It’s a sad but well-known fact that when school budgets are tight, art is one of the subjects that’s first to go. Fortunately, there’s nonprofit organizations like Art in Action, who bring high-quality, curriculum-based art education into schools that need it most. Students in the program learn about great works by masters and then produce their own artwork inspired by their studies. How can libraries get involved in this wonderful program? By turning the library into an art gallery!
In our town, Half Moon Bay, the library is one of the communitysites that display works by Art in Action participants. Each month, parent volunteers come to the library armed with bundles of nicely mounted and labeled artwork. They eye the walls in our children’s area then climb tall ladders and expertly mount the work.
The effect is immediate and visceral: the young artists’ creativity is boundless, surprising, and sometimes literally jumps off the canvas (in some cases, art is a full-on multimedia experience). In the Half Moon Bay Library, the majority of art is displayed above our picture books, which contributes to the building’s lovely, vibrant atmosphere. While I’m all for READ posters, decorating our space with works by young artists in our very own community is immensely satisfying. Needless to say, visitors both familiar with the young artists or simple art lovers marvel at the ever changing displays.
The library has connected Art in Action with our homeschooling community by offering a daytime class suited to their schedule, age range, and focus of study. The program is offered nationwide and may be a suitable resource for homeschooling groups interested in art education curriculums.
At the end of each school year, we partner with Art in Action to celebrate the end of a creative year. A public reception is hosted at the library, where artists are presented with certificates and are free to enjoy light refreshments and mingle with guests–fellow students, friends, and family. The audience is made up of both library users and infrequent users, making it a perfect time to highlight art books and do sign ups for the summer reading program, which always features arts and crafts activities. Families are delighted with the knowledge that they can continue their art exploration during summer months, while looking forward to the next round of Art in Action in the fall. It’s a win-win partnership, and an easy way to inject a bit more STEAM into your library programming.
Karen Choy is a member of the School Age Programs & Services Committee. She works as the Youth Services Librarian at the Half Moon Bay Library in California. She blogs for kids, teens, and adults at the San Mateo County Library Web site.