Art is Learning 2018

Schoolchildren seem ubiquitous at Mia, gathered in the galleries, trooping to their buses. But in fact only a small fraction of Minnesota classrooms are able to visit Mia each year. Which is why Art Adventure is an increasingly important way to bring the museum to students.

Art Adventure began in the 1970s and currently serves some 72,000 students in K-6 classrooms. Mia trains volunteers called Picture People to bring art reproductions from Mia’s collection into schools and talk with students about various themes in the art, such as people and their environment, animals in art, and sources of physical and emotional strength—discussions that enhance critical thinking.

And it works. Students who participated in Art Adventure demonstrated greater critical-thinking skills—understanding how parts form a whole, or supporting opinions with reasoning—than their peers who did not. But only about 25 percent of classrooms are able to follow up their discussion with a trip to Mia, due to busing costs and lack of time, a scarce commodity in a school year increasingly dedicated to meeting test requirements.

When they do come, however, “they have his phenomenal sense of ownership,” says Mia’s Amanda Lesnikowski, who leads the Art Adventure program. “Kids come here and are very comfortable in our galleries—that concept of ‘Mia is mine.’” Indeed, when Mia recently loaned its Peace Concluded painting to a Washington, D.C., gallery, a visiting Art Adventure student spotted it and declared to her mother, “Mommy, that’s ours!”