Written by Museum Educator Mary McBride
Arts4All, formerly the VSA Festival, originally launched in 1995. The Museum’s annual festival, underwent a name change this year to align with Florida’s leading arts access organization, Arts4All Florida, formerly VSA of Florida. Developed in alignment with the guiding principles of VSA, the International Organization on Arts and Disability, part of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Cummer Museum’s Arts4All Festival has become a national model, receiving consistent local and national recognition in its field.
The annual Arts4All Festival at the Museum, presented by Citi, invites students with different abilities from the greater Jacksonville area to visit the Museum to experience art through all of their senses. Over the course of four days, nearly 1,600 children and 700 teachers and chaperones from three counties will visit the Museum to experience art-making, movement, and music throughout the campus. In addition to Museum staff, nearly 1,200 volunteers will fill the Museum to lead groups through the Museum and provide one-on-one interactions with students.
In the galleries, gardens, and studios, students are able to express themselves creatively through hands-on art-making, music, and movement, themes that have been at the heart of the Festival since it began. Unique to the Cummer Museum, art-making activities are not just for the studios, but take place directly in the galleries surrounded by original works of art, as well as the Museum’s historic gardens. Musical storyteller Ajamu Mutima and multi-instrumentalist Arvid Smith use music as a powerful tool to engage and inspire children at the Festival. They create unique interactive musical experiences, inviting visiting students to get involved in the performance by dancing, clapping, singing, and trying out the instruments. Students are also given time to independently explore the Museum’s interactive area, where they can create art, handle art reproductions, dance, and play at their own pace.
The event allows each student to participate in the creative process and to demonstrate their own artistic abilities. Teachers from last year’s Festival said:
“This experience was good for student self-esteem. When they saw some of the projects, their first reaction was, ‘I can’t do that.’ But as they started to work and realized that there was no wrong way to do it, they really enjoyed the activities. They were so proud of their work. The activities help establish a sense of accomplishment, which definitely translates into learning in all areas.”
“Some of our students have never been to the museum. Having the opportunity to expose children to this incredible art, cultural, social experience is great for their self-esteem. The museum staff and volunteers do an incredible job of making the students feel successful, special, and acknowledged. They are so encouraging and supportive of each student’s effort. This has such a positive impact on the student’s self-esteem.”
“My students truly enjoyed their experience at the Festival. They loved the interactive, hands-on activities. I believe it helped them with their knowledge of what they can do on their own as well as brought out the creativity in them.”
The 24th annual Arts4All Festival at the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens will take place Tuesday, April 30 through Friday, May 3, 2019. If you are interested in supporting the program, please contact Hannah Oberholtzer at 904.899.6028. The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens would not be the vibrant civic and cultural resource it is without the philanthropic support of our community. It is only through this generosity that the Museum is able to fulfill its mission to engage and inspire through the arts, gardens, and education.
The 2019 Arts4All Festival at the Cummer Museum is presented by:
Chartrand Family Fund
DuBow Family Foundation
Next Generation Foundation
Duval Motor Company
Jersey Mike’s Subs
Red Coat Grant – The PLAYERS Championship
Friends of the Festival:
Coordinated Benefits Group
Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville
Director’s Circle at the Cummer Museum
Duval County Public Schools
Pam and Jake Ingram