Museum $ummer Camp $cholarships

Summer is soon approaching and while museum educators plan for summer camp programs, families are looking for great, affordable opportunities for those long, hot summer days.

A recent inquiry on a museum  list-serv asked about the process and protocol for awarding camp scholarships. Along with a number of other individuals who responded to the post, I shared my thoughts and experiences as a museum summer camp supervisor. As the program coordinator who initially posted the inquiry was kind enough to email the list-serv a compilation of her findings, I’ve provided a summary below:

  1. Get the Kids Involved! As with my experience, it is most helpful to get the children involved in the application process. Having the child write an essay or include a drawing explaining why he or she would like to come to camp are great examples of ways to include children in the process.
  2. Parents & Paperwork: Parents/ guardians should also submit a letter of interest and a form to show proof of need. Such paperwork might be tax forms (with certain information blacked-out) or other forms showing the need for financial assistance (medicaid, reduced lunch for children and so on).
  3. Recommendations: Depending on the process, community members may be asked to nominate children for scholarships. Most commonly, the child’s teacher, coach or mentor may be asked to write a letter of recommendation.
  4. Museum Forms: The museum should also have some sort of application form for adults to complete so that all the necessary information is included for record keeping and filing. This can double as the camper’s registration form should the scholarship be awarded.
  5. Scholarship Committee: In my experience, I asked colleagues from different departments (including our Finance and Human Resource departments) to be part of a committee to review all applications and select scholarship winners. This provided a fair and unbiased means for selecting appropriate candidates.
  6. Support Options: Depending on resources, it may be beneficial for the museum to offer full and partial scholarships in order to benefit more applicants. Especially with the current economic times we live in, any support would likely be appreciated.

For parents/guardians who are reading this, museums that offer summer camp programs are likely to provide some funding assistance (do not quote me on that). Although availability might fluctuate depending on the types funding sources (whether through donations or grants, etc.)  contacting the museum that your child absolutely loves to inquire about such assistance for summer programs is a great way to get the ball rolling.

Art Inspired: Music to My Ears

So I’m not sure how many of you have read about the Tate Modern, UK and its Tate Tracks. Back in 2006, the museum called upon musicians to  choose artwork that would inspire them to compose tracks which visitors (virtual and physical) could enjoy. More recently the museum took this idea a step further and held a music competition, asking participants (ages 16-24) select a piece of artwork from the museum’s collection and write a track response to it.

I really dig the idea of bringing music into museums, thus stimulating an artistic form of reaction to artwork on display and at the same time providing an additional, alternative experience  for visitors to  enjoy, appreciate and react to.

I am currently doing a bit of googling research to see if/what other museums might be jazzing things up a bit in a similar fashion. Do share your experiences if you’ve visited the Tate Modern or any other museum that provides similar experiences and be sure to rock on!

Move to Action: Programs for Individuals with Alzheimer’s

Yesterday I attended an informative and interesting program hosted by the Museum Access Consortium and the Museum of Modern Art. The focus of the two-hour event, held at the MoMA was “Welcoming People with Alzheimer’s to your Museum.” Essentially, participants learned about Alzheimer’s (a form of Dementia) and examples of on-site, museum programs offered in the local community. Jed Levine, Executive Vice President of the Alzheimer’s Association, New York City Chapter spoke extensively about this disease and it’s various stages.

Individuals in the early and middle stages of the disease are likely to still be quite active and capable of varying levels of communication, self expression and interpretation. Considering this, museums provide a unique environment and  great opportunity for people with Alzheimer’s and their Caregivers to participate in programs that will empower, entice and connect these participants in deep and meaningful ways.

The panel of museum professionals from local art museums discussed their experiences in developing programs for this audience. The following is a brief listing of such considerations:

  • Institutional Support: Will the Board, Museum director support this initiative? Keep in mind your regular staff-participant ratio and remember to include Caregivers and/or family members in you group size.
  • Audience: Is there a need for such programming? With over 5 million American’s living with Alzheimer’s- the need is there. Contacting your local Alzheimer’s Association can help you determine that need more specifically.
  • Environment: Is the environment of your museum conducive to the needs of this audience? The physical space of the museum (taking into consideration that individuals with Alzheimer’s may wander) as well as the time when programs would take place (preferably during the museum’s most quiet times, with fewer distractions and noise as to not intimidate the participants) should be considered.
  • Funding: Do you have the financial means to sustain such programs?
  • Marketing: How will you reach your prospective participants? It was noted during this program that the Alzheimer’s Association is a key resource in getting in touch with these individuals. Also, it may be beneficial to contact staff from local museums and organizations who currently offer such programs as you may be able to provide mutual marketing support.

Only a personal assessment of available resources will determine if such programming is feasible. What was particularly moving for me was the personal story of a Caregiver and her experience attending the Meet Me At MoMA at the Museum of Modern Art with her husband. She mentioned that while he was not exactly an art enthusiast, the program became something they both looked forward to and later recalled. For Caregivers, who are typically family members, an opportunity to deeply connect with their fellow loved one is something that may not occur as often (especially as Alzheimer’s progresses). It was inspiring to hear that after her husband passed away, it was these positive memories she carried especially close with her.

