We just learned that GRACE is the recipient of two program grants from our local Target store in Reston! These grants will support TGIF: Free Fridays and a partnership with Dogwood Elementary School this fall in conjunction with the exhibition of Freya Grand’s landscape paintings. Target grants fund early childhood literacy programs and the bringing of arts and cultural experiences to school children. For GRACE, these grants were a natural fit in that they support our core mission of building and enriching community through contemporary art.
Art galleries are special places where meaning making and learning happen in magical ways. TGIF: Free Fridays, beginning on November 5 and running once a month through June, capitalizes on the creativity that is inspired by allowing visual and written vocabulary to coexist. A love of reading will be fostered when families visit the gallery and experience the arts of storytelling, illustration, painting, and integrated art activities. Children will bring their ideas to life through their art in a space that excites the mind and the eye and triggers curiosity about the world of symbols found on the page and the canvas. Based upon the groundbreaking work documented in The Impact of Early Art Experiences on Literacy Development, TGIF: Free Fridays allows for simple art experiences to become avenues to literacy development.
As more and more schools cut funding from the visual arts to focus on math and science, it is the obligation of Arts Centers such as GRACE, to provide encounters that foster capacity to construct interpretation and meaning. We thank Target for helping us bring this program to the community for free.
Our second grant supports Inter-Action: Learning through Art. The program stimulates thinking, learning, and enjoyment through direct exposure to contemporary art. In prior years, students have worked with exhibiting artists, storytellers, musicians, scientists, and educators in combination with exhibitions to accomplish curricular goals through intensive visits to the gallery and workshops and lessons in the classroom. This year with Target’s support, all third graders at Dogwood Elementary School, a neighborhood Title 1 school, will take part in the program. Curators and museum educators from GRACE will work with the classroom teachers and instructional support staff to create cross-curricular materials that span the breadth of art, science, and language arts and support Virginia’s Standards of Learning. As a result of this collaboration, children will experience an indepth exploration of artist Freya Grand’s landscape paintings through docent-led tours at GRACE, hands-on art projects, related writing activities with poet Bernadette Geyer, a 2010 Strauss Fellow, and science lessons. The young visitors will emerge from the total experience with a rich lesson in ways of seeing art, language, and science and how observation, curiosity, and in-depth inquiry can lead to new discoveries across the curriculum.
One of the project’s partners, teacher Linda Martin from Dogwood Elementary School, expressed these sentiments about the value of the experience:
Since our school is a Title I school and over half of our students receive free or reduced lunch, there is often little enrichment that their families can afford in art. As a result, there are gaps in their knowledge base that other children can build upon. With reductions in our school budget, these field trips may soon become limited and put further restraints on our children’s exposure to art. These opportunities are so important to their growing mind.
Again, we are most grateful to Target for breathing life into these programs with their support!