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Minneapolis, MN, December 17, 2008—The Friends of the Minneapolis Institute of Art (MIA) have announced that they will provide every second grader in the Minneapolis Public Schools an opportunity to visit the museum for a docent-led tour during the next three years. This commitment of over $60,000 provides bus transportation for approximately 3,000 second graders each year from 2008 through 2011. This program is a new initiative funded by the Friends Children’s Fund, established by the Friends in 2007. This Fund is in addition to the Friends Transportation Fund, which provides grants awarded on the basis of need, for elementary students throughout the Twin Cities to visit the museum, as well as the support of the MIA’s Education Division of an annual endowed grant.

“The Friends have consistently stressed arts education and opportunities to expose children to the world of art,” said Friends President Suzanne Payne. “Such endeavors as the new Friends initiative that brings all Minneapolis Public School second graders to the MIA for docent-led tours continue the tradition of what the Friends’ founders envisioned.”

Research suggests that museum programs based on Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS), a specific internationally-recognized teaching method used at the MIA, can help develop children’s critical thinking skills. A VTS tour is a completely student-centered process that creates a positive environment for the students to experience art and talk about their own ideas and observations. VTS provides skills that carry over into all subjects. The Friends Childrens Fund will also underwrite the cost of VTS curriculum materials for all second-grade classrooms in 40 city schools. Training will be offered to the teachers so that they are comfortable conducting VTS sessions in their classrooms, using art reproductions.

The opportunity for all second-grade teachers to visit the MIA is also important. Through the Friends’ generous gift, teachers are introduced to the museum and are offered training and coaching in VTS by museum staff and guides. Teachers use posters of works of art in their classrooms to prepare for or build on their museum visits. The curriculum “Visual Thinking Strategies: Learning to Think and Communicate Through Art.” was developed by Visual Understanding in Education (VUE).

Studies conducted by organizations such as the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, the Guggenheim Museum in New York, and the Wolfsonian Museum in Miami, have found that elementary school students who spend time looking at and talking about art perform better in several areas of critical thinking than students without such art experience. The studies examined students who made regular, structured visits to a museum, comparing their skills with those of students who did not. The students in the museum programs, which also dispatched art educators to the schools, were found to have better results in six areas of critical thinking, including interpretation, comparison, and flexibility. The results are part of the federal grant program to examine links between art appreciation and education.

About the Friends of the Institute
The Friends of the Institute is a volunteer group that works to broaden the influence of the Minneapolis Institute of Art by supporting its activities and forwarding its interests. Everyone who is a member of the MIA may become a member of the Friends. For more information, please contact the Friends Office at (612) 870-3045.

About the Minneapolis Institute of Art
The Minneapolis Institute of Art (MIA), home to one of the finest encyclopedic art collections in the country, houses more than 80,000 works of art representing 5,000 years of world history. Highlights of the permanent collection include European masterworks by Rembrandt, Poussin, and van Gogh; modern and contemporary painting and sculpture by Picasso, Matisse, Mondrian, Stella, and Close; as well as internationally significant collections of prints and drawings, decorative arts, Modernist design, photographs, textiles, and Asian, African, and Native American art. General admission is always free. Some special exhibitions have a nominal admission fee. Museum hours: Sunday, 11 A.M.–5 P.M.; Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, 10 A.M.–5 P.M.; Thursday, 10 A.M.–9 P.M.; Monday closed. For more information, call (612) 870-3131 or visit www.artsmia.org.

Media Contact: Anne-Marie Wagener, awagener@artsmia.org, (612) 870-3280