While the following art museums offer innovative and interactive programs for this audience, other types of museums may also be able to utilize its collection and space to benefit individuals with Alzheimer’s and their Caregivers.

  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY, offers Met Escapes, free programs on particular Sundays and Wednesdays of each month for individuals living with dementia, their family members and caregivers. Program components include tours and art-making workshops.
  • Folk Art Reflections is an interactive, discussion-based program offered at the American Folk Art Museum, NY. This free program is offered the third Thursday of each month.
  • The MoMA has an on-site, free program entitled Meet Me at MoMA and also launched their Alzheimer’s Project, a “nationwide expansion of the Museum’s outreach program for individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers.”

Food For Thought…

I received a postcard about an upcoming free event that sounds really cool and wanted to share:

Brooklyn Food Conference: Local Action for Global Change

When: May 2, 2009, 9am-9pm

Where: John Jay HS and PS 321, 7th Avenue, Park Slope, Brooklyn

There are going to be tons of fun things: guest speakers, music, (healthy) food, activities and even a parade so check it out!

Kids as Curators

As part of my graduate coursework in Museum Education, I  completed a semester-long research project about Kids as Curators. I contacted a handful of museums around the country and spoke with museum educators, curators and classroom teachers to learn about the variety of programs in which children and teens curate exhibits (either in their school or a museum and with their own possessions or museum artifacts). I found that programs and outcomes varied based on museum size, available resources and the interest and availability of the participating groups.

In your own such planning, it may be beneficial to keep the following in mind:

  1. Ensure Available Resources: One of the biggest challenges museum professionals face is lack of adequate resources such as an appropriate gallery space, adequate staff support and durability of collections.
  2. Buy-In & Support: In any collaborative endeavor it is important that the internal staff supports one another. Whether assisting with an on-site visit or providing moral support, mutual respect and understanding are essential among museum staff and museum-school/community partnerships.
  3. Plan, Plan, Plan: Develop a feasible timeline, considering the school and museum calendar. Schedule time to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the experience. Of course, communication is key, from daily emails to weekly meetings open communication will help partnerships and projects flourish.
  4. Program Funding: Whether through the support of private, corporate donors or grant-funded awards, it is essential to secure financial support before proceeding with a program.
  5. Think Outside the Box: Aside from physically taking part in the design or fabrication process, there are numerous ways to be active participants in a curatorial and exhibit design process including front-end evaluation research, members of advisory boards, or as curators of classroom or online exhibits.

As a result, everyone benefits from such partnerships and programs:

  • Museums benefit in serving under-served of sometimes overlooked populations/audiences increases museum visibility and strengthens local partnerships with schools and other community based organizations.
  • Student-curated programs also help reshape a teacher’s view of how his or her students learn. Teachers may also benefit from the museum/school partnerships and take advantage of the project-based professional development and training sessions that might be available.
  • Kids and teens will benefit from taking ownership in the exhibit design process and more intimately connecting with the subject matter. This experience will also afford participants the opportunity to strengthen problem-solving and team-building skills.

I hope this brief overview inspires readers to explore, participate and/or develop such programs!

Kickin’ Off The Weekend Right

I recently received an email from one of our regular readers informing me of an upcoming event at the American Museum of Natural History, a first-Friday of the month program with live music, drinks, dancing and extended museum hours. You’ve probably read about such events in the New York Times and a quick Google search provides a list of similar events at neighboring museums, vying for your dollars and dancing feet. Rather than highlight one, I’m going to list a few that I came across and let you decide how you’ll spend your next Friday night!

If you come across any other programs in the NYC area, please do comment!

Blurb = Blarg

A blurb is like a mini “elevator speech” about yourself to introduce who you are, what you do, why you are so great in 3 sentences or less. This much we know.

Why do I mention this? Because I am currently (attempting) to write a blurb about myself for a program I am participating in tomorrow.

The Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum is holding their Youth Leadership Conference program with over 100 high school students from the NYC area. This day-long Conference includes a tour of the museum, a keynote speaker and a few sessions with mentors to discuss character traits and leadership qualities.

As I am a mentor for this program, I need a blurb and I need one bad. Talk about writer’s block. This is a great writing exercise to get my thoughts together and once I do, I will use this blurb like it’s my job (or at least to help get me a job).

To clear my thoughts, I’ve made a list of blurb must-haves below:

  1. my name
  2. education info (summed up)
  3. professional info (typically starting with current position and highlighting accomplishments)

Seems kind of straightforward….I’m not sure why I dedicated a whole blog entry about this.

My Blurb: Valerie Albanese is a dedicated educator with over seven years experience in the museum and non-profit field. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Anthropology and Visual Arts from Fordham University, NY and recently completed her Master’s of Arts degree in Museum Education from Tufts University, MA while working at a Boston-based exhibit design firm, where her projects included the African Burial Ground Interpretive Center, NY and the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, AL. Some interesting facts about Valerie; she has studied abroad in Australia, participated in an archaeology dig of a 18th century home, volunteered to clear brush for an education center on the Mohawk Reservation and curated an exhibit about folk art for the Lynn Museum in Lynn, MA.