Mark Bauerlein’s criticism of the arguments used to advocate for arts education — which was certainly not against arts education itself — as a lack of interest in early arts education.

Thumbnail image for deCordova_park.jpgNothing could be further from the truth. I’m for arts education, no matter how we get it done — and where. In fact, among the items of interest that I’ve saved in the last few weeks to comment on here is one about a museum pre-school.

The deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Lincoln, MA., announced this month what it calls the first pre-school in an American art museum. The parent cooperative school — Lincoln Nursery School — will hold class there for 4- and 5-year-olds from September 13, 2010 through June 9, 2011; it will, according to the press release, “broaden its hands-on, experiential philosophy at deCordova’s campus, utilizing all the Sculpture Park and Museum have to offer.”

LincolnNurserySchool.jpgThe deCordova is building on an existing relationship with the Lincoln Nursery School, which “has taken advantage of deCordova’s campus by exploring, discovering, and learning about the sculpture, art, and landscape. For example, in the fall of 2009, Lincoln Nursery School students visited the Sculpture Park for a field trip and soon after, created their own sculpture at the Lincoln Nursery School, inspired by Steven Siegel’s environmentally-friendly newspaper installation, Big, with rift.”

Charming, apt, and enlightened. If the picture above, from the school’s website, doesn’t warm your heart, I don’t know what will.

Nancy Fincke, Director of Lincoln Nursery School, said in the release:

…I believe environments influence our thinking. The opportunity to experience the Sculpture Park, nature, the studio classroom, and the Museum at large on a daily basis will inspire children and adults to observe, ask questions, and express their stories through movement and materials. We (the faculty) will in turn make visible to the community the children’s expressions of their experiences.

The only downside I can see about this is the 15-child limit, no doubt because of space. I’d bet there’s a long waiting list. And maybe it will be an inspiration.

And speaking of inspiration, I have no idea if this is a first, but I tip my hat to David Zwirner Gallery in Chelsea for hosting, last week, a one-day exhibition and reception for youngsters (aged 6 to 13) participating in New York City’s Dept. of Parks & Recreation summer camps.

Yes, lots of museums do this, but I’m not so sure about commericial galleries, which created the event for the kids and their parents, but opened it to the public. Zwirner also showed a short documentary showing the children making art inspired by classic contemporary artists, like Jasper Johns and Roy Lichtenstein. Here are the details.  

Photo Credit: Courtesy of the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum (top); Lincoln Nursery School (bottom)


  1. Thomas Klocke says

    I’m afraid the deCordova cannot claim the title of the first. The Kansas Arts Commission, a state agency, has been funding preschool arts programs at art museums for 15+ years: Wichita Art Museum, Mulvane Art Museum (Topeka), Beach Art Museum (Manhattan), let alone preschool art programs in Art Centers across the state: Lawrence Art Center, Salina Arts Center, Wichita Center for the Arts, and others.

  2. Thanks for your comment — I think there still may be a difference, and it depends on what you mean by “programs.” DeCordova has a pre-school embedded with it — not just pre-school programs.

  3. Lovely post, and I agree: get ’em engaged and comfortable early. The Kohler Arts Center, a community-minded and innovative contemporary art museum near Milwaukee, has run a preschool for years ( I’ll be curious to see if your readers turn up any other examples.

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