Visitors to the Museum regularly encounter groups of children participating in programs developed by the BMA’s Education Department, which celebrated its 80th anniversary in 2009. Each year, the BMA hosts nearly 25,000 students for customized school tours. This includes 1,350 students from 45 Baltimore City fourth-grade classes who participate in the Museum’s Close Encounters program, which serves as a catalyst for learning across the curriculum through an exploration of art. Additionally, each spring approximately 800 talented Baltimore City and Baltimore County public school students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade exhibit their artwork at the BMA.
The BMA’s educational offerings are one highly visible way that the Museum is helping new generations build lifelong relationships with great art. The Education Department focuses not only on schoolchildren, but also on their teachers, with professional development programs and creative teaching resources like Art-To-Go online, which delivers BMA artworks and instructional materials to nearly 3,000 educators every month.
Less visible are the Museum’s important collaborations with many Maryland colleges and universities to provide internships, content-intensive tours, and collaborative courses that enrich college curricula and provide a professional development experience for dozens of young adults each year.
In Spring 2009, the BMA and The Johns Hopkins University collaborated on a unique seminar that kicked off a major research and interpretation project, made possible by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation. Focused on Anthony Van Dyck’s monumental 1629 painting Rinaldo and Armida, the seminar engaged scholars, students, curators, conservators, and educators in an in-depth exploration of one of the most important works in the BMA’s collection.
The class gave students an opportunity to experience the painting through the eyes of experts in painting, poetry, literature, music, collecting, museum education, and conservation. They studied the 16th-century epic poem that inspired the painting, and literature that addresses the relationship between words and images. They met with BMA curators, conservators, and educators to learn how museum professionals preserve, interpret, and present European art works. The class was unusual in both its focus on a single painting and the diverse perspectives on art that it provided.
The project continued in the summer, as the Kress Foundation funded a fellowship for a recent Johns Hopkins graduate to work closely with BMA staff to develop materials generated by the class into interdisciplinary online resources, new labels, and a public performance to enhance visitors’ engagement with Rinaldo and Armida and other European art works in the collection. The links in the mosaic above offer a few views of the class and its students, and a sneak peek at some of the materials being developed for the new BMA web resource, which will launch in summer 2010.