As museums continue to engage with immigration, language barriers and other cultural shifts, museums can look for inspiration from the Whitney Museum. The Whitney recently piloted a Youth Insights Introductions program in summer 2014. This program involved 15 New York City high school students, who are self-identified English Language Learners. According to the Whitney, this free resource ‘welcomes teens…to explore, discover and discuss American art, and to create original works of art and writing.’ Others museums have used other resources to create programs for these audiences.
This blog post introduces the idea of incorporating Visual Thinking Strategies in art museums to engage new audiences, particularly those who are recent immigrants or current English Language Learners. A great resource for museums looking to broaden their programming is CALTA21, Cultures and Literacies Through Art for the 21st Century.
CALTA21 is a model initiative funded through a National Leadership Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). The intent of this initiative, led by Queensborough Community College of the City University of New York (CUNY), is to build the capacity of museum-community college partnerships, to empower adult immigrant English language learners (ELL) while strengthening their literacy and critical thinking skills through visual literacy and simultaneously assisting them in enriching their social and cultural capital.
In fact, CALTA21 offered a free webinar in June 2014 to discuss these very ideas: Museums and Institutions of Higher Education Unite to Empower Adult English Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL)
While this webinar focuses primarily on advanced adult language learners, all museums and cultural sites can work to make their programs more accessible and welcoming to all English Language Learners. This can work to foster inclusion as well as lifelong engagement with museums and community.
VTS can serve as an effective method for ELL students and families by:
- Encouraging a fluency of language
- Validation of experience and past knowledge
- Adopting an appreciation of multiple viewpoints
- Being a cathartic experience for visitors
- Combining visual literacy and literacy based activities
CALTA21’s website has a wealth of information, including a multi-week guided curriculum and a list of museums nationwide that provide free admission. They encourage any museum or cultural institution to look into their program. Check it out!
Find more information about CALTA21 here: http://www.calta21.org/