The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens is committed to living its mission, “to engage and inspire through the arts, gardens, and education.” This mission extends to all people, including those with disabilities who represent an integral part of the diverse visitors to the Museum. In some cases however, it is necessary for the staff of the Cummer Museum to go beyond its walls and out into the community to reach these populations in their schools, hospitals, and nursing homes. The outreach programs of the Museum’s Education Department are a vital component for ensuring access and engagement for all.
Outreach visits are designed to connect audiences to the Museum and are often carried out to prepare visitors for an upcoming trip to the Museum. Museum Educators often travel to sites to share photographs and stories that demonstrate the experience of visiting the Museum. In many cases when working with school children, the Educator will also lead the participants in an art-making activity that relates to the themes of the presentation.
In preparation for the annual VSA Festival, the Museum offers outreach visits to a select number of the participating schools. During these visits a Museum Educator shows the students and staff exactly what they will do and see during their Festival visit, answers any questions they have, and carries out a brief art lesson.
Stephanie Triay, a teacher whose students participated in the Museum Access for Kids program at the Museum, stated, “The classroom outreach program was very effective. The students definitely had a better appreciation for the visual arts at the end of the program. It definitely benefited their self-esteem and confidence being out in the community. The population I teach doesn’t get to go out on trips like this often.” These visits serve to inform students and teachers but also to create a deeper connection between the Museum and individuals whose opportunities for onsite visits may be limited.