New Directions in Adult Education Programming

The museum recently announced changes to its adult education programming to allow for art-making experiences that are event-based, flexible, and responsive to special opportunities, like visiting artists, and to artworks on view in the galleries.

One result of this change is the decision to discontinue our semester-long adult studio classes. Because I know this will disappoint a group of dedicated museum members, I feel that it is important to share our larger vision.

First, let me be clear that we did not cancel the entire adult education program. We cancelled only semester-long adult studio classes. We retain staff that works exclusively on adult classes, workshops, lectures, etc. and they remain very busy producing established and new programming.

The elimination of the classes in question is the result of a rigorous and thoughtful reappraisal of our education programs by a task force made up of museum staff. I formed this task force because I realized that, in order to serve an ever-changing public, the education department had, over the years, implemented additional programs without subtracting or fundamentally altering others. The result was an exhausted staff with little time left for the creative thought necessary to really shape those offerings.

One of the recommendations of the task force was the elimination of the studio classes. In 2012 total enrollment in adult studio classes was 422. While we know that those taking studio classes received excellent instruction from skilled instructors, and while we care deeply about enrollees, we need to use limited resources to serve a broad public. Many people are not able to commit to 5–10 week courses, nor are they available during the day, when many of the studio sessions take place.

Our chief goal with adult education is to open people up to the pleasures of seeing and, especially, looking at art. We remain dedicated to the idea that making things helps many people understand and appreciate what artists do. We believe, however, that we can reach a broader constituency and lessen the weight on our staff by offering workshops that are specifically tied to museum exhibitions and programs. We’ve done this quite successfully in the recent past with a program about architectural renovation and redesign associated with the 2010 exhibition, Imagining Home, and with this year’s participatory photography exhibition Oh Snap! Our next venture (after tonight’s 2-Minute Film Festival) will be a drawing workshop with the 2013 Carnegie International artist, Nicole Eisenman, in February. Over the coming months, adult education staff will be looking for other opportunities to create a new season of art-making programming.

We at the museum are very grateful for the dedication of the people who have been committed to our studio classes over the years, and feel confident that our programs will continue to provide inspiring experiences.

Please look for announcements as we embark on the strategic next steps—I am excited to see the ways that our educators make new connections and develop new ideas around our ever-changing in-gallery program.